Microsoft announced Friday its Games with Gold promotion, which gives Xbox Live Gold subscribers two free video games per month, is now a permanent fixture of the service--kind of.
The program, as announced during Microsoft's E3 press conference in May of this year, was originally temporary--a nice gesture for Xbox 360 owners in the run-up to the upcoming Xbox One launch in November.
But Microsoft has "seen an overwhelming response, with more than 120 million hours played with Games with Gold titles," since May, says the official blog post. "We're excited to continue bringing you great games every month as part of our ongoing commitment to providing great value on Xbox 360," it continues.
Notice the key word there? Great value on the 360. So far this plan is limited to Microsoft's outgoing console, so those of you who plan to put your old console in a box in the closet next month may miss out (though it's a great play by Microsoft to keep those 360s in people's living rooms).
I reached out to Microsoft to see if they had designs for a similar program on the Xbox One. "We're excited to announce we are extending Games with Gold for Xbox 360. We will share more details on the program soon. Stay tuned for our plans on Xbox One," replied a Microsoft spokesperson.
I'd be surprised if Microsoft doesn't have something in the works. Sony's similar PlayStation Plus subscription service has long given users free access to games, and scored easy popularity points in the process. However, both platforms will be hard-pressed to give away games right after the new console launches because there isn't a ready back catalog to draw from.
And while free games are free games, I hope Microsoft steps up its offerings. So far the Games with Gold promotion has featured titles that are...well, a bit old and stale. Every blockbuster title on the list is at least three years old, with some (like this month's Halo 3 giveaway) dating back to 2007.
Contrast that with last month's PlayStation Plus games: sure, there was 2010's Mafia II, but Sony also gave out copies of Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Spec Ops: The Line, both critically acclaimed games from 2012. Need for Speed: Most Wanted wasn't even a year old yet.
So if you missed out on a bunch of Xbox 360 titles this generation, this is welcome news and...maybe good news for the Xbox One's future? However, Microsoft is still playing catch-up with Sony on at least this one aspect of its online service.