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Xbox Live 'Games With Gold' is missing a trick

Jonathan Lester
Games With Gold, XBLA, Xbox 360 games

Xbox Live 'Games With Gold' is missing a trick

Xbox Live's Games With Gold initiative was a great idea. Giving Xbox Live gold members free games every month as part of their subscription provides a welcome extra perk, but now that PlayStation Plus has levelled the playing field, the service finds itself at the sharp end of many a criticism. However, we reckon that Microsoft might be missing a fairly obvious trick, at least in terms of what games to give us.

No, I'm not talking about big blockbusters. Games with Gold definitely needs more in the way of juicy triple-A titles to give Sony's service a run for its money, but Microsoft already knows it. We already know it. Considering that making a huge pricey game free to download and keep forever requires an enormous amount of financial finagling behind the scenes, it'll be interesting to see how Microsoft goes about their unenviable task, but there's not much point retreating old ground.

Instead, I'd like to point out another interesting use for Games With Gold, and a potential new avenue for the service to tap into alongside its big hitters. Namely: underrated XBLA games with dead or dying multiplayer communities.

Xbox Live 'Games With Gold' is missing a trick

We've seen any number of decent, great and fantastic XBLA titles release with exciting multiplayer modes, but they rarely retain their player bases for long. How could they? Often having niche appeal or little in the way of marketing compared to the big boys on gaming capus, gamers tend to gravitate back to their favourite annualised shooters or the bigger games available on Xbox Live Arcade. Any number of excellent games either launched dead in the water, or haemorraged their small communities within a matter of weeks.

But Games With Gold is available to an enormous new audience of gamers who have already paid for online multiplayer, ready and waiting to give some of these titles a shot in the arm and another chance to shine - and try out multiplayer games that may have completely passed them by the first time around.

Xbox Live 'Games With Gold' is missing a trick

Examples abound. Take Snoopy: Flying Ace, a superb arcade flight sim with utterly magnificent multiplayer dogfighting. It was excellent, and frankly cries out for another influx of plauers onto its servers.  Hybrid would be another obvious shout: 5th Cell's solid online shooter offering jetpacks and high-octane multiplayer battles for territory, that sadly launched straight into Counter-Strike: GO's shadow. Seeing as Microsoft published it, surely it'd be a perfect shout as an accompaniment to a big AAA title.

I hate to stray into list territory, but there are so many prime opportunities here. Marathon 2: Durandal offers an outrageous old-school FPS smorgasbord of gametypes -- seeing as it was the forerunner to the Halo series -- yet no-one plays it. Madballs In Babo Invasion shocked those of us who played it by actually being a good toy tie-in with competitive multiplayer so fully-featured that it knocked us for six. Castlevania: Harmony Of Despair offers hectic cooperative shenanigans in massive maps and one of the best rock soundtracks around.

Jugga jugga jugga daa daaa dow dowwww... sorry. I got sidetracked there.

Xbox Live 'Games With Gold' is missing a trick

Not to mention Monday Night Combat, Heavy Weapon: Atomic Tank, Small Arms, Quake Arena Arcade, Aqua, Carcassonne, Doom II and so many more besides - those just off the top of my head.

I'm not for a moment suggesting that games like these will somehow elevate Games With Gold to new heights. But as an accompaniment to larger titles and other XBLA games, as an extra or bonus each fortnight, Xbox Live Gold members will have the opportunity to chance their unique multiplayer experiences while supporting games that, frankly, deserved better. Who knows, we might just discover a whole new addiction.

As an aside, what games would you like to see offered on Games With Gold? I'm mulling over an article or top ten, so let's get some feedback!

Add a comment2 comments
Late  Apr. 8, 2014 at 12:27

I see no benefit to Microsoft, there, tbh.
They would gain no income from this (a few old indie titles isn't going to convince anyone to upgrade from Silver to Gold), they'd likely have expenses (to the developers, and possibly other expenses though I doubt they'd be significant amounts), and they'd face pretty much the same criticism they currently face.

"Every month you give us one old game that was good in it's day about 6 years ago, and one rather crap arcade title; whereas Sony give their customers a couple of AAA titles from twelve months ago, and a couple of decent games from 2-3 years ago"
would be replaced by
"every month you give us one old game that was good in it's day about 6 years ago, one rather crap arcade title, and two fairly crap indie titles that nobody was interested in when they were 65 pence five years ago; whereas Sony give their customers a couple of AAA titles from twelve months ago, and a couple of decent games from 2-3 years ago"

That's not my opinion of indie games, btw. I love them as much as the next guy (probably more than most) - and I agree some were great fun and most deserve to be played by a wider audience than they've had. But such an initiative would be inviting the above response.
And rightly so, to a degree. When compared to Sony's offerings, Microsoft's free games look poor - with or without throwing a few indie games in.
I like the indie games, but I'd rather have a couple of triple-A games from 2012/2013. Every month.

alistairmclean520  Apr. 8, 2014 at 13:42

Perhaps another solution would be to give a list of 100 odd titles, split into Arcade/Retail and get Gold users to vote on them, then cull from them the titles they offer via Games for Gold.
They might still be crap but at least its crap you had a say in getting.

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