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Microsoft seeking to improve Games with Gold

Microsoft seeking to improve Games with Gold

Mon 10 Mar 2014 8:56am GMT / 4:56am EDT / 1:56am PDT
Publishing

Phil Spencer taking a hands-on approach to selecting free games

Microsoft Game Studios' Phil Spencer has promised improvements to the "Games with Gold" service on Xbox.

Games with Gold was established after the success of Sony's PlayStation Plus, which gives its subscribers access to a limited range of free downloadable games. However, Games with Gold has attracted criticism over quality, largely due to the relevance of the games it offers.

To illustrate the point, this month PlayStation Plus subscribers can download Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons - all critically admired games released last year. Games with Gold, on the other hand, is offering Civilization: Revolution and Dungeon Defenders, which were originally released on Xbox in 2008 and 2011 respectively.

"I have been sitting down, monthly now, with that team - some of the earlier months were already programmed - and playing a more active role in picking franchises that show up in Games with Gold, and I think you'll see at least something that feels, at least, more true to what I think Games with Gold should look like with the constraints that are there," Spencer said in a session at SXSW.

Spencer only hinted at the nature of those constraints, though he emphasised that Games with Gold users get to keep the game even if they cancel their subscription.

"And the business around Games with Gold, for us, is just fundamentally different from some of the other programs that are out there, which does put a different financial picture on a - you're gonna go buy a game that's brand new, the cost of putting that in, just to be kind of blunt about it."

At present, Microsoft has not announced a specific date for bringing Games with Gold to Xbox One, but PlayStation 4 owners have been able to download a free game every month since the console launched last year.

Thanks, Polygon.

10 Comments

John Bye Lead Designer, Future Games of London

486 457 0.9
"he emphasised that Games with Gold users get to keep the game even if they cancel their subscription"
That's a pretty fine distinction, especially now you need PS Plus to play multiplayer on PS4. How many people are really going to cancel that subscription. How many Xbox Live Gold gamers let their subscriptions lapse each year but keep their consoles. It's also worth noting that PS Plus offers free games on PS3, PS4 and PS Vita for a single fee, whereas Games With Gold still only offers Xbox 360 games.

Also, if it's really that distinction between permanent and subscription based offers which is making it so hard for Microsoft to match Sony's offering, maybe they should just bite the bullet and use the same model as Sony. What's the point in having games you can keep even if you cancel your subscription if they're mostly five years old and half of them are XBLA titles that only cost a few pounds to start with, compared to PS Plus offering the likes of Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Uncharted 3, Devil May Cry, Dragon's Dogma, Spec Ops: The Line and XCom in recent months.

Edited 10 times. Last edit by John Bye on 10th March 2014 10:14am

Posted:9 months ago

#1

Antony Carter Senior Programmer, Epic Games

85 47 0.6
@John

Probably because they don't have the tech in place yet to do a rental system on games. I would not be surprised if they switch to the same model as PS when they launch the service on X1.

Posted:9 months ago

#2

Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing

408 247 0.6
@John

I find Soencers comment that PS+ us unsustainable the most important. Indontbknow how much Sony and Microsoft pat, but I'm going to go outbox a limb that it's close to half a million for a retail title than not, counting incentives attached, probably more. I expect what he means is that GWG is doing titles that for the most psrt have burned out at retail. PS+s high end selection us probably burning some major holes in Sonys checkbook

I'll wager that MS is looking at something similar to Gameflys PC service, where the "keep" titles will be greatly reduced (quarterly probably), be better quality, and you'll get access to the digital library. By all accounts they've seen a pretty good upswing in digital since GWG started, and the added bonus of putting some money in developer pockets on their old titles that aren't making anything except for for GameStop in their dump bins gas to be attractive

Posted:9 months ago

#3

Nick Wofford Hobbyist

180 190 1.1
Exactly. Giving away games makes you look awesome in the public eye until you're looking at poor software sales. How many copies of games have gone unsold to people who are now waiting for the games to be free? Not good on the bank account for Sony. Surely $4 a month isn't enough to cover those lost sales.

