PS Plus VS Xbox Game Pass – No Contest?

Almost two months ago, Microsoft and the Xbox Team announced that they were upping the subscription price of both Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and Game Pass for Console. The former of which would go from $14.99 USD to $16.99 USD, and the latter from $9.99 USD to $10.99 USD. This increase was planned for some time, as Phil Spencer hinted at the increase nearly a year ago at The Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live conference. Head of communications for Xbox, Kari Perez told The Verge in a statement that, “these Game Pass price adjustments are not related to the Activision Blizzard deal, and are intended to match local market conditions.”

The reaction to the increase was—at least from my vantage point—fairly tame. Xbox have kept the same pricing structure since 2017, and in that time have significantly bolstered their Game Pass offerings across console, cloud, and PC. Couple that with the fact that a little game by the name of Starfield is days away from release as of writing and one could argue that the couple dollar increases are justified.

What the community find far less justifiable, however, is Sony’s recent (and drastic) uptick of their own subscription service, PlayStation Plus. In a blog post that revealed the monthly games that would be available to PS Plus subscribers in September, SIE nonchalantly added at the very bottom of the post an update to their service prices. The updated pricing, which takes effect on September 6th, pertains only to the 12-month subscriptions of the PlayStation Plus tiers. A year of Essential will now run you $79.99 USD, Extra $134.99 USD, and Premium $159.99 USD. Upticks of $20, $35, and $40 respectively.

Thankfully, the monthly and quarterly prices for the service will remain unchanged; though that I suspect is by design as users that choose to “downgrade” from the yearly subscription to the others will inevitably pay more in the long-run. With these significant increases, it’s hard not to question whether or not the price hike is justified when seeing PlayStation’s offerings compared to that of Xbox. So let’s take a closer look to see what players are getting for their money, and which platform offers more value per dollar.

Promotional art for the launch of the PS Plus Collection, with covers of various games included.
The original promotional art for the PS Plus Collection at launch.

Tiers, Tiers, and more Tiers

At the bottom we have Xbox Game Pass for Console and PC, both of which allow users to access the massive Game Pass library, giving them the opportunity to download any game from said library onto their system. This tier doesn’t have any cloud functionality, which means no streaming of games or access to Xbox Cloud Gaming. Another notable omission at this tier is the inability for online play. Players still, at least until September 14th, have to subscribe to Xbox Live Gold for an additional $10 to get access to online multiplayer. Xbox are rectifying this, however, with—you guessed it—another tier titled Xbox Game Pass Core, which will come in at $1 cheaper than regular Game Pass. Core will effectively replace Live Gold, though now giving subscribers access to a rotating list of 25 downloadable games—most of which I’d assume would be from Game Pass.

If this sounds confusing, I don’t blame you. Why Microsoft wouldn’t simply merge Xbox Live to the existing Console/PC Game Pass and bump up the price to say, $14 USD, is beyond me. Though, I assume, it’s because there may be players out there who don’t care for the Game Pass library and simply want access to multiplayer, and then the 25 “free” titles is essentially a nice bonus for them. Nevertheless, it’s an inelegant solution.

PlayStation, on the other hand, are a bit more streamlined. Their Essential tier gives players access to online multiplayer as well as three games each month that they can download straight to their system. As far as value goes, personally I think both Xbox Core and Console/PC Game Pass are better propositions than PlayStation Essential, though an argument could be made that the omission of online multiplayer on Console/PC Game Pass makes it far less appealing. We’ll also have to wait and see what type of games are included in the 25 titles Xbox promises on the Core tier.

PlayStation Essential’s monthly offerings thus far have been somewhat mixed. Notable titles like Yakuza: Like A Dragon, Death’s Door, and Alan Wake Remastered have made it into the lineup, but no single month since the service’s release particularly stands out. Both Core and Essential come in at $60 USD/month, and if Xbox Core’s monthly offerings are even slightly more compelling than PlayStation’s, then it’s a no brainer of which tier wins out.

Game Pass
Microsoft may lack the exclusives for now, but Game Pass still has plenty to offer. Credit: Microsoft

Next, we have PlayStation Plus Extra. Coming in at the new price of $135/year, this tier opens things up quite a bit. In addition to online play, users now have access to over 400 PS4 and PS5 titles, all of which can be downloaded straight to their system. It’s an impressive list, though unlike Xbox not all of Sony’s exclusives are a part of the package. God of War Ragnarok and The Last of Us Part II being a couple of notable omissions. Still, it’s an impressive offering at $15/month. Microsoft, on the other hand, don’t have a middle tier (though I guess with the introduction of Core, Console/PC Game Pass will fill that role).

Instead, for $17/month users have to jump straight into Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which gives players access to online multiplayer, the entire Game Pass library, and the ability to stream all of their games via the cloud instead of having to download them on to their system. Additionally, players get access to Xbox Cloud Gaming, which gives them the ability to play their games off of Microsoft’s Azure datacenters on any mobile device of their choosing, wherever they have a stable internet connection.

As far as value goes, I feel one could go either way on this one. At $100/year PlayStation Extra was a great value, possibly more-so than Game Pass Ultimate, which comes in at roughly $204 once you add up all the individual months. But at $135, Extra’s value begins to diminish. Yes, the library could be comparable to that of Game Pass, but you’re not getting access to the slew of titles from generations before the PlayStation 4, which is something only the $160/year Premium tier gets you, and even then notable titles like Metal Gear Solid and Crash Bandicoot are missing.

Game Pass, though more expensive than even PlayStation’s highest tier in Premium, gives you access to a bevy of Xbox 360 and even some original Xbox titles. Couple that with all the cloud-enabled features you get with Game Pass Ultimate, and it’s tough to argue Premium’s value over Xbox’s offering; especially now with the sizeable price hike.

PlayStation Portal
PlayStation Portal. Credit: Sony

There have been some recent rumblings that a State of Play may be on the horizon. Giant Bomb’s Jeff Grubb wrote on X this week that this price hike could be tied to something Sony are planning to announce in this supposed State of Play. Though I’d be curious to see what exactly this announcement could be, as the only thing that could make the price hike a bit more digestible would be bringing in ALL of Sony’s exclusives to the Extra and Premium membership tiers. If that happened, and Sony began expanding their cloud offerings—something they’ve already begun testing last month—then the value proposition would definitely be competitive with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

If said cloud offerings were then made available to their soon-to-be-released PlayStation Portal (something that currently isn’t a feature on the system), then that would only further justify the cost of annual entry. As it stands, however, Sony are just not there yet.

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