Two months ago, Sony reinvented PS Plus, the old membership program for PlayStation owners. Now it’s very much like Microsoft’s Game Pass: for about the same money, both offer access to a Netflix-esque games-on-demand library. 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 unites the two and offers access to the EA Play Library (a similar game-on-demand service) and Xbox Live Gold, costs $15 per month. There is no way to prepay several months or a year against a tiered markdown (at least officially).
PS Plus is also available for subscription, but it gets very complicated very quickly. There are two new levels. The Extra is $15 per month, or $100 for the year, and offers free monthly games, online play, and a catalog of on-demand games, including some of Ubisoft’s library. Premium is $18 per month, or $120 per year, and adds access to classic games, game trials, and cloud streaming for most games in the library. That’s a huge price difference, and while PS Plus Premium is more expensive from month to month, it’s actually almost 50 percent cheaper if you commit for the whole 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 is in use in every way. Microsoft recommends Internet speeds of at least 10 Mbps for mobile devices and 20 Mbps for consoles and PCs. Based on Kotakutesting, is it… okay? Despite the huge progress of cloud gaming lately, streaming still can’t compete with downloaded games. The latency, however small, is undeniable. As such, cloud gaming is best used for puzzlers, chill RPGs, light platformers, and other games that don’t require split-second reflexes.
Microsoft says that “more than 100” games can currently be streamed via cloud gaming on Xbox Game Pass, but more games are added every few weeks. At the moment, the Game Pass library currently lists 381 games that can be streamed.
To unlock streaming on PS Plus, you need to buy the $18 per month tier. And even then, the streaming quality is nothing to write home about. At best, it’s as good as Xbox Cloud Gaming. Sometimes it’s worse. About 320 games from the Premium library can be streamed on console or PC, and a large proportion of those are PS3 games and classics rather than the entire PlayStation 4 library. For example, Marvel’s Avengers and strayed are available on console, but not in the streaming library.
Most notably, 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 be on the same Wi-Fi network.
Winner: Game Pass
Of course, a games-on-demand service is only as good as all it has to offer: games.
Straight away, the Xbox Game Pass library has about 475 games, but that total includes the library across both levels, including the 92 games currently part of EA Play. The main draw, of course, is that Microsoft is putting its entire first-party portfolio on the platform. That also includes the large tent poles, such as Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5next to future blockbusters like starfield and redfall– which become available on the day they came out. Third-party games tend to last for up to a year, although some, like Rockstar’s open world Hold ‘Em simulator Red Dead Redemption 2, will become unavailable after a few months. It’s unpredictable.
The library also regularly cycles in third-party games and often serves as a launch pad for indie gems. This year alone, the two Zelda-Like it Tunicthe snowboard sim Shreddersand the puzzle-cum-dungeon-crawler Loot River all launched on Game Pass. (Here is Kotaku‘s list of the best games under the radar currently available.) Developers have admitted that: Kotaku that debut on Game Pass cuts into initial sales, but is ultimately worth the tradeoff in publicity.
PS Plus Extra currently includes about 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 PlayStation exclusives like Horizon Zero Dawn, god of war, Spider-Man: Miles Moralesand Bloodborne. Unlike Microsoft, Sony has committed to not putting its latest releases on the service day-to-date, and if Returnal arrives a year after release is any indication, it seems like a good bet that players will have to wait at least a year to get it. 18 months before newer stuff appears.
However, there are plenty of strong contenders in the third-party division. Games like Final Fantasy VII Remake, Prey, Check, demiseand Tetris effect are all present just like indies like celeste, Outer Wilderness, Dead cellsand Virginia. The library has a lot of diversity and was most recently enhanced by the same day addition of strayed, which is already a 2022 GOTY contender. The Ubisoft component, led by Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is also a strong compliment. At the same time, Sony has not yet shown that it is or will be as aggressive as Microsoft in its pursuit of a steady stream of daily third-party additions. There is also no PC-exclusive section of the library.
Winner: PS Plus
arie: When I started this exercise, I totally imagined it would paint a clear picture of Game Pass’s superiority, but these two services seem fundamentally identical to me – right down to the user interface – with Sony’s new version of PS Plus marginally better at handling it. the few aspects that matter. Prices are largely the same, but the option to pay for a year of PS Plus with a “discount” trumps Game Pass in that regard. Sure, Game Pass’s big draw is that it puts Microsoft’s first-party games into service at launch, but… Microsoft barely has any first-party games this year! At this point, that benefit seems like little more than a marketing line.
ethan: I also thought Game Pass would be the clear winner, but now I’m confused too. Not everyone can afford to prepay for an entire year, but it really changes the calculus in this matchup. There are also some other key differences, and while I don’t think they make one a clear winner over the other, I think it makes it easier to decide what to pay for. Want instant access to a vast catalog of some of the biggest and best games of the last generation? PS Plus wins. Want to keep up with some of the best new games coming out every month and play them anytime on your phone? Then it’s all Game Pass.