by Sam Machkovech
On Wednesday, Microsoft announced the first-ever free trial of a full, unlocked retail game on an Xbox platform. The first game to receive the “Gold Weekend” treatment will be Forza Motorsport 5, which will become free to download and play for all Xbox Live Gold members on Xbox One beginning Thursday, September 4 and lasting until the following Sunday.
While nearly all games on Xbox 360, and many games on Xbox One, can be downloaded as free trials, this offer has the distinction of unlocking the full, start-to-finish experience of a game that hasn’t been purchased. It also seems to split the difference between limited trials and the free games doled out to Gold members by way of the Games With Gold promotion.
Adding to the confusion, this differs from Xbox Live’s occasional “free weekends,” which had mostly opened up online play to users who had yet to pony up for a Gold subscription. We’ve asked Microsoft to confirm technical details of this promotion—whether it requires an uninterrupted online connection to play the game in question, what happens mid-game when the trial period ends at midnight PST on Sunday, and whether we may ever see the promotion reach Xbox 360—and we’ll update this post with any clarifications.
It has been years since Steam began offering free, limited-time trials of full games, usually on a weekend to encourage players to buy into the full version once their free few days are up. Strangely, gaming consoles had yet to follow suit before this announcement, in spite of being equipped to download games and authenticate online memberships. Neither last-gen console ever supported such a timed full-game trial feature, and Sony’s PlayStation 4 has yet to receive an equivalent (perhaps because its PlayStation Plus service has already doled out so many free games without time restrictions).