At long last, after much moaning from gamers and press alike, Microsoft is bringing the Xbox Live 'Games With Gold' service to their new console alongside competitive weekly deals.
Microsoft made the announcement yesterday as part of their shocking abandonment of the Kinect sensor, suggesting that it's part of a concerted effort to provide Xbox owners with more choice and value for their Xbox Live subscription.
First up, the free 'Games With Gold' scheme is finally making its way to Xbox One, offering two free downloadable titles per month. It's unsurprising that the service took so long to roll out, considering the limited state of the marketplace so far, but the first two freebies will include Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood and Halo: Spartan Assault. Both reviewed reasonably well, despite the latter being too close to its mobile phone original to really impress.
We're chuffed to see the scheme extended, but it's worth noting that the Xbox One programme differs from the original Xbox 360 plan in a single major way. Deep down in the T&Cs, Microsoft quietly admits that "on Xbox One, active Gold membership required to play free games you’ve downloaded," as opposed to letting you keen the game ad infinitum. This means that the service now directly resembles PlayStation Plus and its Instant Game Collection... so Microsoft will have to seriously ramp up the profile of their participating titles.
On Xbox 360, you can expect Dark Souls, Charlie Murder and Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade. A very good haul there.
Following some "experiments" into cheaper pricing over the last few months, Microsoft are also making things official with weekly deals. 'Deals With Gold' will offer "significant savings of up to 50 – 75 percent off certain titles," kicking off with Forza 5 and Ryse: Son Of Rome in June. Again, we're pleased to see Microsoft rolling up their sleeves and competing rather than sitting back and missing opportunities.
Considering the sweeping policy changes of the last 24 hours, we suspect that Phil Spencer and the new Xbox top brass are cleaning house, so to speak. Now that Mattrick has gone, they seem to be trying to repair his insidious damage as quickly as possible - though we're still in two minds about the poor old Kinect sensor.