Game Pass Vs. The New PS Plus, The Comparison We Had To Make

Game Pass Vs. The New PS Plus, The Comparison We Had To Make
Image: Sony / Microsoft / Kotaku

Two months ago, Sony reimagined PS Plus, its longtime membership program for PlayStation owners. Now, it looks a whole lot like Microsoft’s Game Pass: For roughly the same amount of money, both offer access to a Netflix-style games-on-demand library. Obviously, we had to stack the two services up against each other.

Price

Game Pass is available as a subscription for console, PC, or both. The two separated tiers cost $US10 ($14) a month. Xbox Live Ultimate, which joins the two and provides access to the EA Play Library (a similar games-on-demand service) and Xbox Live Gold, costs $US15 ($21) a month. There is no way to pay for multiple months or a year up front at a tiered markdown (at least officially).

PS Plus is also available for a subscription, but it gets very complicated very fast. There are two new tiers. The Extra is $US15 ($21) a month, or $US100 ($139) for the year, and offers free monthly games, online play, and a catalogue of on-demand games including some of Ubisoft’s library. Premium is $US18 ($25) a month, or $US120 ($167) a year, and adds access to classic games, game trials, and cloud streaming for most of the games in the library. That’s a huge price difference, and while PS Plus Premium is more expensive month-to-month, it’s actually almost 50 per cent cheaper if you commit to the whole year.

Winner: PS Plus

Streaming

Game Pass allows for cloud-streaming, provided you pay for the pricier Ultimate tier. The streaming functionality is technically still “in beta,” but it is for all intents and purposes up and running. Microsoft recommends internet speeds of at least 10mbps for mobile devices and 20mbps for consoles and PCs. Based on Kotaku’s testing, it’s…fine? Despite cloud gaming’s huge advancements recently, streaming still can’t compete with downloaded games. The latency, however minor, is unignorable. As such, cloud gaming is best used for puzzlers, chill RPGs, light platformers, and other games that don’t demand split-second reflexes.

Microsoft says “more than 100” games are currently streamable via cloud gaming on Xbox Game Pass, but more games are added every few weeks. Right now, the Game Pass library currently lists 381 games as capable of streaming.

Stray. (Screenshot: Annapurna / Kotaku)Stray. (Screenshot: Annapurna / Kotaku)

To unlock streaming on PS Plus you need to buy the $US18 ($25) a 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. Roughly 320 games from the Premium library can be streamed on console or PC, and a good chunk of those are PS3 games and classics rather than the full PlayStation 4 library. For example, Marvel’s Avengers and Stray are available on console but not in the streaming library.

Most notably, you can’t stream PS Plus games to your phone. For now, the service relies on Remote Play, meaning you need a console to play on mobile and you must be on the same WiFi network.

Winner: Game Pass

Game Library

Of course, a games-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 comprises the library across both tiers, including the 92 games currently part of EA Play. The main draw, of course, is that Microsoft puts its entire first-party portfolio on the platform. That also includes the major tent poles — like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5, alongside forthcoming blockbusters like Starfield and Redfall — which become available the day they came out. Third-party games tend to stick around for a year at most, though some, like Rockstar’s open-world Hold ‘Em simulator Red Dead Redemption 2, become unavailable after a matter of months. It’s unpredictable.

Halo Infinite. (Screenshot: 343 Industries)Halo Infinite. (Screenshot: 343 Industries)

The library also regularly cycles in third-party games and often serves as a launch pad for indie gems. This year alone, the twee Zelda-like Tunic, the snowboarding sim Shredders, and the puzzler-cum-dungeon-crawler Loot River all launched on Game Pass. (Here’s Kotaku’s list of the best under-the-radar games currently available.) Developers have acknowledged to Kotaku that debuting on Game Pass cuts into initial sales but is ultimately worth it for the tradeoff in publicity.

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, the biggest draw by far are the PlayStation exclusives like Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Bloodborne. Unlike Microsoft, Sony has committed to not putting its newest releases on the service day-and-date, and if Returnal arriving a year after release is any indication, it seems like a good bet that players will have to wait at least a year to 18 months before newer stuff appears.

There are plenty of strong contenders in the third-party department though. Games like Final Fantasy VII Remake, Prey, Control, Doom, and Tetris Effect are all present, as are indies like Celeste, Outer Wilds, Dead Cells, and Virginia. The library has plenty of diversity and was bolstered most recently from the same-day addition of Stray, 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 hasn’t yet demonstrated it is, or will be, as aggressive as Microsoft in courting a steady stream of third party day-and-date additions. There’s also no PC-exclusive portion of the library.

