Xbox’s Games With Gold Finally Competing on Even Ground with PlayStation Plus, and That’s Awesome

When Microsoft announced the Games With Gold program for Xbox 360 at E3 2013, it was just little short of ridiculous. I clearly remember my reaction and that of my esteemed colleagues as we were working on covering the press conference. I kid you not, we laughed.

The first two games announced for the service, with all the bells and whistles right in the middle of Microsoft’s press briefing, came all the way from 2007 and 2009.

After the conference the titles were shuffled around, but Microsoft pretty much kept offering a bunch of relics from the past that I didn’t even bother to download, because I had already purchased dirt cheap copies during sales and from bargain bins for all of those I had an even passing interest in.

Again, I’m deadly serious. I didn’t download a single Games With Gold title until June. That’s not because the games were necessarily bad, but offering games that belonged in the deepest depths of the bargain bin simply felt like a value-less proposition. It was too easy for Xbox Live Gold subscribers, many of which are core gamers that grab quite a lot of titles on their own, to already own them all or almost.

Compared to the wealth of content offered by PlayStation Plus (but even on its own, really), Microsoft’s little bunch of hand-me-down titles seemed more like a joke than anything else.

Luckily things have radically changed since the program was extended to Xbox One. Maybe that’s fairly natural. You can’t exactly find many “old games” to offer for Microsoft’s new console, but even the Xbox 360 offering has been improving quite steadily, and with Dishonored this month we finally stepped on the good ground.

Summed on top of solid, recent titles like Crimson Dragon and Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut, August is the first month since 2013 in which I feel that Xbox’s Games With Gold is competing on an even ground with PlayStation Plus.

I’m not saying that they are completely even. As usual your mileage may vary, and you may enjoy one game more than another. PlayStation Plus also has the Vita offering that tips the scale solidly in its favor for users that own Sony’s portable console, but for the first time they don’t feel like they’re on completely different planets, and as a gamer in both camps, it feels really good.

As a matter of fact, though, the rather radical improvement of the offering of Xbox’s Games With Gold isn’t good news just for those that play on Xbox One or on both consoles. It’s awesome for PlayStation fans as well.

I’m quite sure many in Sony’s camp are reading this article with an expression of contempt and disapproval on their faces. Maybe even chagrin. If you’re one of those, I have to encourage you to smile, and understand the value of competition.

PlayStation Plus‘ instant games collection simply had no competition before. Or more precisely, Xbox’s Games with Gold could not be considered competition with any degree of seriousness. A company that lacks competition simply doesn’t need to try as hard to stay on top.

Sony always made an effort to offer good games, but an improving Games With Gold forces them to look at what the other side is doing and attempt to one-up them further. In fact, as soon as Microsoft started offering two games a month for the Xbox One, Sony immediately countered with the same on PS4 (actually in July we got three). Before they offered only one.

We can only hope that competition will continue to escalate, with Sony and Microsoft making continuous efforts to one-up each other. The more both of them offer for our monthly fee, the more we, as consumers and gamers, win.

What’s not to love?

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