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Instant Game Collection vs. Games With Gold, Which Is Worth More?

Posted on Monday, May 5 @ 16:00:00 PST by Joey_Davidson

Xbox versus PlayStation. The Sharks and the Jets. Aaron Burr up against Alexander Hamilton. Boneless wings versus bone-in. These are the rivalries that keep me up at night. Let's do what comes naturally on the Internet and compare one against another.

PlayStation Plus, Sony's answer to Xbox Live, rolled out an Instant Game Collection a few years back. Subscribers would nab free games and while it may have taken a bit longer, Microsoft introduced a similar feature for those with Xbox Live Gold membership: Games with Gold.

The latter of the two free game programs has often been knocked around in comment sections, forums, and behind local bowling alleys for being the lesser and weaker offering. I decided to comb through both initiatives, tally up game values and produce a real, tangible piece of fodder for that proverbial discussion.

Which free game service is more valuable, really? I'll need to set up some mitigating factors before we dive into this inspection.
  1. You are on a budget. I know this because you care about value when it comes to choosing your services. I know that because you're reading this article unless you just really like the idea of comparing things, then, whoops. Given that you're on a budget, I will be discerning the value of games according to their price on the used markets available at GameStop, eBay, and Amazon. I'll use the cheapest price for the game in the best condition (box and manual included). I will including shipping costs. Digital-only games, of course, will be judged on current cost.
  2. I will not factor game quality into the equation. Some of these games are stinkers and some are slam dunks. I'm judging them based on cost alone. Besides, I liked Machinarium but you might have completely hated it. Get my drift?
  3. I will only consider Instant Game Collection titles that were available after Games with Gold began. Why? Because, with two years of free games under its belt before Microsoft dove in, the Instant Game Collection would obviously have a bigger value. Any games still on the service after Games with Gold started are counted for our study.
  4. I'm operating under the assumption that you've had Gold and PS Plus since the beginning of the Games with Gold program. I'll talk about this more later, but there are some interesting circumstances at work in both the PS Plus and Games with Gold services. Instant Game Collection games are available for longer, for instance, while Games with Gold software get tied to your account forever, regardless of whether or not you let your Live subscription slip. Again, I'll hit this in the intangible section later.
I hope you like charts!

How much has the Instant Game Collection been worth since July of 2013?

Remember folks, I'm including Instant Game Collection software that were still available as of July 2013, not just ones added after that date. If you signed up for PS Plus in July of 2013, these are the games you would encounter.

I'm going to break things up into platform, grand total per platform and then grand total for everything. Cross-Buy games will appear in both sections, but I will only be counting their value once in the final total. Thomas Was Alone, for instance, will appear twice but only apply to the grand total a single time.

Now, let's move on to the PS Vita. Remember, the PS Vita plays PSP and PSOne ports, so those are included in this group as well.

The last bit for the PlayStation family, of course, is the PlayStation 4. It's only had about half a year of Instant Game Collection build up, so this list is understandably smaller.

How much do you stand to save if you have all of the PlayStation systems and you grab all of these games once they've been made available to you for free? $1,109.53.

How much has Games with Gold been worth since July of 2013?

Microsoft has only been running the Games with Gold deal on a single platform so far. Unlike Sony's Instant Game Collection and the PlayStation 4, Games with Gold has not yet released any freebies on Xbox One.

With that in mind, we only have one platform on which to tally games. Here's the value of the Games with Gold collection on Xbox 360.

How do they compare?

Let's line 'em up, shall we? The Games with Gold program amounts to a value of $229.64. Gold, for reference, carries an MSRP of $59.99 per year. The Instant Game Collection is worth $684.66 on PS3, a $455.02 difference in Sony's favor. It's worth $371.28 on the PS Vita, resulting in $141.64 in Sony's favor. The Xbox 360 beats the PlayStation 4, of course, but not by as much as you'd expect with a year and a half lead. The Instant Game Collection is worth $128.51 on the PlayStation 4, a difference of $101.13 in Microsoft's favor.

For those who own all three Sony platforms? It's $229.64 for Games with Gold and $1,109.53 for the Instant Game Collection, a difference of $878.89 in Sony's favor. PlayStation Plus sells for $49.99 a year.

So, which is better?

In a pure dollars and cents comparison, the choice is obvious. If you only buy new and digital games, I imagine the value of the Instant Game Collection would skyrocket. Sony's service provides more value in free games. Not only that, but Sony's games tend to be much newer, something Xbox owners have been complaining about since last July when Defense Grid and Assassin's Creed II were distributed via Xbox Live.

There's the caveat of ownership to contend with, of course. If you let your PS Plus subscription slip, you lose your games. If your Xbox Live Gold subscription fades away, you'll still be able to play that free copy of Crackdown on your system.

Then there's the length in which the games are kept free. Games with Gold titles are available for two weeks before they're gone. PS Plus games, however, stick around for a while, though the availability lessens if the game is newer. Deciding which is better, if we completely ignore the actual value of the deals dished out, comes down to whether or not you're likely to keep your subscription going once you pick it up. If you don't plan on paying every year, that $1k of free gaming goodness from the Instant Game Collection will evaporate in an instant.

That's a win for the Games with Gold program, though I personally think it's hardly worth considering when you look at all the money sitting on the table on Sony's side. Hey, at least Microsoft is beating Nintendo's nonexistent free game service. I think. I don't know how to translate time spent filling out Club Nintendo surveys into real-world money.
Tags:   Sony, Microsoft

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