I’ve noticed a theme of late on Games with Gold. That theme being that the folks at Microsoft love an indie game. So far, on the One, we’ve had Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, Guacamelee!, Strike Suit Zero, Crimson Dragon, Super Time Force, Chariot and, now, Volgarr The Viking. The only non-indie Game with Gold that I can think of so far is Halo: Spartan Assault, which was pretty much a tablet game on the big screen. Now, I’m not complaining. I absolutely love a good indie game, with Max, Guacamelee! and Super Time Force being three of my favourite games on the One. I do know, however, that there are a lot of people out there who dislike indie games. So I guess that Microsoft are kind of playing with fire through their recent title choices for Games with Gold.
I personally can’t see the problem with free indie games, especially when they’re great titles like the recent release of Volgarr the Viking; but that doesn’t mean that these are the sorts of games that everyone would enjoy. The real problem is that most of them are quite niche titles, and only a few people would really enjoy and play these kinds of games. Whilst Chariot, for example, is a lovely little game, it isn’t the sort of thing that everyone would like. I usually play these sorts of co-op games with my girlfriend, but even she struggled to get into Chariot. I say “even she” because Sarah loves cute games like Chariot, but I think she found it too simple to get any real sort of entertainment out of it. Volgarr, on the other hand, is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. It’s tough, it’s unforgiving, it’s incredibly retro and it’s quite gruesome. It’s the sort of game that only certain people would enjoy, much like Chariot.
In that sense, what Microsoft seem to be doing is releasing one niche game a month in the hopes that they can cover all of their bases every four months or so, rather than give a game that would appeal to the majority straight off. Games like Assassin’s Creed, Forza, Need For Speed, Ryse and Dead Rising are the sorts of titles that would appeal to the masses. Mainly because they’re mainstream titles, the majority of which already have a strong following. If Microsoft wanted to keep the majority of people happy, they would go for games like the above rather than the lesser / unknown indie titles.
But Microsoft might not want to just keep everyone “happy”. I’ve started to wonder, (as well as to save money because they wouldn’t need to pay indie developers as much as the big boys), whether they’re also actually trying to introduce us to new games that we probably wouldn’t play otherwise. The sort of people that don’t enjoy indie games, are usually the people that don’t actually bother to play them. Were they to try them, they might just like them. In that sense, Microsoft are trying to open up the majority to what the minority enjoy and, at the same time, get some good downloads for the games in their ID@Xbox programme. Though I’m probably just looking too much into it… they’re probably just trying to save money.
So, whilst Microsoft might be introducing us to some great, lesser known games, I’d imagine that there is a good percentage of One gamers out there who aren’t overly impressed with the offerings so far. I think it’s because Microsoft are yet to offer a ‘big’ game. It’s been some time since GWG came to the One, and it’s getting to the point where I’d expect to see a game like Ryse, or Assassin’s Creed coming to the initiative. I’m probably one of the few people that enjoys the indie-centricity of GWG on the One – but Microsoft are definitely walking a thin line at present; more games like Crimson Dragon or Chariot and they might start hearing some grumblings.