A PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S controller.
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Sony’s answer to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass is a revised version of the existing PlayStation Plus service with several tiers to choose from. So which is superior, assuming you have access to both? Let’s take a look.

Both Services Provide a Library of Games

PlayStation Plus is split into three tiers: Essential ($9.99/month), Extra ($14.99/month), and Premium ($17.99/month). Each includes access to Sony’s online services, plus cloud storage for saved games and limited discounts in the PlayStation Store.

The latter two of these tiers include access to a library of around “400” games, including first-party PlayStation Studios titles and third-party games from other publishers. You can download these titles and play them locally on your device for as long as you are subscribed, with new titles appearing and old ones disappearing regularly.

Similarly, Game Pass is split into tiers with Game Pass Ultimate being the most compelling value proposition. For $14.99/month, you get access to “over 100” titles from both Microsoft and third-party studios, access to EA Play’s library of games, and an Xbox Live Gold subscription for online play. You also get some exclusive deals and perks.

Just like Sony’s offering, Game Pass lets you download and play these titles for as long as you are subscribed. Titles appear and disappear on a monthly and sometimes weekly basis, and once your subscription lapses you lose access to the catalog.

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If Ultimate sounds like too much, you can also get Game Pass PC and Game Pass Console for $9.99/month but you’ll need to invest in a separate Xbox Live Gold subscription to play online on an Xbox. You also lose perks like cloud streaming (more on this later.)

In this respect, both services serve a similar purpose. Like with any all-you-can-eat subscription, there is always something to play. You might find yourself trying (and loving) titles that you otherwise would never have played, purely because you already have access to them.

Game Pass Provides Day One Access to Microsoft Titles

One area where Microsoft moves ahead is the ability to play all Microsoft exclusive, first-party titles on day one with Game Pass. This includes blockbuster franchises like Halo and Forza, plus new and returning IPs like HellbladePsychonauts 2, and Sea of Thieves.

Microsoft ensures there are still a few good reasons to spend your own money on these titles too though. For example, only the standard edition of Microsoft Flight Simulator is included with Xbox Game Pass. When Forza Horizon 5 launched in November 2021, customers could pre-order and get access early while Game Pass subscribers had to wait.

All-in-all, this is one of the most compelling reasons to sign up for Game Pass. Even if you are a fan of owning physical titles, being able to try every new game from Microsoft’s increasingly large repertoire of studios makes it hard to say no. Microsoft regularly plays this perk up at presentations with “Play It Day One on Game Pass” badges at the end of trailers too.

With the acquistion of Bethesda/Zenimax in 2021 and Activision Blizzard in 2022, many big names are expected to arrive on Game Pass on day one including Starfield (Bethesda Game Studios’ upcoming “Skyrim in space” RPG), future Elder Scrolls and Fallout titles, the Call of Duty series, and Diablo IV.

Sony’s Premium Tier Offers Timed Demos

While Microsoft promised to provide access to its entire first-party library, Sony has made no such promise. Instead, subscribers who opt for the $17.99/month Premium tier will get access to “time-limited game trials” for select games, so you can try before you buy.

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Sony didn’t expand on which titles would be eligible for such trials, but the wider expectation is for Sony to expand this offer to its premium first-party lineup. This could include the upcoming God of War Ragnarok or Forspoken as well as 2022 titles like Horizon Forbidden West or Gran Turismo 7.

How you’ll feel about this likely depends on your expectations. There’s no question that being able to try out a game properly before you buy, limited by only time rather than a demo version, is nice; but it falls short of what Microsoft is offering Xbox owners.

Game Pass Offers PC Games and Cloud Streaming

With a Game Pass Ultimate Subscription, you can play games on both an Xbox console and a PC locally. The two catalogs aren’t identical, and there are fewer titles available on PC, but Microsoft even guarantees a few PC exclusives like Age of Empires with PC-focused titles like Microsoft Flight Simulator arriving on the Windows platform first.

This is a real selling point if you have both an Xbox console and a Windows gaming PC. Plus, it’s even possible to share your Game Pass subscription with another Xbox console to really get your money’s worth.

Ultimate also includes access to Xbox Cloud Gaming, which allows you to play games using cloud streaming. This means you can play most of the Xbox catalog without downloading anything using an Xbox console, Windows PC, iPhone, or Android smartphone.

PlayStation Plus Premium Includes Streaming for Older Titles

Sony also includes game streaming for subscribers on the $17.99/month Premium tier, but this is currently limited to PS3 titles and some older PlayStation, PS2, and PSP games. There’s presently no list of which games will be included, but Sony promises an additional 340 games to be playable over cloud streaming.

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PS3 titles will only be available over cloud streaming, which means there’s no ability to download and play these games natively. A solid internet connection is a must for an enjoyable streaming experience.

The “Better” Option Is the One You Have Access To

Comparisons between the two services may ring a little hollow unless you own both consoles. PlayStation Plus is limited to the blue camp, so Xbox owners cannot take advantage of it. Game Pass Ultimate and PC Game Pass allow gamers with a Windows machine to play too, and Microsoft’s cloud streaming features are good for iPhone and Android owners but (in our opinion) aren’t enough on their own to justify a subscription.

Game Pass feels like the more complete service, though Sony is promising more games. If you’re interested in older PS3, PS2, and PlayStation titles, then Sony’s Premium tier has you covered (and Microsoft can’t really compete.)

If having a library of games on your console of choice sounds good, we’d at least recommend trying out whatever subscription you have available to you.

Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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