Microsoft's "with Gold" program is off to a crummy start on Xbox One

Back in May Microsoft was making a lot of Xbox One announcements and most of them were good. You'd be able to buy an Xbox One without a Kinect. Good! You'd be able to access apps such as Netflix without a Gold (paid) Xbox Live membership. Good! And the "Games with Gold" and "Deals with Gold" programs would be migrating to the Xbox One. Good...or so we thought.

June was the first month for the "with Gold" programs on the Xbox One, so it's early days but I'm thus far not all that impressed. Here's why.

In June the "Games with Gold" offerings were Halo Spartan Assault and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. I thought this was an OK selection; Halo is a $10 port from the Windows 8 marketplace and Max is a $15 Live Arcade title. This early in the console's life I wasn't expecting to be getting games that debuted at $60 so I thought this was a decent offering.

So what's the problem? Well on the Xbox 360, Gold members get two games every month to keep, even if you let your Gold Membership lapse. On the Xbox One that isn't the case. Here they're going the Sony route and you have access to the games only as long as you stay subscribed.

But what really got me irritated was the announcement yesterday of July's Xbox One Games with Gold titles. They are Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition and....Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. That's right, Xbox One Gold members are only getting one new title in July, at least as things stand now. Maybe they'll rotate Max out on July 15th, but the post includes Xbox 360 changes for July 15th and doesn't mention any for the Xbox One. One free game per month feels, well, half as good as what Sony is offering over on the PS4 (where you get two games each month).

Now let's talk about Deals With Gold. In a post on Xbox Wire back in May, Phil Spencer said:

Deals with Gold will also launch for Xbox One in June, delivering discounts for great games each month, with significant savings for Xbox Live Gold members. The first titles offered in June will include “Forza Motorsport 5,” “Ryse: Son of Rome,” and a few other surprises. In the coming months, we will offer significant savings of up to 50 – 75 percent off certain titles.

When Spencer said "certain titles" he meant it. This week's deal is Ryse and it's a puny 17% off ($10). There've been better deals on Ryse this year that didn't require an Xbox Gold Membership to take advantage of.

Other recent Xbox One Deals With Gold offers (percentages show the discount amount):

  • Ryse - 17%
  • Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition - 40%
  • Strider - 50%
  • NBA 2K14 - 33%
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts - 17%
  • FIFA14 - 40%
  • Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare - 25%
  • NBA 2K14 - 17% (an earlier deal than the 33% listed above)

This listing was compiled from posts on the MajorNelson blog. Other deals I've read about but can't confirm are:

  • Peggle 2 - 50%
  • Forza 5 - $33%

These are not inherently bad deals but remember, they require a subscription in order for you to take advantage of them, and you can often get better deals elsewhere.

Ryse is $50 on sale via Deals With Gold, but you can get it on Amazon for $45. Call of Duty: Ghosts is $20 at Amazon compared to a limited time sale price of $50 via Deals With Gold. Tomb Raider's 40% discount was one of the better deals; that brought the price down to about $36, beating Amazon's regular price of $40.

We've only seen that promised 50% off on a couple of Xbox Arcade titles and so far that enticing 75% off has yet to appear. The Ryse deal was the one that sent me over the edge since Microsoft published the game so you know they could offer a better discount if they chose to. Offering subscribers $10 off on a game that's been out for 7 months is nothing to brag about.

In my opinion Microsoft has been working hard to improve the Xbox One ever since launch. Every month the system gets new features and improvements via system updates, and Microsoft is making consumer-friendly changes at retail as well.

So far, though, the "Games/Deals with Gold" program is falling a little flat. Again, it's early days and there's time for Microsoft to make adjustments and turn the program into something that adds real value to your Xbox Live Gold membership. Let's hope once again they listen to consumers and adapt.

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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