the end of games with gold signals a step away from ownership
Image Source: Microsoft

The End of Games With Gold Signals a Step Away From Ownership

The times, they are a-changin'.

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. In a time where you struggle to hear the word “free” commercially, Microsoft’s Games with Gold being a part of their Xbox Live Gold service served as a light in the dark for players interested in trying their hand at something different without a financial commitment. Alas, the time for that light to shift colors and go dim has finally come.

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On July 17, Microsoft announced that they will be introducing Xbox Game Pass Core as a replacement for Xbox Live Gold. Along with the 18 year old service, Microsoft said that they will be discontinuing the Games With Gold feature starting September 1, which means that the constant influx of free games that Xbox Live Gold members had access to will be coming to a halt.

Losing out on Games with Gold isn’t going to be a huge deal for a ton of players. The games that were offered on the service were certainly not the AAA games that players buy a Series X to play, but they were games that could kill a few hours on a day off if you wanted. They were games to pad your library, think of them as “just in case” games, for if you wanted to try something new or maybe had friends coming over and wanted to game on the couch. The titles that were offered as a part of Games with Gold were ones where I would download them and forget about them until a rainy day or I’d read about them and remember that I had it in my library already.

games with gold ending game library game pass
Image Source: Twinfinite

The launch titles for Game Pass Core are certainly better games than some of what players would get with Games with Gold, with offerings like Big Crown Showdown and Rivals of Aether having sat in my library for years without having been opened. The difference is, the titles that were given for Games with Gold were yours to keep, forever. That library that you had to scroll through for 5 minutes just to get down to “X” was your library, filled with games that you managed to snag before they disappeared just because you thought, “maybe that’d be interesting one day.”

The main emotional difference that I draw between Games with Gold and the games that are on Game Pass Core is that it felt more like a privilege to get to play the free Games with Gold because you were already paying for the online service, but these came as a bonus. To play the games on Game Pass Core seems like it’s going to feel more like an obligation than a privilege, especially if you’re worried about the games being removed from the service before you had a chance to play them.

Once Xbox decides that it’s time for a game to leave Game Pass, they’ll generally give about 2 weeks worth of notice before removing them midway through the month. That’s not a bad amount of notice, but for a game like Fallout 4, if you wanted to take your time and explore the world, now you’re not gonna get that chance unless you buy the game after the fact. An added benefit of Game Pass is that you do still get a great discount on games just for having the subscription, but a discounted game just isn’t the same as a free one.

This move away from giving away free games to allowing temporary access to them for the cost of a subscription follows a trend in gaming of players not being as focused as they used to be about having a huge collection, but instead on the current games as they get released. You can see this shift in the growing lack of disk drives in consoles, because less and less players wanted physical media taking up space when the games have to be downloaded anyway. Collectors will still be able to purchase the games that they want and play them to their heart’s content, but there was something special about adding games that are totally unlike the rest of your collection, just as a bonus.

xbox series x and s disk drive game pass core games with gold
Image Source: Microsoft

This shift away from ownership and toward a more rental-focused culture is a reflection of where games are today. While there are some people who play on both Xbox and PlayStation who still love to have a physical collection of games to look at and choose from, there’s a reason that services like Game Pass are successful. There is such a large volume of games being released at all times in all different genres and styles, there is more demand for playing a greater number of games than there is for investing great amounts of time into each one.

While the games that were given with Games with Gold were not always winners, a lot of the appeal came from just finding out what games were going to be available over the course of the month. Sometimes there would be surprises like one of the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles games that I was interested in, but never went out of my way for. Other times, there would be games like Pneuma: Breath of Life that I would have never chosen for myself, but I turned out to have an absolute blast playing.

On top of being grateful for the games that I was being given through the service, it also became harder to have a problem with it if there was a game I’d already played or didn’t enjoy. When it came as a free game with my online subscription, I could just not add it to my library and continue playing other games until the next month. With Game Pass, because I’m paying for the access to play the games, if one of them turns out to be a bust it’s gonna feel more like a loss than when it was free.

Luckily, Game Pass Core is launching with a wide range of solid titles, so players should have a lot of variety to pick from right off the bat. The games that the service will launch with are not only big names like Forza Horizon 4, Doom Eternal or Human Fall Flat, but they’re also decently expansive titles like Fallout 4 and 76, The Elder Scrolls Online or State of Decay 2. Players aren’t generally going to have to worry about losing a game like Gears 5 for a game like Shantae: Half-Genie Hero on Game Pass Core.

At the end of the day, I knew that Games with Gold couldn’t last forever and frankly, I’m not alone in feeling that the games that have been featured recently have not been of the same caliber that they used to be. Although there will always be something nice about knowing that I own a game to keep in my library for as long as I want, the growing number of Game Pass subscribers makes it easier to remind myself that in gaming, the experience you have is more important than the number of titles in your collection.

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Nick Rivera
Nick Rivera graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2021 studying Digital Media and started as a Freelance Writer with Twinfinite in early 2023. Nick plays anything from Halo to Stardew Valley to Peggle, but is a sucker for a magnetic story.