Long before the Xbox Game Pass came into the scene, Xbox Live Gold, which includes Xbox Games with Gold, has been the premier service for Xbox players. However, with Microsoft pouring tons of features into Xbox Game Pass, it appears that the value of Xbox Live Gold has been called into question.
For the past several months, Microsoft faced criticisms on the selection of free games it offered through the Xbox Games with Gold program. Although there are times when Microsoft gets it right, it is evident that Games with Gold couldn’t compete with its competitors, especially since its counterpart on the PlayStation side, PS Plus, has consistently offered PS5 games. However, while next-gen games are seemingly reserved for Game Pass, Microsoft still has the chance to boost the value of Games with Gold by adopting a feature found in Nintendo Switch Online.
Xbox Games with Gold Should Take Inspiration From Nintendo Switch Online
Much like Xbox Games with Gold, Nintendo Switch Online offers players access to the Switch’s online functionalities. Although Switch Online doesn’t provide a monthly roster of free games, it offers subscribers access to a permanent list of free NES and SNES games like Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario Bros., and more. However, players can only have access to these games while their subscription to Switch Online remains active.
While Microsoft lets Xbox Live Gold subscribers keep their free games as long as they have an active subscription to the service, there is no way to download titles from previous rosters if players weren’t able to redeem them during the period they were available. Additionally, since Microsoft only announces the next roster of Games with Gold a few days before they are released, players who do not keep a close eye on the company’s announcements could miss a great game.
One thing Microsoft can do to fix this is to take a page from Switch Online by making previous Games with Gold available for subscribers permanently. This could pose some problems for Microsoft, given most games offered in Games with Gold are also available for sale at the Xbox Store. Bypassing the limited availability of titles included in Games with Gold would essentially mean that all Xbox Live Gold subscribers would have access to them at all times, which could decrease sales on some games. However, given Microsoft needs to step it up if it wants Xbox Games with Gold to remain relevant alongside Game Pass and PS Plus, sacrificing sales may be necessary to increase the appeal of Xbox Live Gold and ensure its longevity.
Alternatively, Microsoft could also increase the value of the Xbox Game Pass by adopting the Nintendo Switch Online model of selecting certain iconic games from the Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One and making them permanently available to Xbox Live Gold subscribers. This could include both first-party and third-party games on all Xbox consoles before the Xbox Series X/S. The permanent roster of classic Xbox games should be offered on top of the free Games with Gold offered monthly.
In the end, while the Xbox Games with Gold program appears to be taking a step in the right direction by offering better games, it could increase the value of a subscription overall by adopting features from Nintendo Switch Online. While it remains to be seen whether Microsoft will eventually introduce major changes to Xbox Live Gold, it should be noted that the service won’t thrive if it cannot offer features that justify the value of the monthly subscription.