Winner: PS Plus

Ari: Going into this exercise, I totally imagined it’d paint a clear picture of Game Pass superiority, but these two services seem fundamentally identical to me — right down to the UI — with Sony’s new version of PS Plus marginally 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” edges out Game Pass in that regard. Sure, Game Pass’ big draw is that it puts Microsoft’s first-party games on the service at launch, but…Microsoft barely has any first-party games out this year! Right now, that perk seems like little more than a marketing line.

Ethan: I also thought Game Pass would be the clear winner coming out of this, but now I’m conflicted as well. Not everyone can afford to pay for a full year up front, but it really changes the calculus in this matchup. There are some other key differences as well, and while I don’t think they make one a clear winner over the other, I do think it makes it easier to decide which you want to pay for. Want immediate access to a meaty back catalogue of some of the biggest and best games from the last generation? PS Plus wins. Want to stay current on some of the best new games coming out every month and play them at any time on your phone? Then it’s Game Pass all the way.

 

Comments

  • No mention of the classics availabe on game pass, bit highlighted the classic on ps plus. Well done Kotaku, how much was the adver-torial?

  • Not quite sure I agree that “games” goes to PS Plus, most of the games on game pass are newer and cost $30-$100 whereas some ps ones listed, while bangers, can be owned for $9-$12 and to me would not be worth playing on a subscription as they’d take more than a month to finish!

  • Hmmm… Picking PS Plus for Game Library when all the XBox exclusives from Microsoft lands on Gamepass day 1 is highly questionable. This is where you’ll be spending all your non-subscription money

    • It’s not just xbox exclusives that are day 1, been quite a few 3rd party, probably the most notable are the MLB The Show 21/22 games which are Sony games but $109 on PS or free on Xbox Game Pass!

  • Ha! While some are getting salty I’m genuinely surprised Ari (and to a much lesser extent Ethan) actually managed to avoid a thinly veiled hit piece given past efforts.
    (Not to mention turn the PS on lol)

    At this stage I think it really shows how marketing narratives tend to hijack discourse and twist the reality of the actual experience.
    Gamepass is obviously great but like most of the PR driven features that came before it, artificially inflated by targeted marketing.
    It was raised as the golden god that had to be responded to when no competitor existed, then instantly wrapped in silk when Sony actually did.
    Truth is Gamepass and PS+ are just subscription services and we’ve all been here before.

    Of course PS+ is getting a lot of positive attention at the moment and it has little to do with which is better based on minor preferences.
    It’s simply the new kid on a block where a previous new kid had no comparison.

    So relax, Gamepass is still good, it just isn’t the end all that people told you it was.
    (Neither is PS+, we’re more interested in getting good games at the essential tier than anything)

  • Got both, they good.

    Game pass has been used more over the last year since I didn’t own an xbone (and PS+ V.2 is real new).

    Play games, have fun.

  • (preface my comment with I have both Game Pass and PS Plus Deluxe – or whatever the most expensive is in Aus).

    How much did Sony pay for this ad?

    Price: You can literally get Game Pass deals for like 1.00 for 3 months etc, as well as multiple ways to get the price discounted. The fact this isn’t even mentioned from a video game website who would know this SCREAMS bias.

    Streaming: Accurate.

    Games: I’m sorry… but what? First day exclusives vs some PS1 – PS4 games… The Bias… it screams again!

    I hope Sony paid you guys well though. Nice piece 🙂

    As someone with all 3 services, they rank like this –

    Game Pass – PS Plus – Nintendo Switch Online.

    • OMG you must be an Xbox fanboy!

      Even though the article quite literally ignores/forgets things in this comparison, I’m just going to ignore that criticism and blindly defend the authors anyway!

    • Dude calm down, your reading far too much into it and missing the point.

      Pricing is compared on flat rates, discounts and the periods available.
      PS+ has various deals and discounts outside the flat pricing too which aren’t mentioned either.

      The point on games looks purely at what’s available and still flaunts the day 1 exclusives on Gamepass periodically.
      No doubt that selling point will be much stronger when there is more titles.

      Overall the result isn’t a strong declaration that PS+ has destroyed poor little Gamepass but an admission that it currently isn’t the slam dunk they expected as well as providing a clear distinction of where the two are strongest under different preferences.
      There is literally no winners and losers here buddy and your ranking is you’re individual ranking, same as theirs.

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