by Joseph Leray
The inaugural game in Microsoft's "Games on Gold" program -- which rewards Gold subscribers with free Xbox 360 games twice a month for the rest of the year -- is Hidden Path Entertainment's "Defense Grid: the Awakening," a sci-fi tower defense joint from 2010. That's fine and all, but most of us were under the impression that either "Halo 3" or "Assassin's Creed 2" were on the way.
Microsoft announced the program during their press conference at E3 and hasn't shared much since. Here's how Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer Yusuf Medhi introduced Games on Gold: "And to kick off that program, I'd like to share with you just two of the titles we're going to offer over the next few months: 'Assassin's Creed 2' and 'Halo 3.'"
As Xbox 360 spokesman Major Nelson pointed out on Twitter, Microsoft never actually said that 'Assassin's Creed 2' and 'Halo 3' were going to be available for free in July, but that's most definitely the way fans and media -- including this site -- understood Medhi's announcement.
Fans have been disappointed, not unreasonably, by the perceived bait-and-switch, especially since official Microsoft Twitter accounts previously confirmed that "Halo 3" and "Assassin's Creed 2" were coming in July when asked by fans. Today, those accounts admit that there was some "confusion" about which games were being released when.
No doubt that "Defense Grid" is a fine game, one of the best in its genre, but as "[Microsoft]'s way of saying thanks for being part of this community," a $10 game from three years ago rings false compared to the blockbusters trotted out at E3. To make matters worse, "Defense Grid" isn't actually working correctly, having run into "a technical issue," according to Hyrb.
Microsoft's Games on Gold invites (unfavorable) comparisons to Sony's similar PlayStation Plus subscription. Here's what they're offering this month: 'Battlefield 3,' 'Jet Set Radio,' and 'Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee HD' on PlayStation 3, and 'Metal Slug XX' and 'Dokuro' for the Vita. Still, it's rude to look a gift horse in the mouth, I reckon.
If Games on Gold was supposed to engender some good will in the months running up to the embattled Xbox One, it's started with a whimper, not a bang. "Defense Grid: the Awakening" will be free on Xbox Live until July 15, and is also available on PC and Mac.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter