While all-you-can-stream services like Netflix and Spotify have largely replaced owning media in the movie and music spheres, video games haven’t quite caught up to this new normal.
However, both Sony and Microsoft do offer their own subscription services in the form of PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass, respectively.
Let’s compare PS Now and Xbox Game Pass to see which offers the better value for money. As these services become more integrated in future consoles, they could help you decide which one to buy.
The Basics of PlayStation Now
PlayStation Now is Sony’s game subscription service, available for both PS4 and PC. It offers a collection of PS4, PS3, and PS2 titles.
To play the included games on your PS4, use the PS Now app on your system. You’ll need an internet connection that can handle the service; Sony recommends at least 5 Mbps for streaming.
When streaming games, the resolution is capped at 720p, and you may experience input lag since you’re not playing the game locally. Game audio is also only available in stereo, with no option for surround sound.
Otherwise, PS Now lets you enjoy games as you normally would. You can earn Trophies, and online multiplayer is included for all PS Now games even if you don’t have PlayStation Plus. Since there’s no data for the game on your hard drive, your saves all stay in PS Now’s cloud storage.
PS Now is not available in all regions. While you can use it in the US, UK, and Canada, it’s not currently available in Australia or India.
Downloading With PS Now
While it started as a streaming-only service, PS Now now lets you download titles to your PS4 as well. According to Sony, “almost all” PS4 games, as well as most PS2 games, are available to download.
When you download a game, it will output at full resolution. You can purchase DLC for the game, use any included PS VR modes, and access similar extra features.
You can download as many games as you have space for, but your system will check in with PSN every seven days to make sure your subscription is still valid. If you go too long without connecting, you can’t use your downloaded games until you’re back online.
PlayStation Now on PC
PS Now also works on Windows PCs, whether you have a PS4 or not. You’ll need a PSN account and the free PS Now PC app to get started. If you play on both platforms, you can access your save data easily thanks to cloud storage.
While Sony advises that PC play requires a DualShock 4 controller, people report that other PC-compatible gamepads like the Xbox One controller will work too. However, you won’t be able to use DS4-specific functions, such as the touchpad or motion controls.
We’ve looked at the best PS4 controllers if you need to pick one up.
Have a look at the bottom of Sony’s PS Now on PC page for details on system requirements. If you play other games on your PC, you should have no problem meeting these. Keep in mind that you can’t download PS Now games on your PC, though.
Xbox Game Pass Fundamentals
Xbox Game Pass is available for Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. It’s similar to PS Now, but stands out in a few ways.
The biggest difference is that Game Pass doesn’t offer game streaming; all titles are download-only. This means that all the games you download work as if you bought them on disc or digitally—they can take advantage of Xbox One X hardware and let you buy DLC. However, you’ll still need Xbox Live Gold to play Game Pass games online.
Otherwise, Game Pass for Xbox is pretty straightforward. It offers Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games. You can download as many titles as you want, as long as your system has enough room—consider buying an external hard drive for your Xbox if you need more space.
Your console must check in with Xbox Live every 30 days to make sure that your Game Pass subscription is still valid. Game Pass also offers a discount if you choose to buy a game in the catalog (or its DLC).
Notably, Xbox Game Pass is available in more regions than PS Now. You can access it in Australia, India, and many more countries.
Xbox Game Pass for PC
When you sign up for Game Pass, you’ll need to choose whether you want to subscribe to the console or PC service. Unlike PS Now, you don’t get access to everything on both platforms with one subscription.
The catalog of games differs depending on platform. Some games are available on both Xbox One and PC, while others only support one platform or the other. Otherwise, it works just like it does on Xbox—unlimited access to download as much as you can fit on your computer.
You’ll need to download the new Xbox app for Windows 10 to take advantage of Game Pass on PC. And unlike PS Now, you don’t need a controller to play these games.
The PC versions are built for PC, not streamed, so they control with a mouse and keyboard (though that may not be the optimal method for all games, such as platformers).
Xbox Game Pass Streaming on Android
From September 15th, 2020, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (see below) will also include access to much of the catalog on Android phones and tablets at no additional cost. Unlike the rest of Game Pass, these games are offered through streaming, not downloads.
You’ll need a device with Android 6 or above, the Xbox Game Pass Android app, and a Bluetooth-enabled Xbox One controller since most games don’t support touch controls. Microsoft also recommends a 5Ghz Wi-Fi or mobile data connection that’s at least 10 Mbps down.
PlayStation Now vs. Xbox Game Pass: Pricing
PlayStation Now has three straightforward pricing plans. You can pay monthly at $9.99/month, get three months for $24.99, or pay yearly at $59.99 for 12 months.
For Xbox Game Pass, the PC and console plans each cost $9.99/month, with no discount for paying yearly. However, there’s a third option: Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
For $14.99/month, Ultimate gives you full access to Game Pass on both PC and Xbox One. In addition, Ultimate includes Xbox Live Gold, which normally costs $9.99/month or $60/year. If you’re not familiar, Xbox Live Gold is required for online multiplayer on Xbox One, plus it gives you free Games with Gold each month.
So, if you play games on both Xbox and PC, Ultimate is a pretty great deal.
The PS Now and Xbox Game Pass Catalogs, Compared
Neither service would be worth your time if the games on offer are lousy. Thankfully, both platforms offer a wide selection of games, with new ones coming all the time. However, games are removed from both on occasion.
Keep in mind that if a game disappears from the catalog on either service, you won’t be able to play it again unless you buy it on disc or digitally. Your saved data and any DLC you bought for the game will stick around, but you can’t use them until you own the title.
PS Now’s Game Catalog
PS Now boasts over 800 games in its catalog across PS4, PS3, and PS2 games. Some are only available until a specific date, while others marked with “Ongoing access” should stick around for the foreseeable future.
Some of the titles on offer at the time of writing include:
- Hitman 2
- Dead Cells
- Dishonored 2
- Doom (2016)
- Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Have a look at the list of all PS Now games to see the rest.
Though PS Now offers hundreds more games than Xbox Game Pass, it’s missing a lot of killer titles. Headline PS4 games like God of War (2018), Persona 5 Royal, and Spider-Man are missing from the lineup.
There’s definitely a lot to play here, but you have to dig through a lot of filler and you’ll be disappointed if you’re looking for the greatest hits of the last few years.
Xbox Game Pass’ Catalog
At the time of writing, Xbox Game Pass had 380 games on offer, with 245 on console and 200 for PC (some are on both).
Some highlight titles include:
- Gears 5 (Both)
- Halo: The Master Chief Collection (PC)
- The Outer Worlds (PC)
- Hollow Knight (Xbox)
- Forza Horizon 4 (Both)
- Minecraft (Xbox)
See the full list of Xbox Game Pass Games for more.
You’ll notice that Xbox Game Pass has more recent high-profile games than PS Now; this is because all Xbox Game Studio titles come to Game Pass on the day of their release. This is the case with the 2020 release of Battletoads, for example.
PS Now and Xbox Game Pass: Stream On
Which service is better mostly depends on the games you want to play. If you’re a PC gamer who wants to access PlayStation exclusives without buying a PS4, then PS Now makes the most sense. For someone who plays on both Xbox One and PC, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is definitely the best option.
Overall, we’d say Xbox Game Pass has the edge thanks to its focus on quality over quantity. Getting high-profile releases on day one is a huge draw, and the service has more games that most people actually want to play.
Sure, it’s more expensive, but if you’re sold on all-you-can-play services, Microsoft’s approach seems set up to be the future of gaming.
Image Credit: Anton27/Shutterstock
In this article, we compile a list of the best cloud gaming services to help you decide which, if any, you want to subscribe to.