Xbox subscription services will no longer include free monthly Xbox 360 games beginning October 1.
The news was announced via an email sent Tuesday to all current Games with Gold and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers. While both services will continue to offer free games after October, they will now pull those games exclusively from the Xbox One library.
None of the other benefits of Games with Gold, which is also rolled into the Ultimate tier for Xbox Game Pass subscribers, will be affected by the change.
“We are always looking for ways to evolve the Xbox experience based on community engagement, feedback, and changing business priorities,” a Microsoft spokesperson told GeekWire via email. “We have reached the limit of our ability to bring new games to the catalog of the past due to licensing and technical constraints.”
360 games that were previously available as part of Games with Gold will remain available to users who have used them. 360 games aren’t being removed from the service altogether; Microsoft is simply not adding more in the future.
In November, Microsoft announced a latest batch of backward compatible 360 games as part of Xbox’s 20th anniversary celebration, claiming then as now that “licensing, legal and technical constraints” forced the end of the program.
The final tally is that 632 of the 2,154 Xbox 360 games and 63 of the 997 original Xbox games are playable on the Xbox One and Series X|S, either by inserting an old disc or downloading them from the Microsoft Store.
Taken at face value, the move to Games with Gold simply means that there are no more games in the 360 library that Microsoft could get for a monthly freebie without repeating itself. There has always been a limited supply, and now we have reached its end.
Microsoft also seems to be treating its monthly freebie as a relative afterthought. Many gaming services currently offer at least a monthly freebie as a bonus, and Microsoft has essentially been an independent/retro clearing house for two years.
His 360 offers for Julyfor example are the 2011 console port of the original Torchlight, by now-closed Runic Games, making at least its second appearance as a Games with Gold giveaway; and 2007 Thrillville: Off the Rails, which is mostly notable now for being what Frontier Entertainment did before creating the popular ‘space trucker’ sim Elite Dangerous. Both have their fans, but they are nothing to set the world on fire.
They are joined by Beasts of Maravilla Island, a 2021 independent on a cryptozoological photo safari and the 2020s Relic, a first-person puzzle game. Both are relatively obscure, at least so far, which seems to be a general habit for Games with Gold. If you’re charitable, it’s a way to introduce both games to a wider audience.
For comparison, July’s PlayStation Plus giveaways get a lot more hype, including Crash Bandicoot 4 and The Dark Pictures: The Man from Medan. The Humble Choice Subscription Service offers 5 games at once, headlined by the popular PC co-op game Galactic Deep Rock.
Even Amazon is getting in on the action here. While you can be forgiven for not knowing it was an option, Prime subscribers get access to a rotating monthly list of free games through the Amazon Games launcher. While there’s rarely anything too exciting on Prime, it really did change things up in July for Prime Day.
Currently, there are 22 full games on the service, including several arcade classics like The King of Fighters 2002. From July 13, the collection includes several star wars games and recently remastered collection of Mass Effect trilogy.
With that in mind, it’s hard not to wonder if its relatively low monthly deals are part of another attempt by Microsoft to quietly remove Games with Gold as a standalone service. It announced last year that it planned to dramatically increase the monthly price of Gold, which was seen as an attempt to entice subscribers to upgrade to Game Pass Ultimate.
However, after a major outcry from customers, Microsoft did not accept the change. Since then, however, and arguably before that, monthly Games with Gold freebies have been notoriously weak. Even beyond any licensing issues Microsoft may have, this is clearly not a priority for the company.