The folks on Microsoft's marketing team haven't exactly been hitting home runs lately. Sure, they're making attempts to put a band-aid on the DRM situation, but with the always-on fiasco still fresh in our memories, their obvious reluctance to support indie developers, and the Kinect's potential as a super-spy's secret weapon, it's getting harder and harder to be a Microsoft fan. So, when the developer announced that Xbox Live members would be getting a couple of free games every month, it felt like MS was starting to turn over a new leaf.
But, they've even managed to screw that up.
When Senior Vice President Yusuf Mehdi introduced Microsoft's new Games with Gold promotion at E3, gamers were told that Assassin’s Creed 2 and Halo 3 would be kicking off the program. Many, myself included, assumed this to mean that these titles would be the first to hit the system, but we were mistaken.
To be fair, Mehdi's language was a little misleading, but he didn't specifically state that Assassin’s Creed 2 and Halo 3 would be released right away. Here's the exact verbiage from the Games with Gold announcement: “And to kick off that program, I’d like to share just two of the titles we’re going to offer over the next few months–Assassin’s Creed 2 and Halo 3.” So, while Microsoft is still well within it rights, I couldn't help but feel a little manipulated when Defense Grid: The Awakening was released this morning.
Don't get me wrong, Defense Grid is a great game, but it's a ten-dollar indie title, while AC2 and Halo 3 are both huge, triple-A games. If Mehdi had used Defense Grid as the poster boy for the Games with Gold promotion, the Sony fanboys wouldn't have been able to stop giggling.
It's worth mentioning that the Games with Gold program is a bastardized version of Sony's PlayStation Plus program. Right now, eighteen titles are available, free of charge, on PlayStation Plus. This collection includes LittleBigPlanet Karting, Saints Row: The Third, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Obviously, Assassin’s Creed 2 and Halo 3 will eventually make their way to Games with Gold, but in light of the PlayStation Plus lineup, it’s hard to be excited for Defense Grid.
The real problem here is that Microsoft has issues with transparency. They're not an evil company, like so many Sony fanboys maintain. They just have a distinct lack of respect for their customer base. And, I must admit, I would have a hard time respecting my fan base too if it consisted entirely of Call of Duty players.
It'll be interesting to watch the next-generation console war unfold. Neither system has a distinct advantage at this point, and listening to the fanboys is making us all dumber.