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Microsoft makes Xbox 'Games with Gold' a permanent service

Program that gives Xbox Live subscribers free games twice a month is being extended by Microsoft indefinitely.

Microsoft's making a limited-time program that gives paid Xbox Live subscribers free games an ongoing fixture of its online service.

The company announced the news in a blog post on Friday, adding that its users have spent more than 120 million hours playing the games it's given out as freebies.

The "Games with Gold" program was launched at E3 earlier this year, and was set to run through the end of December. Its introduction was seen as a response to Sony's paid PlayStation Plus program, which also gives users free downloads of certain titles that continue to work as long as their subscription is active.

The latest giveaway from Microsoft as part of the program is mega hit Halo 3, an offer that runs through October 31.

The move comes just weeks ahead of when Microsoft's next console, the Xbox One, goes on sale in the US and several other countries. Microsoft is going up against the fourth version of Sony's PlayStation console, the first launch for both companies since the Xbox 360 in 2005 and the PlayStation 3 in 2006.