Xbox One starts pre-loading select titles, may be getting a new game trial feature

Regular readers of this blog know that gaming is a big part of my life, but I like observing the gaming industry almost as much as I like playing the games. Today I'm going to talk about Microsoft again. I feel like I talk about Microsoft and the Xbox One a lot more than I talk about Sony. But this week Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition launched on both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4, and yet I feel like everyone is talking about the PS4 version and how great it is. (Emphasis on "feel like" in that last sentence; I haven't done research and gathered statistics.)

So maybe it's OK that Sony is kind of just cruising along at a steady pace while Microsoft seems to be frantically launching new features for the Xbox One. Or maybe Sony is growing too complacent and this holiday season will see a big Xbox One surge and Sony will once again be in second place. I guess we'll see.

Anyway, on to the Microsoft gaming news.

First up, pre-loading has arrived ahead of schedule. At Gamescom Microsoft said that they'd start accepting digital pre-orders and allow pre-loading of games starting with FIFA 15 and Forza Horizon 2 in late September. Surprise! You can now pre-order and pre-download Madden 15 on the Xbox One.

This is a good 'catch-up' move on Microsoft's part. Sony already has pre-ordering and pre-downloading on the PS4.

On a side note, there will be no demo of Madden this year. Instead subscribers to EA Access on the Xbox One will get to play the game for a total of 6 hours during an early access period. This is great news for EA Access subscribers since it sounds like the game won't be limited in any way and your progress will carry over to the full game if you buy it. But it's bad news for gamers on every other platform, or Xbox One gamers who don't subscribe to EA Access.

Just to be clear, this is an Electronic Arts decision; Microsoft shouldn't get the praise or blame (depending on your point of view) for it.

Next up is a leak or a mistake or.... I'll let you decide. Some Xbox One user turned on his system and saw a tile on the dashboard referring to "Free Play Day with Gold" for Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. The Internet quickly filled in the blanks: that Microsoft would be making certain games available for free for a day, at least for Xbox Live Gold Members.

This is a great idea and again, nothing new. Over on the PC, both Steam and Electronic Arts's Origin service both have similar programs from time to time. Sony offers a 1 hour trial on some of their titles for Playstation Plus members. Of course a day is a lot better than an hour, particularly when it often takes more than an hour to download the title. At least let us spend more time playing than downloading, eh Sony?

Microsoft quasi-denied this feature. GameInformer shared this mostly boiler-plate quote from the company:

“A promotional tile for ‘Max: Curse of the Brotherhood’ was posted briefly on the US dash in error yesterday. We apologize for any inconvenience. We’re constantly exploring different ways to offer more benefits to our Xbox Live Gold members and will keep them updated when special offers become available.”

Let's hope this is a real service being readied; it would add another great perk to being an Xbox Live Gold member.

In less happy Microsoft gaming news, the company blundered (in my opinion) this week when it yanked an Xbox 360 game, Ascend: Hand Of Kul from the Xbox Store. Removing a game from the store isn't in itself remarkable, but according to the developers the decision came out of the blue. Signal Studios (the developer) says "This surfaced to us while investigating various issues players have been experiencing over the weekend."

In other words, Microsoft didn't bother telling the developers "We're removing your game from our store because..." (presumably they had a good reason). This sends a very different message from the one Microsoft has been trying to convey to indie game developers recently. Rather than "We want you on our platform" this says "We can't even bother to send you an email." Hopefully this'll turn out to be a big mis-communication and I hope Microsoft takes the time to explain what happened.

That's my news for today. It's a great time of year for us gamers. Gamescom just got over, PAX is next weekend, and we're just about to hit that season of the year where a ton of great games come out. I'll be playing Diablo 3 on the PS4 this weekend; my intent is that D3 will hold me until Destiny hits in a bit over two weeks. What are you playing this weekend?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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