Rory Galvin compares the big Netflix-style services for games
Gone are the days of Xtravision and their funny-smelling game cases, asking your mum if you could rent Sonic Heroes on PS2 for the weekend. Today, all you have to do is pay a monthly fee and you have hundreds of games at your fingertips, but the question is, which one is the best value for money?
We’ll get the easy ones out of the way; Ubisoft Plus is worthless, because their games end up being cheap enough to disincentivize the hefty fee, Nintendo Switch Online only offers limited emulation that should be on the eShop instead, and Apple Arcade is just okay if that’s what you’re looking for. There’s also Amazon Luna and Nvidia GeForce Now for cloud streaming (PlayStation and Xbox have it too, but we’ll get there,) but the technology isn’t really there yet even if you have great internet speeds.
To be frank, you have two options that are clearly a cut above the rest: Microsoft’s Game Pass, and Sony’s PlayStation Plus. Microsoft started this trend, and because of that we’ll look at them first. To keep it brief, it is a great deal, but maybe less-so than even a year ago. These services live and die on their catalogue of games on offer: Microsoft made the bold move to have all of their exclusives release on the service from day-one, essentially making the consumer look like an idiot for paying full price. The only problem is that currently Xbox doesn’t have many exciting exclusives at the moment - they’re on the way, but you won’t really see the fruits of their labour until the end of 2023. Right now it feels like more quality titles are leaving the service than coming in.
It’s Xtravision, just faster
Sony’s recent relaunch of PlayStation Plus has three different tiers (Game Pass has two), and they all try to justify their relatively large price tag. Unlike Microsoft, Sony are not putting their brand new titles like God of War: Ragnarok or Gran Turismo 7 day and date with their service, instead relying on an admittedly strong catalogue of games. If you go for the highest tier, you gain access to games from all of their generations - as well as most of their exclusives. The sore spot is PlayStation 3, relying on their old PlayStation Now streaming service, which from experience is still more playable than the Xbox equivalent. It’s still early days for the subscription, but things could easily be better.
To conclude, if you’re brand new to gaming, I would actually recommend the PlayStation subscription service. It has all the essentials - especially if you’ve just gotten your hands on a PS5. Otherwise, for most people Xbox Game Pass is still the better option - it’s had years to fine-tune their offerings and the fact that they’ll release their exclusives day-one is quite impressive. Just be aware, you do not own these games. As soon as you stop paying, or if the service shuts down (RIP Google Stadia), that’s it. It’s Xtravision, just faster.