Move over, Halo: Microsoft is making another major Xbox franchise available for a free download.
Xbox and developer The Coalition said Monday they will "unlock" the first four games in the Gears of War franchise for those who buy the $39.99 Gears of War:Ultimate Edition game or the related Gears of War: Ultimate Edition bundle for the Xbox One. All users will have to do to receive the games--the original Gears of War, Gears of War 2, Gears of War 3 and Gears of War: Judgment--will be to play the Ultimate Edition on Xbox Live sometime between Aug. 25 and Dec. 31, 2015, on Xbox Live.
In addition, Microsoft said the four original Gears games would be made available through its Backward Compatibility program. Backward Compatibility, announced earlier this year, will allow select Xbox 360 titles to be played on the Xbox One through a virtualized version of the earlier console. Microsoft hasn't really said which titles will be part of the program, but the selection will depend on popularity, among other factors.
Microsoft previously took a slightly different tack with its Halo franchise. Halo: The Master Chief Collection includes all the prior games in the franchise--remastered versions of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, along with Halo 3 and Halo 4, plus Halo:Nightfall-- but all for a single price of $60. The Master Chief Collection does not ship with any requirements to the play any of the games online.
Why this matters: For gamers, this is a nice entry point to the Gears franchise, which boasts an engaging science-fiction story and characters. But for Microsoft, requiring gamers to sign up for Xbox Live to gain the additional free content--plus the new, separate free games Microsoft is offering for the One-- gets gamers used to paying for another one of Microsoft's value-added services.