Spend time with but not money on your Xbox One
Who doesn't like free stuff? For a while now, we've kept you abreast of the offerings on Xbox 360 via our ever-expanding list of the free Xbox games. Now, it's time for a generation jump. Microsoft has announced that its free Games with Gold program will carry over to the Xbox One. Gold subscribers will receive two free games a month - and that's in addition to free-to-play titles, of which there are a number in the works at Microsoft Studios.
The bad news? Games with Gold won't launch on the next gen (or now gen, as I suppose we need to start calling it) till some point in 2014. This list is fairly under-sized for the moment, then, but you might want to bookmark it ahead of time, so you're ready and waiting when the goodies arrive.
Completely free, doesn't require Xbox Gold (out 2014)
It's all gone a little quiet on the Project Spark front since we first went hands-on with the sim at Gamescom this year. Once it lands, however, we're predicting that this incredibly powerful and user-friendly game creation tool kit will be quite a hit. It's free regardless of supporting platform - PC, Xbox 360 or Windows 8. You don't even need an Xbox Live Gold subscription to get involved, as confirmed by community manager Mike Lescault on Reddit thread.
Project Spark is based on the elderly Kodu Gamelab for Xbox Live Indie Games, and allows you to sculpt the landscape using Xbox SmartGlass controls, place items by way of Kinect, and even use the Kinect's fancy pants new camera and microphone functionality as motion and voice capture tools. The prototypes we've laid eyes on range from pitch-black survival horror experiences to side-scrolling shooters and RPGs. Alas, the Xbox One beta won't arrive before January. You might want to start doodling a few ideas.
Versus, Survival, Practice and Dojo modes free with one character (download here)
Individual characters $4.99 / £3.99 / €4.99
Combo Breaker Pack (eight characters) $19.99 / £16.99 / €19.99
Ultra Edition (eight characters, includes Killer Instinct Classic) $39.99 / £34.99 / €39.99
Double Helix has shied away from labelling Xbox One's Killer Instinct reboot as a free to play game, instead deciding to call it "the world's most generous demo." But, demo or not, there's still plenty to do with Killer Instinct without ever having to pay a penny. Downloading the game from the Xbox Live Store will net you one free character, and Double Helix has promised that this character will be changed every couple of months or so, to give people a feel for all the different fighting styles as you play through the Versus and Survival modes, which are both completely free with that initial download.
You'll also get full access to the game's robust tutorial mode gratis, which teaches you not only the basics and more advanced mechanics of Killer Instinct, but of fighting games in general. Now that's a life skill you can take right to the bank.