Two months ago, Sony redesigned PS Plus, its longstanding membership program for PlayStation owners. Now it’s looking a lot like Microsoft’s Game Pass: Both offer access to a Netflix-style games-on-demand library for around the same amount of money. Obviously we had to stack the two services against each other.
Game Pass is available as a subscription for console, PC, or both. The two separate tiers cost $10 per month. Xbox Live Ultimate, which joins the two and offers access to EA Play Library (a similar games-on-demand service) and Xbox Live Gold, costs $15 per month. There is (at least officially) no way to pay several months or a year in advance with a graduated discount.
PS Plus is also available for a subscription, but it gets very complicated very quickly. There are two new levels. The extra costs $15 per month or $100 per year and offers free monthly games, online games, and a catalog of on-demand games including some Ubisoft libraries. Premium costs $18 per month or $120 per year and offers access to classic games, game trials, and cloud streaming for most of the games in the library. That’s a huge difference in price, and while PS Plus Premium is more expensive month-to-month, it’s actually nearly 50 percent cheaper if you commit for the full year.
Winner: PS Plus
Game Pass allows cloud streaming provided you pay for the more expensive Ultimate tier. The streaming functionality is technically still “in beta”, but it’s ready to go in every respect. Microsoft recommends Internet speeds of at least 10 Mbps for mobile devices and 20 Mbps for consoles and PCs. Related to kotakuIt’s being tested, it’s… ok? Despite the tremendous advances in cloud gaming lately, streaming still can’t keep up with downloaded games. The latency, no matter how small, cannot be ignored. Therefore, cloud gaming is best suited for puzzle games, chill RPGs, light platform games, and other games that don’t require split seconds.
According to Microsoft, “more than 100” games are currently available to stream via cloud gaming on Xbox Game Pass, but more games are being added every few weeks. Currently, the Game Pass library currently lists 381 games as streamable.
To unlock streaming on PS Plus, you must purchase the $18 per month tier. And even then, the streaming quality is nothing special. At best, it’s as good as Xbox Cloud Gaming. Sometimes it’s worse. About 320 games from the premium library are available to stream on console or PC and a good chunk of these are PS3 games and classics rather than the full PlayStation 4 library. For example, Marvel’s Avengers and Stray are available on console but not in the streaming library.
First of all, you cannot stream PS Plus games to your phone. At the moment the service relies on remote play, which means you need a console to play on mobile and you need to be on the same WiFi network.
Winner: Game Pass
Of course, a games-on-demand service is only as good as what it is designed to provide: games.
At the moment, the Xbox Game Pass library has approximately 475 games, but that tally includes the library at both tiers, including the 92 games currently part of EA Play. The main attraction, of course, is that Microsoft is putting its entire first-party portfolio on the platform. This also includes the large tent poles – like Halo infinity and ForzaHorizon 5alongside upcoming blockbusters like starfield and redfall– which become available the day they came out. Third-party games typically stick around for a year at most, though some, like Rockstar’s open-world hold ’em simulator Red Dead Redemption 2, are no longer available after a few months. It’s unpredictable.
The library also regularly moves into third-party games and often serves as a launch pad for indie gems. This year alone the twee zelda-how tunicthe snowboard sim paper shredderand the puzzler-cum-dungeon crawler loot river all launched on Game Pass. (Here is kotaku‘s list of the best under-the-radar games currently available.) The developers have confirmed this kotaku that debuting on Game Pass reduces initial sales but is ultimately worth the public trade-off.
PS Plus Extra currently includes around 430 PS4 and PS5 games, while Premium adds another 395 from PS1, PS2, PS3 (streaming only) and PSP. While the classics are a nice bonus, by far the biggest draws are the exclusive PlayStation games like Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, Spider-Man: Miles Moralesand bloodborne. Unlike Microsoft, Sony has committed to not delivering its latest releases to the service on a day-to-day basis, and if Returnal arrives a year after release, it seems like a good bet that players will have to wait at least 18 months before newer things appear.
However, there are many strong competitors in the third-party department. games like Final Fantasy VII Remake, prey, control, demiseand Tetris Effect are all present, as are indies Celeste, Outer Wilds, dead cellsand Virginia. The library is very diverse and was last strengthened by the addition of on the same day Stray, who is already a GOTY contender for 2022. The Ubisoft component, led by Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is also a strong compliment. At the same time, Sony has yet to show that it is or will be as aggressive as Microsoft when it comes to courting a steady stream of third-party day-and-date additions. There is also no PC-exclusive part of the library.
Winner: PS Plus
Ari: Going into this exercise, I totally imagined that it would paint a clear picture of Game Pass’ superiority, but these two services seem to me to be fundamentally identical – right down to the user interface – with Sony’s new version of PS Plus, which is marginally better in the few aspects that matter. Pricing is mostly the same, but the option to pay for a year of PS Plus with a “discount” beats Game Pass in that regard. Sure, the big benefit of Game Pass is that Microsoft’s first-party games come to the service at launch, but…Microsoft hasn’t released many first-party games this year! For now, that perk seems to be little more than a marketing line.
ethane: I also thought Game Pass would be the clear winner, but now I’m conflicted too. Not everyone can afford to pay a full year upfront, but it really changes the calculus in this matchup. There are some other key differences too, and while I don’t think they make one a clear winner over the other, I do think it makes it easier to decide what to pay for. Want instant access to a rich back catalog of some of the biggest and best games of the last generation? PS Plus wins. Want to keep up to date with some of the best new games coming out each month and play them anytime on your phone? Then it’s Game Pass all the way.