After Wednesday's Microsoft event revealed a greater integration between the Xbox gaming console and the desktop PC, Xbox fans are rediscovering their favorite console before Windows 10 hits later this year. This most likely means re-upping the old subscription for Xbox Live Gold to take full advantage of each month's free games.
While February's list of games has yet to be announced, we wanted to take a look at the trends and possibilities to speculate on what could be offered for free during the shortest month of the year.
First, let's take a look at the Xbox 360. Microsoft normally released two games each month for the 360, with one being for the first half and the other being for the second half of the month. In January, we saw the hit game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings released for free right along with MX vs. ATV Alive, so these aren't usually no-name, low-budget games.
One very good possibility is launching just in time to be offered for the second half of February: Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes - Rocket Raccoon Collector's Edition. This game is launching across all platforms (Nintendo Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One) on February 14, so it's a good candidate.
SpongeBob HeroPants is launching on February 3 for the 360, although that may be a day or two late for the usual start time of free games on the first of the month.
But whatever games come to the 360 for February will be big ones. New releases have been featured previously, but more than likely the two games will be a few years old and ready for that shot of re-energizing through the free Games with Gold program.
As for the Xbox One, the console normally gets one free game for the entire month, starting on or around the first day of the month. And the Xbox One is usually where indie or lesser-known games are featured, especially if they're brand new.
In January, we saw an example of this with D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die. So going with this theory, one highly anticipated indie game coming to the Xbox One just in time is #IDARB. The game is described as "a constantly-evolving, crowd-sourced, minimalist game mechanic sketchbook" that has many reviewers excited for more.
#IDARB is an 8-player action game inspired by Bomberman and Nintendo's Smash Bros, and it seems to relish in its chaotic nature. The idea for the game evolved when the development studio, Other Ocean, took to Twitter to ask people what they wanted to see in the game. As you can imagine, it's not exactly organized and orderly, but it looks fun.
Beyond that, we have Evolve releasing in February, but it probably wouldn't be included as free since it's a brand new release and is coming out at least a week after the free Games with Gold offering would start.
One thing is for certain, Microsoft is in a good position to pull ahead in the current generation console wars as they ride high on the new Windows 10 news. Many experts believe that the Xbox One's recent removal of the Kinect sensor from the console as a new "lighter" bundle will allow the Microsoft machine to become more accessible and overtake the PlayStation 4 in 2015.