When Microsoft first revealed Games with Gold, which would provide Xbox Live Gold subscribers two free titles each month, users cheered it as a long-awaited answer to Sony’s PlayStation Plus program. However, as the free games were announced and released, many criticized Games with Gold’s offerings as being too old or not up to par with what Sony was giving users. While PlayStation Plus members often receive new titles shortly after release, including some AAA releases, Xbox Live Gold subscribers are disappointed with what is perceived as bottom of the barrel offerings in comparison. Since most Games with Gold selections tend to be older, many users have already purchased said titles or possessed no interest in them in the first place. Up until this point, Microsoft has offered little to ease the disappointment.
However, during the Q & A portion after his SXSW Gaming panel, Microsoft Game Studios Corporate Vice President Phil Spencer addressed many of these concerns. He emphasized that while the two programs have obvious similarities, there is one key difference: Xbox Live Gold users get to keep their downloaded title, while PlayStation Plus subscribers lose their games if their subscription lapses. Spencer claimed that 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,” and because the games are a permanent part of a user’s collection, there are different financial restrictions that dictate what can be offered. Even with this reasoning, Spencer admitted that the program could improve and he has already taken steps, including monthly meetings with the team responsible for the program, to make it “something that feels, at least, more true to what [he] thinks Games with Gold should look like with the constraints that are there.”