A console generation or two ago, gaming subscription services might have been met with complete ire and disdain, perhaps indifference, at best. PlayStation Plus, in the time of the PlayStation 3, wasn’t even required in order to play games online. And yet, nowadays, there are so many subscriptions and monthly payments that you could easily spend more than the cost of a AAA game a month just to have access to all of them. Whether it’s the randomized collection of games you keep forever in each month of Humble Choice, subscriptions to access certain studio’s libraries on a month-by-month basis like Ubisoft Plus or EA Play, or rotating troves of games through Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now, there’s an almost endless amount of choice when it comes to monthly services for video games.
Some of them, such as Google Stadia or GeForce Now let you stream games, rather than play them on your own hardware. It lets gamers with lower-end hardware have the ability to still play major releases without feeling left out. For some, it’s a fantastic way to open the door to more casual gamers, but others see it as more tenuous; input lag can affect your perception of the game, and some countries still lack the internet infrastructure to handle, let alone the service itself entirely.
PlayStation Now initially operated on the same streaming-only basis, but quickly pivoted to also allow local downloads. The option of choice is always a good one to have, and perhaps best of all, you don’t even need a PlayStation system to stream them. Just having a PC and DualShock 4 is enough to access a library full of “PS4 exclusive” titles. On the other hand, having it separate from PlayStation Plus means those subscribed to both services at once, especially if they’re paying on a month-to-month basis, can see things get expensive very quickly.
You’ve also got Nintendo Switch Online, which even compared to lesser-discussed services like EA Play, gives you perhaps the least overall features--just selective cloud saving, online access, and a handful of retro titles. Fortunately, it’s the least expensive option, but even still, it leaves many wanting more from Nintendo, especially with their history and backlog of amazing retro titles going to relative waste on the Switch.
And of course, there’s Xbox Game Pass, the most heavy-hitting subscription of them all. Bundling not only every Xbox first party game, but every first party game on launch, as well as random other games, Game Pass offers an incredible value. Plus, you can upgrade to Game Pass Ultimate for a little bit more, and have access to Xbox Live Gold. Given just how many free trials or $1/month promotions Microsoft has offered, plenty of gamers are locked into years of the service, especially after they were allowed to convert leftover Xbox Gold into Game Pass Ultimate for next to nothing.
Given all those options, which one is your favorite? And if it’s not Xbox Game Pass, why is that? Or are you the kind of person who prefers their games physically, opting for subscription services only because you need them to play online, if at all?