Talking tech since 2003

Microsoft’s Games With Gold promotion, which gives away two Xbox 360 games a month to Xbox Live subscribers, has been widely criticized for its lack of new titles. There’s no arguing that titles like Halo 3Gears of War and Assassin’s Creed II are some of the best games on the system, but they’re also games that many have already played.

If January’s games are any indication, however, it looks like Microsoft may finally be listening. The company will offer Sleeping Dogs for free in the first half of next month. That title was released in 2012 and received okay reviews, scoring an 80/100 on Metacritic. A friend of mine recently played through the game and recommended it, so I was a bit surprised to see it pop up on Major Nelson’s blog as the next Games With Gold title. It’ll be the first freebie game I haven’t played that I want to download since the program started in June.

lara-croftThe second half of the month will see Microsoft revert back to its older title ways, albeit this one is only three years old. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is an Xbox Live Arcade title that came out back in 2010 and has a Metacritic score of 86/100. I haven’t played this one yet either — two in the same month! — and from what I’ve read about the game, it’s one of the better Tomb Raider titles that came out before the series reboot.

So Microsoft has definitely upped its game a bit for January 2014. But is it at the same level as Sony’s Instant Game Collection yet? No. Sony tipped its hand for January and announced it’ll be adding BioShock InfiniteDmC: Devil May Cry and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons — three major titles from the year 2013. You know, the year we’re in right now.

There’s a clear disparity between the two promotions, and I think that’s due to the fact that each company has a different goal. Microsoft wants to move newer titles and DLC, so many of the titles it’s given away have been early games in a series or games that have healthy DLC libraries (or both). Microsoft is looking to make money on software and downloads. Sony, however, is looking to move hardware, which is why the titles are both high quality and newer. By offering these games through a $50 a year subscription, the up-front cost to buy a system and play good titles is lower for a PlayStation than it is for an Xbox. It’s something that will definitely factor in when deciding between the two systems.

Sleeping Dogs breaks the mold a little bit, but Microsoft’s Games With Gold program is still trailing Sony’s Instant Game Collection through PlayStation Plus. Up is a good direction to trend in, though, so hopefully Microsoft’s freebie titles only get better from here.

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