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Xbox Games with Gold can learn a lot from January's PS Plus offerings

Xbox One Screenshot - 1158089

Sony's PlayStation Network may not have the most reliable servers -- especially when compared to Xbox LIVE -- but damn do they know how to incentivize a subscription. Launched in 2010, PlayStation Plus (commonly referred to as PS Plus or PS+) is a paid-for subscription service that provides users with "enhanced services" on the PlayStation Network. These services include early access to betas and demos, discounts, online cloud save storage and, best of all, access to free games every month through the Instant Game Collection. It's that last part that makes the monthly subscription all worth it.

The Instant Game Collection also happens to be what Microsoft can learn most from with its own Xbox LIVE services. Back in June during E3, Microsoft revealed Games with Gold, it's own answer to Sony's Instant Game Collection. Similarly, Games with Gold would offer Xbox LIVE Gold members two free Xbox 360 games each month. These games remain available for a certain period of time, but as long as you are a Gold Member and download them in time, they are yours forever. In theory, it sounded like the perfect counter to PlayStation Plus. 

In actuality, however, Xbox Games With Gold has been somewhat of a disappointment. The "specially selected, fan-favorite" games offered to Gold members proved to be older titles -- not necessarily bad, just older games. Here are a few examples of what Gold members have been rewarded with: Halo 3, Dead Rising 2, Assassin's Creed 2, Gears of War (yes, the first one), Fable 3, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas, and Crackdown. Again, not terrible games, but I think can all agree that they aren't terribly relevant anymore. Most Xbox 360 owners, if they had interest in these, have probably already played them.

PS Plus games

Comparatively, let's look at Sony's offerings for PlayStation Plus members in January: BioShock Infinite, DMC Devil May Cry, and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons for PlayStation 3. Notice the difference in quality here? Oh, let's not forget, that all PlayStation platforms get free games. PlayStation 4 gets hit indie game Don't Starve, while the Vita gets Worms: Battle As and Smart As. Not only are these games newer, more relevant, but they are plentiful. Previous games offered through the service include Uncharted 3, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Saints Row: The Third, and Borderlands 2. PS4 owners were treated to two free games at launch: Contrast and Resogun, the latter of which has proved to be one of the best games available for the system.

See what I'm getting at here? Back in September, after taking some heat for its lackluster lineup of free games, Xbox LIVE product manager Pav Bhardwaj reasoned that Games with Gold was a way for Xbox 360 games to rediscover old classics.  "[Xbox gamers] may have traded their old games in by now, so it's a great way to kind of offering them their classic games back," he said at the time. To his credit, these are some great classics -- but would you rather play a game from 2006 or Irrational Games' BioShock Infinite, which was a candidate for many of 2013 Game of the Year awards? 

I understand Games with Gold is an additional perk to the already outstanding service that is Xbox LIVE. It's not like Sony can't learn a thing or two about server stability from Microsoft either. Still, when it comes to the selection of games, Microsoft has a lot to learn, and they should start by looking at January 2014's PlayStation Plus offerings.

Who knows, maybe they are? We've yet to hear Microsoft's plans for the Games with Gold promotion heading into 2014. We know it has been extended though. Back in November, Larry 'Major Nelson' Hryb confirmed that Games with Gold will also carry over to Xbox One, meaning we should finally be looking at relevant games We're still awaiting the details and Microsoft support reiterated to me that the plans for Games with Gold will be detailed in 2014.

Have you been happy with Microsoft Games with Gold so far?

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Matt Liebl You can follow Senior News Editor Matt Liebl on Twitter @Matt_GZ. He likes games, sports, musicals, and his adorable dog, Wrigley. And his wife.
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