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‘Free games’ for September look to entice players for new games in November

There’s a reason PlayStation and Xbox are dangling Destiny 2 and Halo

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

In the eight years since PlayStation Plus began the concept of “free games” (yes, yes, you’re paying a subscription fee) — and especially since I started analyzing PS Plus’ and Games With Gold’s value four years ago — a kind of jaded, take-it-for-granted attitude has set in with me lately. This coming September’s offerings though, are quite eye-catching — especially as we’re about to embark on a huge fall release calendar that will make my pile of shame collapse into a singularity.

September is a great month for the “free games” racket (I know, you keep ‘em as long as you’re subscribed). PlayStation Plus started by announcing Destiny 2 is already available, barely a year after its launch. That’s the newest third-party release on PS Plus since 2K Sports’ NBA 2K16 hit the service in June 2016, eight months after it hit shelves.

Microsoft also had plenty of news regarding Xbox Games Pass’ “free games” (which you keep permanently for a 20 percent discount off MSRP). First, Halo: The Master Chief Collection — which is everything but Halos 5 and Reach — hits the library in September. Today, Quantum Break was added. That’s on the heels of Monday’s confirmation of the previously rumored Xbox All Access plan, which includes the Game Pass and looks really good if you’re in the market for an Xbox One. It smooths out what is otherwise a meh month for the Games With Gold plan.

Why all this now? Over the four years that I’ve looked at Games With Gold and PlayStation Plus, Septembers have been quiet, particularly for PlayStation Plus. The biggest splashes have been Microsoft promoting an upcoming Forza launch with a recent edition of the series.

September begins a 90-day stretch when the big headline-grabbing titles from the past two E3s are usually coming to stores. This time, however, it feels like Sony and Microsoft are making a play to bring people to their platforms in advance of the Black Friday ruckus, so that they’ll be playing Red Dead Redemption 2 or Fallout 76 on their platforms.

It’s kind of an inside-out way of using games to sell a console. If you’ve been seriously considering getting one — especially upgrading to the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X — Destiny 2 or everything in Halo might be the nudge to get you to sign up today. I know I am thinking good and hard about the All Access idea; I just live about 90 minutes from the nearest Microsoft Store.

At any rate, it’s been nice to see the console services stepping up their AAA game this year. 2017 felt like a year, particularly for PlayStation Plus, where the quality titles weren’t the kind of names that light up console gamers’ eyes. PS Plus this year has rolled out Bloodborne, Mad Max, XCOM 2, Black Ops 3 and Mafia 3, all about two years old at the time of offer. Games With Gold has delivered Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, Forza Horizon 2 and For Honor.

No, these aren’t literally “free games.” But PlayStation and Xbox lobbing in big names — especially this month — does make me feel like I’m getting something for nothing.