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This week, I played through Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition on Xbox One, which was free thanks to my Gold subscription (although technically it’s false to say it’s free when I pay for the subscription, but I’d keep paying for the online service even if free games weren’t included, so, you know). It’s a really great game, filled with fun fights, tricky platforming sections, and neat hidden secrets. I loved it…and started to wonder why I hadn’t played it last year when I had gotten it for free on Vita through PS Plus. I had to check Steam to see if I had it on there as well because I genuinely wasn’t sure. I don’t, as it turns out, but I don’t remember downloading Grimm, Galactic Civilisations II, Hammerfight, Fallout Tactics, or a few of the other games floating around that part of my Steam library.

I am curious about whether there’s anyone out there who signs up for these subscriptions, purchases all the humble bundles partakes in the Steam sales, and then actually plays all the games they own. This is something we all joke around about, but for me it has started to get a bit ludicrous.

For the price of two subscriptions and with a PC budget of maybe $100 a year I have acquired so many games that my approach to acquisition has changed fairly fundamentally. If I don’t pick something up during the launch period for full price, I’m liable to wait until it either goes free or super cheap before I add it to a growing list of things I know I’m not going to play, but want to have there just in case. I feel the same way with movies – if I haven’t seen the film within three weeks of the cinema release, or a few weeks of the DVD release, I’m going to wait until it comes to Netflix. Then I’m going to add it to my list, and never watch it.

I know, really, why I played through Guacamelee: Super Turbo Edition – because this was a new version with extra content, only just released, and I wanted a reason to play my Xbox One. But the enjoyment I got from the game is forcing me to take my backlog a bit more seriously. Last night I loaded up my copy of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, acquired for free some time ago, and that game sure is something. I tested out my Xbox Live Gold free version of Civilisation Revolution, in the hopes of someday having a proper shot at the copy of Civ V I bought for cheap ages ago. I’ve scrolled through my PlayStation list and made a note of all the Plus games I have downloaded and actually want to play (there are quite a few, as there have been for years now).

The simple incentive of getting a return on an investment (and the excitement of having something brand new) that drives me to buy and play games at launch is a more powerful motivation than I would have thought a few years ago. Quite often I’ll play free games – good ones, ones worth paying decent money for – and find myself thinking ‘it doesn’t really matter if I follow through on subquests, or skip cutscenes, because I will not finish this. I will probably never play it again. I don’t have to. I’m playing this because I have it, because it’s there.’ It’s not a thought I particularly like having.

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