Battle Of The Subscription Services: Xbox Game Pass vs. Sony’s Offering

Extracting the absolute best value from game console subscription services has, for quite a while now, required a fair bit of attention. Sure, the proposition at face value is decent (access to online play, discounted games, subscriber-only perks), but to really milk your monthly pledge for all it’s worth, a close eye on the discounts coming in and out of availability is the bare minimum requirement. Miss out, and it’s back to MSRP for you. Unless there’s a store-wide sale.


This morning Microsoft unveiled its plans to complicate things further with an additional service, though I’ll be the first to admit that if done right, Xbox Game Pass has potential both in terms of value offered, and ability to edge out what Sony pedals for a not-quite-as-competitive price. Of course, this is only after factoring in the combined costs of multiple services from each vendor, determining whether you will pay monthly or yearly, and tallying applicable discounts that result as well as continued savings and quality of software price-cuts that cycle in and out continuously in a never-ending blur of limited-time savings. It’s not that I take any issues with these services. They’re just starting to get convoluted and confusing.


It sounds good, and it may be. But there are things you'll need to keep track of.


To start, it’s best to recap what currently exists pre-Xbox Game Pass. Right now, Microsoft’s offering comes in the form of Xbox Live Gold. The service is $9.99 per month, $24.99 for 3 months, or $60 for a year, that latter presenting the best value (essentially half price). Most folks will likely opt for the $60 option, so let's go ahead and be optimistic with that for the time being.

If you want everything Microsoft is offering, you’re essentially looking at what amounts to a $15 monthly expense. $9.99 monthly for your Xbox Games Pass, and $5 monthly (aka $60 yearly) for Gold. It’s not terrible, though it is more than Netflix. Though to be fair, aside from their own shows, Netflix’s selection is pretty bad. But I will give them props for all the anime.

Looking at Sony’s side, the landscape is a bit different. Firstly, PlayStation Now is not a download service like Xbox Game Pass, but a streaming service. Whether or not you see that as a perk or a setback will depend on your internet connection, but regardless, there’s no denying that Now is more expensive. Monthly it runs you $19.99, double the cost of Xbox Game Pass, and notably, PS4 games are not streamable. It’s only PS3 titles, and even then, it’s not as if we’re looking at the entire PS3 library. Buying PSNow in bulk on a three-month basis saves you $5 per month, so let’s again be generous and say it’s $15 monthly. Add in Sony’s Gold equivalent PlayStation Plus also at $60 a year, and you’re leveling off at $20 a month for everything.


PlayStation Plus garners mostly goodwill from gamers, but Now streaming has proven less wildly popular.


So where does this leave us? Well, here’s the straight-ahead breakdown.


Xbox Game Pass: Offers both Xbox One and select, backward-compatible Xbox 360 titles available for download carte blanche (while subscribed). Downloaded titles can be purchased at a discount if desired. The library of games continuously changes, “over 100” being the ballpark number at any given time, as of now. The monthly cost is $9.99, for a total of around $15 monthly with a yearly Gold subscription added.


PlayStation Now: Offers only PS3 games, not PS4 games. All games are streamed. The monthly subscription is $19.99, but is around $15 if you buy in 3-month chunks. A perk over Xbox Game Pass is that the library is not a revolving door; the total number of games is ever-increasing, with over 400 currently available. On the other hand, download discounts are not by default available, as there’s no guarantee the PS3 game in question is even on the PlayStation Store. With PlayStation Plus for $60 per year, the total cost is around $20 monthly, or $25 monthly if you don’t purchase Now in 3-month increments.


I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. In addition to what I’ve outlined, and as was mentioned earlier, staying “on the ball” to nab the most value possible can prove rather convoluted. In my view, Xbox Game Pass only worsens this scenario, as there’s now Games with Gold, Discounts with Gold, and the 100 or so titles currently in the Game Pass revolving door to keep track of. I don’t want to demean the value Sony and Microsoft bring to the table in the cases where they actually do deliver (which, as I’m sure plenty of subscribers will attest, does in fact happen). And yet, somehow the amount of bookkeeping required for the most value-packed and best experience experience makes me want to take a nap.


Switch's subscription will likely lack the robustness of its competition. I expect this will cure my migraines.


If there’s any positive to be fished from the general negativity surrounding Nintendo Switch’s upcoming online offering, it’s that expectations are, generally speaking, in the gutter. Because of this, because I expect nothing online service-wise and don’t really care (and am very excited for the console otherwise), I actually feel relieved. The service will let me play online, will likely be cheap, and there are going to be some random classic ROMs thrown in here and there for good measure. Nice. And, perhaps most importantly, there is only one subscription to worry about, and little to keep track of.


Am I being too negative here? Let us know your thoughts on the subject. For all I know, Xbox Game Pass may turn out great, and in fact, sans the clutter I’ve described there’s little concrete reason to suspect that it won’t. And yet, my wearied sentiment undoubtedly remains.