Microsoft's Games With Gold has not enjoyed the same out-pouring of praise that the PlayStation Instant Game Collection has gathered. Sure, you get to keep your games if you ever decide to leave your Xbox Live Gold Subscription, but chances are you probably already own a $1 copy of Gears of War or Halo 3 somewhere in your house. Meanwhile, PlayStation fans are enjoying only slightly dated hits they might have missed a few months before like BioShock, Tomb Raider and DmC.
Comparisons are inevitable since both services give away periodical free content, but Microsoft Game Studios Corporate Vice President Phil Spencer believes that the two are completely different business models. He mentioned this at an SXSW event covered by Polygon.
"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 says.
"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."
So yes, Phil Spencer is listening to the criticisms of the game choices that Microsoft is offering, but he doesn't believe it is an issue. In fact, he continues his speech to say that he will now take a greater role in choosing the games that the company is willing to give away.
"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 see at least something that feels, at least, more true to what I think Games with Gold should look like with the constraints that are there."
Spencer did not elaborate on the "constraints," but my guess is the financials behind giving away a game for free. The crutch of Sony's program is that once you cancel your PlayStation Plus account, your collection evaporates into cyberspace until you pony up for another subscription. The plus side of that is that it obviously doesn't have to throw the publishers as much money, something Microsoft must do and is obviously not in the business of doing.
Sony also still hasn't figured out that a lot of gamers don't go through free games every week, and many people now have a backlog stacked sky high these days. Microsoft doesn't have to worry about backlog, because it doesn't release free games as frequently, and it has typically something I beat six years ago anyway.