Speaking to OXM at our reader-exclusive Xbox One hands-on event last night, Xbox Live product manager Pav Bhardwaj has discussed the future of Microsoft's Games with Gold program, whereby Gold subscribers are handed two free downloadable Xbox 360 titles a month. There's still no definite word as to whether the program will continue past the end of 2013, but Bhardwaj suggested that it could "evolve" along lines drawn by Microsoft's free-to-play strategy on Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
"We announced it at E3, and every month since then we've released two games on the first and the 16th of each months, and they've gone down really, really well," Bhardwaj observed. "It's a benefit obviously to Xbox Live Gold customers, and it's a great way of getting people onto the platform. Getting free games is always fantastic, and they're great classic games, triple-A-rated games. We've got some great games coming up in the next couple of months - I've just seen the roadmap for those."
To date, Microsoft has given away Crackdown, Dead Rising 2, Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, Shadowrun, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013, Rainbow Six Vegas, Defense Grid: The Awakening, Fable 3 and Assassin's Creed 2. As you'd expect, some of these have been better-received than others - Microsoft's Larry Hryb has apologised for the disappointment over Defense Grid in particular.
"We're going to run the program Games with Gold up until December, and then we'll take a look at the program, see how well it's done, and how we want to go forward with it," Bhardwaj continued. Pushed for his own feelings on whether and how the program might continue, he pointed to Microsoft's plans for free-to-play on Xbox Live.
"It's great value for Xbox Gold customers currently on Xbox 360, and as we go forward we've got free-to-play games with Xbox Gold as well. We've got World of Tanks coming, on the Xbox One we've obviously got Killer Instinct. So it could be an evolution of the current program in other ways, but nothing more to say at the moment."
Some Xbox Gold subs have complained that certain titles offered under Games with Gold are too old to be of interest. Microsoft sees the situation differently - the idea is to rediscover lost classics, not give away titles that are still on shelves. "They've probably got a huge collection of games already anyway," suggested Bhardwaj. "They may have traded their old games in by now, so it's a great way of kind of offering them their classic games back.
"The guys who are wanting the brand new stuff on the platform - like I say, we're bringing out all these free-to-play games on Xbox Gold, that's kind of what we're offering these guys," he went on. "The Games with Gold program that we've currently got is very much aimed at new customers - getting them onto the platform.
"So that's kind of how we're angling them. And we're still offering great value on multiplayer gaming, entertainment applications, with the whole Gold proposition."
You'll read about each and every Games with Gold title via our continually updated free Xbox games list. The latest freebie is Rainbow Six Vegas, or Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts if you live in South Africa - Microsoft will announce the next one shortly before 1st October.