Saturday, 1 November 2014

The best free games on the Xbox One

Xbox One Free-To-Play
The free-to-play business model is a rapidly growing phenomenon in the gaming world. Once quarantined to the PC and mobile, these new pricing structures are proliferating quickly, and altering expectations on even the most rigid of platforms. Consoles were once exclusively home to big-budget full-price games, and now the entire market is being turned on its head. The Xbox One is now home to a number of free-to-play titles, and today I want to give those games their due. Let’s jump in, and explore what the free-to-play model has to offer the Xbox One owner.
Xbox One Killer Instinct

Killer Instinct

ULTRA COMBO! This classic fighting franchise has finally returned to the limelight, and this time it’s a free-to-play release exclusive to the Xbox One. Originally developed by Double Helix, its acquisition by Amazon left the dev team unable to offer continued support. Instead, the folks at Iron Galaxy stepped in, and now season two of Killer Instinct has begun.
Without dropping one red cent, you get to play as a rotating cast of free fighters, and you can slowly unlock more content from playing the game. Alternatively, you can buy in-game currency with real money to speed up the unlocking process, or simply buy an entire “season” worth of content for $40. It’s a pretty solid deal — especially compared to the traditional Capcom-style pricing model that fighting games have been burdened with in the past.
Xbox One Pinball FX2

Pinball FX2

If you like pinball, Zen Studios has a treat for you. With Pinball FX2, you can play dozens of tables featuring some of your favorite franchises. From South Park to Star Wars to The Walking Dead, Pinball FX2 sports an incredible amount of variety, and rewards skilled play with a superb leaderboard system. And if you know other pinball enthusiasts, you can compete asynchronously against each other for the top spot.
When you download the core client, you automatically get access to the Sorcerer’s Lair table for free. If you only have a passing interest in pinball, this table is more than enough to satiate your desires. If you’re a hardcore pinball fanatic, you can choose to buy single tables or combo packs à la carte. For example, The Walking Dead table is $3, and the Avengers Chronicles four-pack is just $10. Now that everything is delivered digitally, collecting pinball tables is actually an incredibly affordable hobby these days.
Xbox One Powerstar Golf   

Powerstar Golf

Up for a few holes of golf? Take a look at Powerstar Golf from Zoë Mode, and you’ll find a stylish golf game with a lot to offer. As you play, you can unlock new clubs and balls to improve your stats, and turn your character into a real pro. This persistent golfing experience tracks how well you’re doing, and easily allows you to challenge your friends to beat your score at any time. If you’ve got a competitive streak and a penchant for golf,Powerstar Golf is exactly what you’re looking for.
For free, you get access to a hole from every course. You can play as much as you like, earn experience points, and unlock new persistent gear. However, you’re going to need to pony up some cash if you want to do much more than dabble with the mechanics. You can buy any of four courses for $6 a pop, or you can invest $20 for the “full game unlock” combo pack. There has been plenty of criticism aimed at the lackluster free-to-play aspects of this game, but if you enjoy the core gameplay, it’s well worth the investment in the paid content.
Xbox One Project Spark

Project Spark

If you’ve ever wanted to build your own video game before, you need to check out Project Spark. This free-to-play title from Microsoft Studios gives you the power to create your own gameplay experiences, and download the bizarre and incredible creations of other people. Much like LittleBigPlanet and Minecraft, this game is all about creating new things, and sharing them with the world.
Without spending money, your options are pretty limited. You can earn in-game currency by playing and creating, but by all accounts that process is very slow. For $40, you can invest in a starter pack that offers a substantial amount of variety, but you’ll probably still run into paywalls here and there. Microsoft sells “Spark tokens” in chunks ranging from $5 to $100, so don’t be surprised when the game leans on you pretty hard for an influx of cash

Powerstar Golf

Up for a few holes of golf? Take a look at Powerstar Golf from Zoë Mode, and you’ll find a stylish golf game with a lot to offer. As you play, you can unlock new clubs and balls to improve your stats, and turn your character into a real pro. This persistent golfing experience tracks how well you’re doing, and easily allows you to challenge your friends to beat your score at any time. If you’ve got a competitive streak and a penchant for golf,Powerstar Golf is exactly what you’re looking for.
For free, you get access to a hole from every course. You can play as much as you like, earn experience points, and unlock new persistent gear. However, you’re going to need to pony up some cash if you want to do much more than dabble with the mechanics. You can buy any of four courses for $6 a pop, or you can invest $20 for the “full game unlock” combo pack. There has been plenty of criticism aimed at the lackluster free-to-play aspects of this game, but if you enjoy the core gameplay, it’s well worth the investment in the paid content.
Xbox One Project Spark

