Apple Arcade‘s recent launch has shown that companies are trying a different approach to sell mobile games to people. However, Android owners didn’t have that same service available to them. But that will change in a few days. Called Google Play Pass, the (mostly) mobile game subscription service is available is coming to Android devices in the United States this week.
Android Police actually leaked the existence of Google Play Pass last month. The leak correctly predicted the service’s $4.99 a month subscription fee as well as its limited 10-day free trial. For that price, subscribers will get access to a catalog of over 350 games and apps, all without ads or microtransactions. Additionally, Google also has a limited-time offer of $1.99 a month for 12 months.
Google’s take on a subscription service differs a bit from Apple Arcade. As mentioned above, the a subscription to the service also gives access to a number of premium apps, on top of games. Additionally, Google isn’t directly funding games for Play Pass, unlike Apple, nor is it demanding that these games and apps remain exclusive to the service.
That said, Google states that about two-thirds of the apps included in Play Pass as games. All of them will also be available for download individually (either via individual purchase or as an ad-supported free download). Additionally, any ad-supported games that subscribers have already downloaded should have their ads and in-app purchases removed.
Subscribers will be able to share their Play Pass subscription with up to five other family members. As part of this, the service integrates with Google’s existing parental controls for its Play Store. This is another difference from Apple who’s requiring more stringent privacy standard for its own service.
As part of the announcement, Google shared a bit about how it plans to pay developers. While the company didn’t go into specifics, it did reveal that it would be more than just a one time payment. Rather, it expects to pay developers on an ongoing basis.
“The more value subscribers find in your title, the more revenue you’ll earn on a recurring basis,” stated Google in Play Pass related blog post to its developers. “In addition, for a limited time, we’re offering a low introductory price for Play Pass subscribers so that even more users will subscribe and discover Play Pass content. Google is funding this launch offer so that you can benefit from subscriber interest without impacting the revenue you can earn.”
In addition to this, Google said that making any games and apps work with Play Pass would only require “minimal development work.” According to the company, as long as an app uses standard APIs for adds and in-game purchases, switching over should be a simple affair. Developers will not need to ship to separate versions of their work.
Speaking of developers, it looks like not every Android developer can get in on the program at the moment. Talking to The Verge, a Google representative confirmed that the program is currently “invite only.” However, the representative also mentioned that it would be putting up a web form where developers can express their interest in developing for the service.
In regard to the timing of the launch, a representative downplayed the fact that Play Pass launches just a week after Apple Arcade. They stated that the service had been in the works for quite some time — it was simply ready to launch at this time.
Play Pass represents the second subscription service that Google has announced this year. Unlike Stadia however, the company looks to be casting a much wider net with it’s inclusion of non-game apps. This gives it a much wider reach than Stadia, as well as competing services like Xbox Games With Gold, PS Plus, and Apple Arcade. With this in mind, Google may be envisioning a future where these kinds of subscriptions play a larger role in people’s lives than they do now.