Competition heats up between Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus

Microsoft is doing a poor job giving back to its loyal Xbox Live subscribers.

It isn’t enough to offer the ability to play a game online to people paying for a premium service anymore. Sony has shown it is willing to compete with Microsoft in every way possible and that includes giving away a handful of terrific games each month.

The Xbox Live service has over 48 million subscribers across the Xbox 360 and Microsoft’s newest console, the Xbox One. In June 2013, Microsoft decided it was time to ante up and offer free games to its subscribers like Sony does with PlayStation Plus. Envious Xbox gamers were finally getting some more perks for paying for Xbox Live.

Sony is reluctant to reveal how many PS Plus subscribers there are, but it has been rewarding them with the Instant Game Collection since 2010. Sony was able to further take advantage of the PS Plus service as a form of an apology for the PlayStation Network outage in April 2011 that affected millions of users by ramping up its free offerings each month.

The Instant Game Collection has been a boon for Sony and its partners. Brian Provinciano, developer of “Retro City Rampage,” told Gamasutra in an interview that PS Plus helped promote his game.

Over 125,000 additional players gave it a try, and despite getting it for free, around 85 percent of them enjoyed it enough to play through most of the game.” It is a boost for any future of his future releases, where he potentially has over 100,000 fans of “Retro City Rampage” willing to try a new game.

Microsoft’s first free offering for “Games With Gold” was a rather underwhelming Fable 3. Since June, they have gone on to offer a smattering of mostly unappealing games that include those released from as far back as 2006. Sony’s latest January update added “BioShock Infinite,” “Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons” and “DmC” (“Devil May Cry”) to an already outstanding collection of free games for PS3 that includes “Borderlands 2” and “Uncharted 3,” “Uncharted: Golden Abyss” for PS Vita and “Resogun” and “Don’t Starve” for PS4.

One of the most appealing aspects to the various PlayStation consoles is the fact that new consumers have access to a library of games without spending a dime on retail releases. Microsoft’s program only offers one game at a time on the Xbox 360, while Xbox One gamers receive nothing.

Inundating gamers can have its drawbacks. Going into 2014, anything less than game of the year contenders like “BioShock Infinite” in the coming months might come off as disappointing.

Gamers have a sense of entitlement, and too many free games can be too much of a good thing. “If players come to expect that every game from a developer will be eventually made available for free, it will eat into day one purchases,” Provinciano said.

Sony has made a concerted effort to reward gamers and promote its partners, especially with the PlayStation 4. Microsoft has continues to show it can’t find the pulse of gamers, and the grass will always seem greener on the other side of the fence.

You can reach the reporter at michael.jerome.martin@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @NefariousMike