Games with Gold Now Perma-Free for Xbox 360 Owners

But don't look for the program on Xbox One at launch.

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Microsoft’s Games with Gold program just went perennial: If you’re an Xbox 360 owner as well as a $60 a year Xbox Live Gold or Gold Trial period member, that means Microsoft’s two-free-games-a-month program won’t end in December, as originally planned, but live on, indefinitely.

Games with Gold launched as a limited-time deal in July to “thank … Xbox Live Gold members.” It was supposed to dead-end this December. But Microsoft says the response was so positive, with gamers clocking “more than 120 million hours played with Games with Gold titles,” that it decided to make it permanent (though again, for Xbox 360 owners only, not Xbox One).

The games, rotated monthly by Microsoft, comprise Xbox Live Arcade and Games on Demand (full games) digital titles. This month, for instance, Microsoft’s giving away¬†Might & Magic Clash of Heroes (normally $15) and Halo 3 (also normally $15). The games become available on the 1st and 16th of the month, respectively.

You’d think a program that involved giving away upwards of 24 games a year, especially one that’s so far met with an “overwhelming response,” might put a company off what amount to player subsidies. The games aren’t littered with ads (and thus not sponsored), and it’s conceivable some gamers might choose to subsist entirely on a diet of two free games a month, foregoing others.

Then again, Microsoft gets the $60 a year membership fee, provides added incentive for non-members to sign up, still gets revenue from each game’s downloadable content and gets to send out positive PR vibes — Games with Gold is a kind of late response to similar deals in Sony’s $50 a year PlayStation Plus program.

Microsoft says 97% of participating members “have given their stamp of approval” to Games with Gold, which makes you wonder — what the heck do those other 3% want? Games plus gold bullion?

Xbox One owners, none of this applies to you, and probably won’t for awhile. I can’t imagine Microsoft folding it into the Xbox One’s ecosystem at launch, since the system isn’t backward-compatible with the Xbox 360. Perhaps in a year or three?