Wondering what content will be the next to appear on Microsoft’s Games With Gold service for the Xbox One and Xbox 360? Here are some handy tips for making the correct prediction.
The Xbox Live Games with Gold service is quite excellent. For a relatively small yearly subscription fee - which is $89.00 in Australia, but varies depending on your region – not only do you get to play games online against your friends, but you also get access to a library of impressive titles. Every month, Microsoft reveals two games for Xbox 360 and two for Xbox One that are completely free to download for Gold subscribers. Those games do not disappear from your console at the end of the month either, but remain yours until you unsubscribe from the program, even if that is years later.
If you’re expecting this service to be filled with mediocre titles or small indies, you’d be mistaken. Games With Gold is happy to drop in big blockbusters alongside indie gems – for example, this September 2015 will see the brilliant Tomb Raider Definitive Edition and indie favourite The Deer God arrive for Xbox One users, while Xbox 360 players get access to blockbuster first-person shooter Crysis 3 and strategy behemoth Battlestations: Midway.
Further adding to the benefits of the service, Microsoft has revealed that all future Games With Gold titles for the Xbox 360 will be backwards compatible – this means four games a month for the Xbox One, for free. For more on this coming feature, check out our definitive list of backwards compatible Xbox 360 games.
As fantastic as this service is, it can be quite annoying buying a game only to see it become free days later through Games With Gold. So how can we predict what Microsoft might have planned for upcoming promotions – if not the full free offering, even heavily discounted through the Gold service?
Well here’s a handy tip…
There’s no better marketing tool for a sequel than its predecessor. If a gamer loved, liked or even just played a previous game in a series, they are inherently more likely to be interested in a follow-up. It’s all about brand awareness, and when that sequel lands on a crowded shelf full of games, a publisher want as many people as possible to notice that logo and pick up the box for consideration.
We therefore often see publishers link with the Games With Gold service in the lead-up to the launch of a likeminded game – be it a predecessor in the series or another title from the same developer. Even ahead of a big announcement relating to the brand, a predecessor might appear on the service to reinvigorate interest. Look at the inclusion of the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition in the September catalogue of free downloads, for example. It’s an excellent game - one of the best on the console to date - so why release it for free?
It’s because Rise of the Tomb Raider, the game’s sequel, releases mid-November on Xbox One and Xbox 360. The original (technically a reboot of a near 20-year-old franchise) has sold nearly 10 million copies and is in the very tail of its lifetime as a money-making asset. By releasing it for free, tens of thousands of gamers will be introduced to the game, will love it, and will be inspired to drop a pre-order on the sequel, or pick it up at launch. This in turn drives good brand momentum, great word-of-mouth and chart success, all of which results in positive PR and bigger sales. It also relieves the pressure on traditional marketing, allowing publishers to save money on advertising.
So working backwards from here, we can begin to establish a pattern. To predict the next releases, we can not only look to titles that will offer their publishers and developers an awareness benefit during a time when income expectation from the product is low, but also to those companies that have previously displayed a desire to partner with the service. In addition, timing is everything – a publisher doesn’t want to cannibalise sales of the new title by offering a free alternative too close to the on-sale of the follow-up.
Our upcoming Xbox Games with gold predictions
A potential contender is Fallout 3, ahead of the release of Fallout 4 in November. However, more likely is either Battlefield 4 or one of the Star Wars titles, such as The Force Unleashed 2. EA has shown a strong interest in Games With Gold, and October 2014 saw Battlefield: Bad Company 2 hit the service. So Battlefield 4, or an older Star Wars game, would be a great way to ramp into Star Wars: Battlefront.
We can see Hitman: Absolution potentially getting a run ahead of the release of Hitman in December. The proximity would be close, but with the new film in cinemas through September, it would be a great way to maintain brand momentum through November into the December launch.
Mirror’s Edge would be a great contender for December. Not only does EA have form using Games With Gold, but with its cult status – much loved, but underplayed – and a prequel coming in February that isn’t an obvious commercial slam dunk, getting the original in players hands is a must. Lock it in.