PlayStation Plus is finally taking it to Xbox Game Pass. Starting Thursday, Sony's game subscription service has morphed into a three-headed dragon, one that's designed explicitly to take on Microsoft's behemoth. While PS Plus might count more members — 47 million over 25 million — Game Pass has established itself as the premier offering over the past couple of years. That is thanks to Microsoft sinking billions to give Xbox, PC, and mobile gamers access to day-one releases, a terrific back catalogue that's continually updated, and a service that adapts to the way you play. Ultimately, Sony knew it had to respond to Game Pass in one way or another. And now it has.
Now that Sony and Microsoft are on more of a level footing, which one is doing a better job with its video game subscriptions? That's what we are going to dive into here, comparing all three PS Plus plans (Essential, Extra, and Deluxe) with the three Xbox offerings (Live Gold, Game Pass, and Game Pass Ultimate). Mind you, it's not always apples-to-apples, because of the approach Sony and Microsoft have taken. But what's sure, though, is that the Sony–Microsoft gaming duopoly — Nintendo operates in its own world, really — has only been further cemented with these subscriptions. Xbox and PlayStation had already carved the hardware world between themselves, and now they are going further.
If you want more of that bigger debate, tune into our podcast below. And if you're just here for PlayStation Plus vs Xbox Game Pass, then keep reading.
The newly-rebranded base tier of PlayStation Plus still doesn't compete with Xbox Game Pass. Instead, its direct competition is Microsoft's other subscription, Xbox Live Gold. Allow me to explain.
For one, you need PS Plus Essential and Xbox Live Gold to be able to play online multiplayer titles on Sony and Microsoft's consoles, respectively.
Having the base subscriptions also affords you extra discounts — usually around 10 percent — during PlayStation and Xbox digital sales.
PS Plus Essential has a couple of benefits that Xbox Live Gold cannot match though. You get bonus exclusive content in your PlayStation games. On Xbox, you need Xbox Game Pass for this.
That said, Sony locks free cloud storage for your PS4 and PS5 game saves behind a subscription. Microsoft isn't stingy with cloud storage, offering it to all — even if you don't subscribe.
While Sony gives you 100GB of PS4 storage and 100GB of PS5 storage, Microsoft's policy is flexible: “Each game is provided storage. As your game library grows, so does your cloud storage.”
Though it might have a new name, PS Plus Essential keeps the old pricing — Rs. 499 a month, Rs. 1,199 quarterly, and Rs. 2,999 a year.
Meanwhile, Xbox Live Gold comes in at Rs. 349 a month, Rs. 749 quarterly, and Rs. 1,999 a year.
The latter is cheaper, but PS Plus Essential tends to offer better free games. PS Plus Collection (on the PS5) is a bonus.
Also, Sony used to discount PS Plus at least twice a year — usually at 25 percent. We will need to see if that continues with PS Plus Essential.
I'm going to call this round for Sony.
The first new PlayStation Plus tier that actually puts up a fight with Xbox Game Pass is Extra, the middle bracket in Sony's three new tiers. Though it's still not an exact one, as you'll see.
Sony's Game Catalogue — as it's called — offers over 300 PS4 and PS5 games, including the likes of Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Control, Marvel's Spider-Man, and Returnal. Some titles are courtesy of Ubisoft+ Classics, a subset of Ubisoft+.
Sony has said that the new PS Plus will not take this approach with its own games. The latest first-party games on the service are remasters / upgraded editions (Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut, and Death Stranding Director's Cut), with the latest new game being Returnal from April 2021.
And as you can tell, Sony is not offering classic games — those from beyond the PS4 era — on PS Plus Extra. This makes Xbox Game Pass a better option for some.
Sony has priced PlayStation Plus Extra at Rs. 749 per month, Rs. 1,999 for three months, and Rs. 4,999 for one year.
That's asking a lot in India, especially given Microsoft opted to cut Game Pass prices earlier in 2022.
Xbox Game Pass now starts at Rs. 349 per month, Rs. 1,049 for three months, and Rs. 2,099 for six months.
There's no annual option, but even stacking two six-month Game Pass subscriptions is cheaper, despite Sony offering 80 percent savings on the annual plan over the monthly variant.
There's no online gaming with Xbox Game Pass, but PS Plus Extra doesn't offer classic games.
But the biggest difference is that Game Pass has many day-one releases.
With a lower price, bigger catalogue, and better benefits, Microsoft easily takes this round.
Unless online gaming is a priority for you, in which case, this round is Sony's.
What's left now is the best of the best. PlayStation Plus Premium offers the best level of competition to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. But the benefits here are not available worldwide.
If you want to stream games over the cloud, then you will need either PS Plus Premium or Game Pass Ultimate.
Xbox Cloud Gaming — as it's called — is only available with Game Pass Ultimate, unless you're into free titles like Fortnite which are open to all. The Xbox Cloud Gaming catalogue is a smaller version of the Game Pass catalogue.
While PS Plus Premium supports streaming on PC and PS5, Xbox Cloud Gaming works on PC, Xbox, and mobile.
But cloud gaming is not available in India and elsewhere. Sony has come up with a different name for the service too — it's called PlayStation Plus Deluxe. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate retains the same name.
PS Plus Deluxe/ Premium have two more benefits to offer. A classic catalogue of more than 80 games from the PS1, PS2, and PSP era. And a selection of game trials — running between 1 to 3 hours — for the likes of Horizon Forbidden West, Cyberpunk 2077, and Tiny Tina's Wonderlands.
Meanwhile, over in Game Pass Ultimate, you've access to four more benefits. The biggest of them is access to all of EA Play, which gives you hundreds of more games, 10-hour trials for the newest titles, and 10 percent discount on all EA game purchases.
Secondly, Xbox Live Gold is included in Game Pass Ultimate, giving you access to online multiplayer and the rest I mentioned at the start.
Thirdly, Microsoft also includes PC Game Pass in Game Pass Ultimate, which means you get access to hundreds of Game Pass titles on your gaming PC too.
PlayStation Plus Deluxe — the top tier — comes in at Rs. 849 per month, Rs. 2,299 for three months, and Rs. 5,749 annually.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, meanwhile, is at Rs. 499 per month, Rs. 1,499 for three months, Rs. 2,999 for six months, Rs. 5,999 annually, and Rs. 11,999 for two years.
As you can see, while Game Pass Ultimate is a lot cheaper than PS Plus Deluxe on a monthly basis, PS Plus Deluxe is marginally cheaper if you opt in for the full year.
Of course, if you opt for the open secret route — stacking 36 months of Xbox Live Gold, and converting it to Game Pass Ultimate — then Microsoft's subscription is much cheaper.
In terms of benefits, Sony has nothing to offer to counter EA Play and PC Game Pass. Ubisoft+ Classics — available on PS Plus Extra and Deluxe/Premium — is no match.
And while Deluxe/Premium may put Sony on par with Game Pass Ultimate's classic offerings, there's still no beating Microsoft's whole day-one releases thing.
Game Pass Ultimate is the winner for me, especially if you take the open secret route. Even more so if you've both PC and Xbox.