Posted:9 months ago

#4

Paul Jace Merchandiser

955 1,449 1.5
The good news about XBL's Games with Gold is that they are free and you get to keep them even if you cancel your subscription. The bad news is, well pretty much everything else. One need look no further than this months offerings.

Posted:9 months ago

#5

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Probably because they don't have the tech in place yet to do a rental system on games. I would not be surprised if they switch to the same model as PS when they launch the service on X1.
I don't see a strong financial incentive to worry about implementing rental technology on the Xbox 360 side of things, since the ability to play multiplayer provides so much more incentive to have a Live account on the 360. You don't need a Plus account on the PS3 to play multiplayer, and even on the PS4 there's not as much incentive since requriing Plus for multiplayer is optional (with the decision made by the publisher), and in the case of free to play games, forbidden (unlike the Xbox 360, where you need a Gold account even to play World of Tanks).

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who's wondering how Sony's pulling off Plus financially. It offers astonishing value for the money, and just seems to be getting better and better. Even if the Uncharted offer was the multiplayer component, throwing in things like Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider is, well, amazing. But I'm inclined to think that they can't be losing much, if anything, on this because Sony just doesn't have the money to lose.

Posted:9 months ago

#6

Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing

408 247 0.6
@Curt

If you look at Sony's strategy overv the last year, they've thrown everything at the wall, and the PlayStation division is doing relatively well. Offer games like Bioshock, they're almost dertainlynlosing money. Combine that with the cost of maintaining PSN, and you can see how they're front loading right now, but wil run into issue if expectations later on., especially because they're teaching people to wait for free.


Creating a rental system is really easy. It's the legal and other deals that get you content that's hard

Posted:9 months ago

#7

John Bye Lead Designer, Future Games of London

486 457 0.9
I've no idea how much Plus costs Sony, but it may not be as much as some people think, because it offers a great service to publishers as well as gamers.

Got a new game to promote? Put the last game from the series / studio free on Plus. Got new DLC coming out? Put the game on Plus to increase the active install base and bring back lapsed players. Dropped out of the charts? Put the game on Plus to reach a wider audience.

Most games these days have DLC and/or IAPs, so even if you give the game away for free, some percentage of the people who downloaded it for free will end up giving you some money. And the chances are that most of the people who download the game from Plus wouldn't have bought it new anyway, certainly not at full RRP.

There are lots of ways that a smart publisher can gain from releasing their game free on Plus, and you do tend to notice patterns in when games appear on the service. Bioshock Infinite is a great deal, but how many people who wanted it were still buying it at retail a year after release? Very few, I'd imagine. And is it coincidence that it appeared on Plus half way between two DLC packs being released? Assassin's Creed III arrived on Plus two months before Assassin's Creed IV was released. Tomb Raider was added to Plus on PS3 just after the next gen version was released. I imagine some people might try it out free on PS3 and then upgrade to the director's cut on PS4. Borderlands 2 appeared alongside new DLC. And so on.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Bye on 11th March 2014 2:27pm

Posted:9 months ago

#8

Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing

408 247 0.6
John, I agree with you, but there's still a great amount of tit for tat that's going into these deals. Royalty credits, advertising support, whatever. There's a lot of dollars worth of value, whatever form that takes being exchanged

Posted:9 months ago

#9

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Jeff, I don't get the impression at all that Sony's "throwing everything at the wall." I've been a member of PS Plus from the very beginning, and I see a good vision of providing a lot of value to the consumer that's been well executed, and is even improving over time.I feel that the've been moving to more popular and profitable games: I don't think we saw any titles at the level of Bioshock Infinite or even Payday 2 in the first year, not that the titles have ever been bad. They've not left out the other PS Plus platforms, either, with PS Vita titles such as Uncharted appearing. (And that you get PS Plus for all platforms for the one price also shows their consistency of vision.)

In other words, PS Plus has never really smacked of desperation. If it had been losing money before, that could only get worse as they move towards giving away bigger titles, and I don't really see how Sony could do that for so long. If PS Plus is losing money, they must have some other revenue stream it supports in a fairly obvious way, I would think.

All I can really go with is John's idea that Sony's doing a brilliant job of selling PSPlus to publishers. I'd love to see what's really goign on in there though. Maybe GI could do a little investigative reporting?

Posted:9 months ago

#10

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