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Microsoft's Phil Spencer weighs in on Games with Gold vs PS Plus comparisons

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Posted by: Matt Liebl

Since Games with Gold was first revealed back at E3 2013, the program, seemingly established by Microsoft to compete with Sony's PlayStation Plus incentives, has been under close scrutiny by the gaming public. It was bound to happen given the similarities between the two programs -- both required for online play, both offer free games every month (though the structure somewhat differs), etc.

"Why can't Microsoft offer new(er) games like Sony does with PS Plus," is the comment heard more often than not. Rightfully so too. Comparing the offerings over these past few months, Sony's PS Plus has been amazing. Games with Gold -- not so much.Speaking during a Q&A session at SXSW (via Polygon), Microsoft Game Studios corporate vice president Phil Spencer addressed some of the criticism Microsoft has faced.

"One of our issues with Games with Gold — not 'issues,' but differences between the other system we get compared to, is the fact that with Games with Gold, you get to keep that game, regardless of whether you continue to subscribe," Spencer said. "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."

For PS Plus, PlayStation gamers are able to download the full games and keep them for as long as they are PS Plus subscribers. Once you stop paying monthly, you lose access to your entire Instant Game Collection. With Games with Gold, however, Xbox owners keep their games forever, regardless of their Xbox LIVE member status. Once you download one of the Games with Gold titles, it's yours to keep forever. 

So does that difference in model ultimately mean we'll never see newer games offered through Games with Gold? Though Spencer isn't in charge of the Games with Gold team, he did say "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 at least see something that feels, at least, more true to what I think Games with Gold should look like with the constraints that are there."

I hope these past few months are an indication of Spencer's vision because the offerings have really been underwhelming. For what it's worth, Xbox LIVE product manager Pav Bhardwaj said back in September 2013 that Games with Gold was about rediscovering older classics. Whether or not that aligns with Spencer's vision remains to be seen, but Spencer did say back in January that he "feel[s] good about [the] first half of '14."

So far this year, Games with Gold has seen Sleeping Dogs, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Dead Island, Toy Soldiers: Cold War, Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution and Dungeon DefendersPlayStation Plus, meanwhile, has seen BioShock Infinite, DMC Devil May Cry, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Metro: Last Light, PayDay 2, Remember Me, Tomb Raider, Thomas Was Alone, and many more.

I won't even touch on the fact that Sony is also giving PS4 users free games while we've yet to hear any official details regarding Games with Gold for Xbox One. Last we heard, Spencer said news about Xbox One's Games with Gold will be "coming fairly soon." That was back in January.

Have you been disappointed with Microsoft's Games with Gold offerings?

Tags: Games with Gold, PS Plus, PlayStation Plus, Microsoft, Sony

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