Xbox Live ‘Games with Gold’ vs. PlayStation Plus ‘Instant Game Collection’

Both Microsoft and Sony offer “free games” with their respective subscription services. Microsoft’s Xbox Live has Games with Gold, and Sony’s PlayStation Plus has the Instant Game Collection. When discussing the two, you usually see the same arguments for each side.

Xbox fans will say that Microsoft lets you “own” your free games, even if you cancel Xbox Live. They’ll say Sony is merely “renting” games to you.

PlayStation fans will say that Sony is offering higher-quality titles.

Both sides are correct — sort of. What the Xbox fans are missing is that “ownership” isn’t ownership when it comes to digital games.

Yes, you can keep your Xbox games and play them after you’ve canceled Xbox Live. But you’re merely licensing a digital copy of that game. You don’t own it. You can’t resell it. You can’t let someone borrow it. And should something happen to your Xbox 360 a few years down the line, you might not get that game back. It’ll be as though you never had it.

Let’s say that, in five years, both your Xbox 360 and your PlayStation 3 bite the dust. If the servers are pulled offline for both systems, you’ll have zero digital games. It doesn’t matter if you “rented” them or if they were “given” to you.

This is why I believe digital copies should be priced way lower than physical copies. And it’s why I don’t place a lot of stock in owning digital games.

Instead of thinking of it as “renting” versus “owning,” ask, “which will provide me with the best experience?”

Personally, I’d rather be playing AAA titles.

What the PS4 Does Right That the Xbox One Does Wrong

This.

ps4-digital-code

One of the biggest complaints from Xbox owners (both on the 360 and the One) is that digital games are too expensive. It’s a legitimate beef. Buying digital means you can’t resell a game or let a friend borrow it. So why are digital titles sometimes more expensive than their physical counterparts?

As far as the Xboxes are concerned, the answer is pretty simple: Microsoft is the only company selling digital games. There are no competitors, so the company has no motivation whatsoever to lower its prices.

Sony, on the other hand, allows other retailers to sell game codes. If you don’t like Sony’s price on a digital copy of Killzone ($59.99), you can buy it from Amazon instead ($43.01).

When asked about competitive digital game pricing in a Reddit thread, Microsoft’s Larry Hryb stated that it is “on the agenda.” Should the company need some direction, it should look no further than its biggest competitor.

Scratching the Surface

So, the Microsoft Surface.

There are some reasons to be very excited about Microsoft’s jump into the tablet wars. There are also reasons to shelve whatever optimism you have about the product. It’s apparent that Microsoft is taking a few pages out of the Apple playbook. My beef: it isn’t taking enough of them.

Look at yesterday’s event. For the number of great products Microsoft has put out over the years, not one event has experienced the buildup and excitement that Apple generates, particularly because Microsoft never tries. For Apple, a product unveil is a well-orchestrated affair. It’s drama. It’s watching an elaborate magic trick and feeling legitimate excitement during the prestige. Microsoft launches… not so much.

But Redmond shook things up this time around. It added some mystery to the event. It intrigued. It had the tech press abuzz in a way it hasn’t been able to achieve for a long time. And when it pulled the curtain away and showed off the Surface, a lot of people liked what they saw. And, from what I’ve seen, without specs to go off of or any kind of feel for the device, it looks very nice. The Metro UI is great — I’m a fan of it on Windows Phone 7 — and the keyboard covers are nice additions.

I fear, though, the devices will suffer from the same issues that have plagued past Microsoft products, as well as other tablets that have tried to take on the iPad:

  • Inconsistent, confusing branding
  • A focus on features instead of use cases
  • No compelling reason to choose over an iPad
  • Microsoft is releasing two versions of Surface, each run by a different architecture, each packing different operating system features, and each with a different full product name. Simplicity is not Microsoft’s forte.

    One of the big missteps Android tablet manufacturers make is that they sell features instead of use cases. Look at any Apple ad. They aren’t selling the processor or RAM. They’re selling the experience. Microsoft needs to do this. I don’t think they will.

    Consumers have given two past platforms a shot to build up developer support, and have been bitten by both; the HP TouchPad was discontinued, and the BlackBerry PlayBook is dead in the water. Microsoft will now attempt to woo devs to Metro for tablets. If Microsoft can’t get developers on board, consumers won’t have many compelling reasons to pass on an iPad, or even an Android tablet.

    Microsoft channeled as much Apple as it could for its big day, but when it came time to offer up details, there weren’t many to be had. This is a place Microsoft needs to improve. Apple can build buzz and capitalize on it with quick launches. Microsoft (and Google does this too) tips its hand months in advance and releases the product after the furor has died down. By the time Surface releases, the market could be full of Android devices ready to eat its lunch, and a new iPad could be right around the corner.

    I guess we’ll see in the coming months how for-real the Surface is. I want to believe that Microsoft is putting more of an emphasis on design and hardware/software integration, but the way they’ve handled a few things so far has me feeling some déjà vu in a bad way.