Two months ago, Sony reinvented PS Plus, its longstanding membership program for PlayStation owners. Now, that’s a lot like Microsoft’s Game Pass: for roughly the same amount of money, both offer access to a Netflix-style library of on-demand games. 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 US$10 ($14) per month. Xbox Live Ultimate, which joins the two and provides access to the EA Play Library (a similar on-demand games service) and Xbox Live Gold, costs US$15 ($21) per month. There’s no way to pay months or a year upfront with tiered markdown (at least officially).
PS Plus is also available for a subscription, but it gets very complicated very quickly. There are two new levels. The extra costs US$15 ($21) per month, or US$100 ($139) for the year, and offers free monthly games, online games, and an on-demand games catalog, including a part of the Ubisoft library. Premium costs US$18 ($25) per month, or US$120 ($167) per year, and adds access to classic games, game trials, and cloud streaming for most 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 almost 50% cheaper if you sign up for the whole year.
Winner: PS Plus
Game Pass allows cloud streaming, provided you pay for the more expensive Ultimate tier. The streaming feature is technically still “in beta”, but it’s for all intents and purposes operational. Microsoft recommends internet speeds of at least 10 Mbps for mobile devices and 20 Mbps for consoles and PCs. Based on My boxis being tested, is that… good? Despite recent huge advances in cloud gaming, streaming still can’t compete with downloaded games. Latency, even minimal, is unbelievable. As such, cloud gaming is best used for puzzles, relaxing RPGs, light platforming, and other games that don’t require split-second reflexes.
Microsoft says “over 100” games are currently streamable via cloud gaming on Xbox Game Pass, but more games are being added every few weeks. Right now, the Game Pass library currently lists 381 streamable games.
To unlock streaming on PS Plus, you need to purchase the tier for US$18 ($25) per month. And even then, the streaming quality is nothing out of the ordinary. At best, it’s as good as Xbox Cloud Gaming. Sometimes it’s worse. Around 320 games in the Premium library can be streamed on console or PC, and a good chunk of them are PS3 games and classics rather than the full PlayStation 4 library. For instance, Marvel’s Avengers and Wander are available on console but not in the streaming library.
Specifically, you cannot stream PS Plus games to your phone. For now, 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 game-on-demand service is only as good as the one thing it’s supposed to provide: games.
Right now, the Xbox Game Pass library has about 475 games, but that tally includes both tiers’ library, including the 92 games currently part of EA Play. The main appeal, of course, is that Microsoft is putting its entire first-party portfolio on the platform. This also includes the main tent poles – like Infinite Halo and Forza Horizon 5alongside upcoming blockbusters like star field and red fall – which become available on the day of their release. Third-party games tend to last a year at most, though some, like Rockstar’s open-world Hold ‘Em simulator Red Dead Redemption 2, become unavailable after a few months. It’s unpredictable.
The library also spins regularly in third-party games and often serves as a launchpad for indie gems. This year only, the twee Zelda-As Tunicsnowboard simulation Grindersand the puzzler-cum-dungeon-crawler Loot River all launched on Game Pass. (Here is My boxfrom the list of best under-the-radar games currently available.) The developers acknowledged My box that debuting on Game Pass cuts initial sales, but is ultimately worth it for the publicity 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 draw is PlayStation exclusives like Horizon Zero Dawn, God of the war, Spider-Man: Miles Moralesand transmitted by blood. Unlike Microsoft, Sony has pledged not to put its latest releases on the service day and date, and if Returnal arrives a year after release is any indication, it seems like a good bet that gamers will have to wait at least a year. year for 18 months before new things appear.
There are plenty of serious competitors in the third-party department, however. games like Final Fantasy VII Remake, Prey, Control, Lossand Tetris effect are all present, just like indies like Celestial, Outer Wildlands, dead cellsand Virginia. The library is very diverse and has recently been bolstered with the same day addition of Wanderwhich is already a candidate for GOTY 2022. The Ubisoft component, led by Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is also a strong compliment. At the same time, Sony has yet to demonstrate that it is, or will be, as aggressive as Microsoft in 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 it would paint a clear picture of Game Pass’ superiority, but those two services feel basically identical to me – right down to the user interface – with Sony’s new version of PS Plus slightly better in the few aspects that matter. The prices are mostly the same, but the option to pay for a year of PS Plus at a “discount” surpasses Game Pass in this regard. Of course, the big appeal of Game Pass is that it puts Microsoft’s first-party games on the service at launch, but… Microsoft has virtually no first-party games this year! Right now, this perk appears to be little more than a line of marketing.
Ethan: I also thought Game Pass would be the big winner, but now I’m conflicted as well. Not everyone can afford to pay a full year upfront, but that really changes the math in this game. There are other key differences as well, and while I don’t think they make one a clear winner over the other, I think it’s easier to decide which one you want to pay for. Want immediate access to a full catalog of some of the biggest and best games from the last generation? PS Plus wins. Want to stay on top of some of the best new games coming out every month and play them anytime on your phone? Then it’s Game Pass all the way.