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Microsoft has endured quite a bit of bad press on the gaming front, thanks in large part to the way the company communicates. The Xbox One DRM features, while limiting gamer freedom, were also bold steps that might have been easier to swallow had they been explained better. And now it seems that Microsoft has itself in yet another pickle — this time, it has to do with the free Xbox 360 games the company promised with its Games on Gold promotion.

Games on Gold provides Xbox Live Gold subscribers with two free games per month. The promotion unofficially kicked off last month with Fable 3, and many expected either Halo 3 or Assassin’s Creed 2 to show up on July 1. It wasn’t just a few people who thought this was the case. It was also widely reported. I mean, widely reported. Think The Verge, Ars Technica, Polygon, Kotaku, GameSpot and Yahoo’s Plugged In gaming blog. All of these outlets believed that Halo 3 and Assassin’s Creed 2 were the Games on Gold titles for July.

defense-gridThose who visited the Major Nelson blog yesterday, however, were in for a rude awakening. More specifically, Defense Grid: The Awakening, an 800 point Xbox Live Arcade title that is apparently the free game for July 1-15. Major Nelson, likely feeling a bit of heat after dropping that news, told gamers via Twitter that Halo 3 and Assassin’s Creed 2 were mentioned as part of the Games on Gold program, but specific dates were not discussed for their release.

When I look at the number of reputable publications that got this wrong and the number of gamers who also misunderstood, it seems more like Microsoft did a poor job communicating exactly how Halo 3 and Assassin’s Creed 2 were a part of the program. These two titles are not the two freebies for July, but Microsoft didn’t go out of its way to correct any of this reporting until June 30. And it tried to do so with one single tweet.

It doesn’t help matters that Sony’s comparable Xbox Live offering, PlayStation Plus, offers a pretty impressive selection of free games every month. Last month’s titles included Deus Ex: Human Revolution, XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception — all popular titles.

Many made their unhappiness unknown in the comments section on Major Nelson’s blog. Others took to Twitter to vent.

Whether you like it or not, it appears that Defense Grid: The Awakening is the free Xbox Games on Gold title for July 1-15. On July 16, a new title will be posted and it could be Halo 3, Assassin’s Creed 2 or neither of those. For gamers who were spoiled by the early treat in Fable 3 and thought H3 and AC2 were the first of many AAA titles to be offered for free, this news might significantly lower expectations.

Will that translate into more dissatisfaction with the Xbox brand? That’s something we won’t know until November.


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