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Is this the Xbox answer to PlayStation Plus?

by William Schwartz

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Sony recently announced that PlayStation Plus will now be required for some of the online functionality on the PlayStation 4. Mainly, if PlayStation 4 players want to game online with their friends on the PlayStation Network, they’ll need to pay a subscription fee.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that PlayStation Plus offers other perks aside from just pay to play online. The established service started an initiative back in 2012 that has delivered games to its subscribers month after month with its “Instant Game Collection”. Anyone that has taken PlayStation Plus for a spin can attest to the joy of getting new content on a monthly basis, but it looks like Microsoft is eyeing the program, and has plans of their own.

Xbox Live Gold has long been a pay to play online service. It’s offered very little in rewards to its subscribers, other than cross game chat functionality and a best-in-class network with nearly no downtime in its decade spanning existence. But a program that is going on right now on Xbox Live Gold, could be paving the way for something similar to arrive for Gold Members going forward.

The “Games with Gold” program is currently being run on Xbox Live, and players can get their hands on some of the biggest Xbox 360 titles ever released, as a perk for being an Xbox Live Gold subscriber. Titles like Fable III, games in the Halo franchise and others are headlining the releases, but it appears that Microsoft will continue to run the promotion from now until the end of 2013.

We’ll likely see a mixture of games arrive during the program, but there’s currently no schedule available as to what’s due to arrive between now and December. For the duration of the Games with Gold program, 2 games will be made available each month on the 1st and 16th. The kicker is that Xbox Live Gold Subscibers “get to keep them no matter what”, according to the program’s page on Xbox.com.

It’s unclear if this is just a promotion that Microsoft will run in 2013, or whether they will continue with the Games with Gold program going forward. It’s not a bad time to start testing things like this out, Sony has proven that it’s a wildly popular model, and PlayStation Plus subscriber numbers have been growing since the announcement of their Instant Game Collection. It also makes the pill much easier to swallow when paying a monthly fee for online access.

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