Thursday, May 29, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

Though news about the Kinect-less Xbox One rattled console owners, developers, and the industry overall, my favorite bit of news was Microsoft’s revamped Games & Deals with Gold program. It mimic’s Sony’s Playstation Plus program in not only offering free games each month, but also discounts on games and a Gold subscription requirement (outside of 360) as well; but most importantly, it’s bringing the promotion to Xbox One (though nothing regarding early access to betas and the sort have come to my attention).

Today, Sony has tweaked their Plus program a bit by “doubling” the amount of games in their “Instant Games Collection” – or free games – which will start in June. As reported today for North America, PS3 will get Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and NBA 2K14, PS4 owners will get Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate and Trine 2, and Vita owners will get Terraria and Mutant Mudds Deluxe.

Fans would like to think that this is in response to Xbox’s restructured promotion, but I’m not so confident that the change was so reactionary. Though specifics on how the agreements are made between Sony and devs/publishers are scant, we at least have information that while some devs agree to allow their content to be placed on PSN for free with no monetary compensation, others receive a straight up “buyout”. Not sure if the updated Playstation Plus would have been conceptualized in house, and agreed upon by other companies in the matter of weeks.

The shortened length of available free games – in which free titles will only be available between the first Wednesdays of each month starting in July – leads me to believe that either some companies wish for their games to be free for a limited period of time, or Sony’s buyout offer will be slightly less. Companies see a benefit to the Plus program as a way to build a legacy fan base such as Just Cause 2’s developer Avalanche Studios (it at least worked for me; I’m certainly looking forward to picking up Mad Max and the inevitable Just Cause 3 after playing Just Cause 2), and others such as Grip Games and indie dev Tyler Glaiel who see the earnings as a nice boost and advise other devs to put their games up for free long after its launch.

It satiates my guilt knowing that devs appear to be happy with Plus (and hopefully with Games & Deals with Gold). I mean, clearly they have to be otherwise the Plus program wouldn’t have been so successful for so long. I’m part of the “I’ll wait till it’s free on Plus” camp, a mentality that The Castle Doctrine designer Jason Rohrer has issues with.

However Microsoft and Sony don’t treat sales and give-aways as cannibalistic as how it occurs on Steam. Freemium values seem to be the hot trend of this generation, even though Sony’s been playing around with it for years. Sure it allows broke players like me the opportunity to enjoy games free of charge, but it also sparks interest in a developer and/or a franchise, and it gives indie titles the extra attention that they deserve.

More games for everyone, and that can never be a bad thing. 

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