Games with Gold is a service that was originally announced for the Xbox 360 at E3 2013 and allowed users with a Gold Xbox Live subscription to be able to download a small number of predetermined games a month for free, as a bonus. This was then expanded to the Xbox One a year later so that a total of two games from each system would be available within this monthly time frame; as long as you continued to have a Gold subscription you would be able to keep these games.
The service has since become one of the staples of the Xbox online experience and has even got a rival in the Playstations PS+ subscription which follows a similar monthly model. I have been a fan of these kind of services since their introduction and it’s thanks to them that I have been able to try out a vast library of games I may otherwise not have purchased. While I enjoy this kind of service, I have noticed over the last few months a number of people do not seem to be quite as happy with them.
It puzzles me somewhat as to why it is the vocal majority who do not seem to be happy with Xbox Games With Gold. I feel a lot of those subscribed to Xbox Live may not understand what these games represent within the service. I wish to briefly touch upon some positives of the Xbox Games With Gold scheme as a whole and hope to change some opinions towards it.
Look at the comments of any Games with Gold announcement on social media and you’ll generally see gamers showing their disappointment that they are not getting enough ‘AAA titles’ or that they will be cancelling their subscription soon if the games do not ‘improve’. While players are entitled to state their frustration, I believe they are not giving a lot of the games we receive via this service a fair chance.
Now Games With Gold does include a lot of the more popular titles from time to time – from the Assassins Creed series for instance – but you really cannot expect this to happen each and every month. It’s great when a game like those are included but if Microsoft threw them out all the time there would be no real reason to buy new games at launch, or even join the brilliant Xbox Game Pass. Because of this it is understandable a lot of the titles are either older games closer to the console launch period, or indie titles.
I feel a lot of players have a disdain for indie titles and believe them to be inferior, mainly due to what they may consider graphical limitations or other aspects. But anyone who has given them a go will probably agree that the majority of games from that scene are hugely enjoyable. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with so many indie titles; games such as the recent Celeste from Matt Makes Games and Superhot from Superhot Team. If more gamers tried them out – and gave them some time – then they might too.
As great as indie games are, I have also been pleasantly surprised with the quality of the older games available on the service. I have been able to play so many Xbox 360 titles that I missed in my youth due to being cash strapped, or simply ignorant towards certain genres. For example, thanks to Games With Gold I entered into the Splinter Cell series with Splinter Cell Conviction (free in July 2018) and then bought a number of other titles within the series when they were on sale not long after.
It’s worth noting that on occasion we also have had the opportunity to obtain some original Xbox titles such as Star Wars Republic Commando, a game I’ve wanted to play for so long but never got around to. Let’s just say I now cannot put it down, and that is all thanks to its inclusion a few months ago. The addition of Original Xbox titles is a great way to fuel some nostalgia in veteran Xbox players but also shows younger gamers the history of the console and certain genres of games. I wonder what the younger generation think when playing an older FPS game like Republic Commando and if they would enjoy it. Well now thanks to this service that’s an opportunity for them to find out.
Now of course there can be arguments against my points, with one being in reference to the price of Xbox Live rising by £10.00 for a yearly subscription as of May 2019. Many feel that despite Microsoft announcing this due to what they call ‘marketing conditions’, the extra money spent could well go towards procuring ‘better’ titles for the Games with Gold service.
I will not pretend to understand the exact process that Microsoft goes through to obtain games to be featured via Games With Gold but perhaps this is a possibility that we will see come into fruition in a few months’ time. However, I have always felt that the price we are paying is for Xbox Live itself is worthy, and the games we receive for free are just a nice bonus on top of that. I was paying a similar price before Games With Gold came about, and I’d continue to pay for it if they took the service away or released less games a month.
You can argue that if I wished to continue to play online then I would not really have much of a choice but Xbox has always been the greatest online console experience for me; it has been a constant in my life for a number of years and introduced me to the world of online gaming. There is a certain amount of loyalty to this service thanks to the consistently great online games like Halo or the fantastic party chat feature and it is because of this that I am going to pay up regardless of the free games. I’m pretty sure a lot of others would do too.
At the end of the day to complain that the Xbox Games With Gold titles are not good enough without trying them out or because you have this notion that you ‘deserve better’ is all rather childish to me. You don’t have to play the games if you don’t want to but remember you are never going to enjoy every gaming experience out there and for those that do enjoy them they are a great extra treat on top of their subscription.
It’s fine to feel that the games do not look good or that you are tired of indie titles but remember they are a bonus and not a part of the price you already pay. If you do not wish to play them then that is up to you but I would ask that you at least try to give each game a shot and not immediately dismiss something that a number of people have worked hard on. You need to remember that developers agree to have their games on this service in order to reach an audience they perhaps would not be able to otherwise, so do please consider them if you can. I guarantee you will find at least one game that you love.