Weekend debate: Will Games with Gold get phased out for Xbox Game Pass?

Sean Carey - February 22nd 2020

With the phenomenal offering of Xbox Game Pass games, is the Games with Gold programme slowly becoming obsolete? In the near future, Games With Gold could be phased out entirely – with resources going to Xbox Game Pass instead.

Xbox seems to be putting all of their efforts into Xbox Game Pass, especially when you look at it from a marketing perspective. Separate Twitter accounts are used to both promote games coming into Xbox Game Pass, and to engage with the community. At X019 last year, Xbox promised us "huge Game Pass news" and they certainly delivered, with tons of premium titles coming to the service this year.

But it doesn't feel the same when Xbox Games with Gold games are revealed. We await each month's announcement with bated breath from Major Nelson, but the actual reveal arrives without fanfare and the lineup has been lacklustre for some time. Granted, Xbox does not have to provide us with anything at all for free, but looking at the past six months of Games With Gold there have only been a couple of standout titles offered up. Hitman: The Complete First Season is probably the highlight of the past six months, followed by Friday the 13th: The Game, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter, Jurassic World Evolution, Styx: Shards of Darkness and Call of Cthulu. However, not one of these titles has the calibre of Hitman, and Hitman itself is a pretty old game that has been offered very cheaply for some time. Ask yourself, have you been happy with the recent Games with Gold lineups?

Compare this to the offerings from Sony's PS Plus from the last six months. We've seen Batman: Arkham Knight, Darksiders III, Outlast 2, Titanfall 2, Bioshock: The Collection, The Sims 4 among third-party titles. Given that Microsoft has tied its Xbox exclusives into the Xbox Game Pass program, PlayStation also has the advantage of offering some of its huge exclusives in PS Plus. In the last six months, we've seen The Last of Us Remastered, MLB The Show 19, Nioh and Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection.

Now, it could be argued that Sony needs to give away these games for free, as it needs to keep up with the consistent quality games being added into Xbox Game Pass. Sony's own subscription service, PS Now, is largely considered to be weak compared to what Microsoft offers, and certainly lacks the hype behind its regular reveals.

Since Games with Gold first arrived, many publishers have opted to open their own storefronts and subscription services – making it less attractive to offer their games for free with Gold. EA has its own library of EA Access games, and Ubisoft games can be found in the Uplay+ subscription on PC. These companies have good reason to keep their titles for their own services, so why would they choose to give away their games for free in Games With Gold? In the future, we could see more third-party subscription services popping up, offering their back catalogue of games to play. It doesn't make sense for these companies to give away their games to initiatives like Games With Gold when they could keep them for their own services. There's also the weekly Xbox Free Play Days to consider. Why give a game away for free for a month when it's so easy to set up a trial run over a weekend? Publishers can then easily tempt people to purchase the game afterwards.

I think it's clear to see where Xbox is putting their money and marketing effort — it's all going to Xbox Game Pass. Games with Gold is clearly suffering for it. We will probably see the death of the program in the near future. It's a shame, but it's also expected. With the vast number of games on offer across both Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass for PC, including all of the first-party exclusives and all of those fantastic smaller indie titles for a modest fee, Xbox Game Pass is a clear breadwinner for Microsoft – with the consumer benefitting greatly too. It's hard to see where Games with Gold fits in Xbox's future.

What do you think? Do you believe that Games with Gold could be phased out? Let us know your opinion in the comments.