Project Spark

If you’ve ever wanted to build your own video game before, you need to check out Project Spark. This free-to-play title from Microsoft Studios gives you the power to create your own gameplay experiences, and download the bizarre and incredible creations of other people. Much like LittleBigPlanet and Minecraft, this game is all about creating new things, and sharing them with the world.
Without spending money, your options are pretty limited. You can earn in-game currency by playing and creating, but by all accounts that process is very slow. For $40, you can invest in a starter pack that offers a substantial amount of variety, but you’ll probably still run into paywalls here and there. Microsoft sells “Spark tokens” in chunks ranging from $5 to $100, so don’t be surprised when the game leans on you pretty hard for an influx of cash

Powerstar Golf

Up for a few holes of golf? Take a look at Powerstar Golf from Zoë Mode, and you’ll find a stylish golf game with a lot to offer. As you play, you can unlock new clubs and balls to improve your stats, and turn your character into a real pro. This persistent golfing experience tracks how well you’re doing, and easily allows you to challenge your friends to beat your score at any time. If you’ve got a competitive streak and a penchant for golf,Powerstar Golf is exactly what you’re looking for.
For free, you get access to a hole from every course. You can play as much as you like, earn experience points, and unlock new persistent gear. However, you’re going to need to pony up some cash if you want to do much more than dabble with the mechanics. You can buy any of four courses for $6 a pop, or you can invest $20 for the “full game unlock” combo pack. There has been plenty of criticism aimed at the lackluster free-to-play aspects of this game, but if you enjoy the core gameplay, it’s well worth the investment in the paid content.
Xbox One Project Spark

Project Spark

If you’ve ever wanted to build your own video game before, you need to check out Project Spark. This free-to-play title from Microsoft Studios gives you the power to create your own gameplay experiences, and download the bizarre and incredible creations of other people. Much like LittleBigPlanet and Minecraft, this game is all about creating new things, and sharing them with the world.
Without spending money, your options are pretty limited. You can earn in-game currency by playing and creating, but by all accounts that process is very slow. For $40, you can invest in a starter pack that offers a substantial amount of variety, but you’ll probably still run into paywalls here and there. Microsoft sells “Spark tokens” in chunks ranging from $5 to $100, so don’t be surprised when the game leans on you pretty hard for an influx of cash
Xbox One Warframe

Warframe

Looking for something a bit more traditional? This multiplayer third-person shooter from Digital Extremes is worth checking out. Join up with a team of friends, and blast and hack away at the enemies to your heart’s content. This sci-fi shooter has earned acclaim on the PC and PS4 since 2013, and now Xbox One owners can enjoy the game as well.
Warframe does allow you to sink anywhere from $5 to $150 at a time on in-game currency, but don’t feel like any of that is required. You can play the game without spending a dime, and thoroughly enjoy yourself the entire time. Offering $150 chunks of currency definitely feels a little gross, but it comes with the territory. Game devs just can’t stop themselves from catering to the whales among us.
Xbox One Xbox Fitness

Xbox Fitness

This isn’t exactly what comes to mind when you think of free-to-play games, but Xbox Fitness is a neat package on offer from Sumo Digital. With this title, you can get fit in the real world with instruction from well-known exercise trainers like Jillian Michaels, Tony Horton, and Tracy Anderson.
The pricing model for Xbox Fitness is a little wonky, mind you. If you’re an Xbox Live Gold member, you currently have unlimited access until the end of the year. Starting in January, you’ll need to pony up for both a subscription and and Xbox Live Gold membership for continued unlimited access. Individual workout programs can be purchased à la carte with prices ranging between $9 and $60, but the “Gatorade Sports Performance Football Training Camp” routine is available at no cost.

I’d buy that for a dollar

Free-to-play is still a rapidly evolving experience — especially on the new consoles. Consumer expectations, development costs, and platform limitations make the business side of this extremely complicated. Even so, you can’t really argue with a price tag of zero from the consumer end. The extremely low barrier to entry can expose everyone to entirely new genres, and that’s worth the time investment. If you don’t like it, simply delete the game, and forget about it. If you find something you like, you get to choose exactly how much money you’re willing to spend on the entertainment. There’s a lot of potential for the model on the PS4 and Xbox One, and this is just the beginning.
If there’s another free-to-play game for the Xbox One that you’d like to recommend, let us know in the comments!

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