PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Game Pass: The Biggest Differences Between the Subscription Services

Some are calling the revamped PlayStation Plus subscription service Sony's long-awaited answer to Game Pass, but a deeper look at the programs reveals quite a few differences.

Xbox Game Pass vs PlayStation
Photo: PlayStation Studios/Xbox Game Studios

The PlayStation team recently confirmed months’ worth of rumors by revealing their revamped PlayStation Plus subscription program. While we’re still waiting for additional information regarding some of the finer details of that program (including its exact release date beyond a vague “June” window), many are already calling it PlayStation’s long-awaited answer to Xbox Game Pass.

However, that comparison falls apart fairly quickly once you take a deeper look at both subscription services. If anything, the new PlayStation Plus is better thought of as a simpler way to get the old PlayStation Now subscription service (which will soon be retired) to more people. To put it another way, I’ve heard some say that comparing the two is like comparing Netflix to Hulu. They’re both in the same ballpark, but each service is clearly trying to offer something fundamentally different.

So, while we’re waiting for more information before we start sharing some of our deeper thoughts and feelings about the new PlayStation Plus program, here’s a quick look at PlayStation Plus and Xbox Game Pass’ similarities and differences.

PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Game Pass: Subscription Prices

Xbox Game Pass: $9.99 monthly (PC or Console), $14.99 monthly (Ultimate)

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PlayStation Plus: $9.99 monthly / $24.99 quarterly / $59.99 yearly (Essential), $14.99 monthly / $39.99 quarterly / $99.99 yearly (Extra), $17.99 monthly / $49.99 quarterly / $119.99 yearly (Premium)

While the features you get with both streaming services obviously impact these services’ various price points (more on that in a bit), it’s certainly worth noting that PlayStation is offering discounts to quarterly and yearly subscribers. That’s honestly an increasingly common practice when it comes to subscription services everywhere. The basic idea seems to be that companies would sometimes rather know exactly how much money they can lock subscribers in for on a quarterly or yearly basis and are willing to offer a slight discount for that assurance.

PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Game Pass: Premium Online Gaming Access

Xbox Game Pass: Xbox Live Gold access is only included in the $14.99 monthly Game Pass Ultimate plan (Xbox Live Gold costs $9.99 monthly as a separate service)

PlayStation Plus: PlayStation Plus access is included in the Essential, Extra, and Premium plans.

So, here’s where the differences start to get a lot more complicated and significantly more interesting.

Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus offer a variety of benefits (we’ll highlight one a little later in this article), but most people subscribe to them in order to access online multiplayer features. While some free-to-play titles on Xbox and PlayStation do not require a subscription to either service, many modern “premium” online multiplayer games do.

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On the Xbox side of things, Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass are treated as separate $9.99 a month services. However, the $14.99 a month Game Pass Ultimate plan allows you to access both services. That obviously means it’s cheaper to just sign-up for Ultimate if you plan on maintaining Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass subscriptions, but those who prefer one or the other may choose to simply pay for one or the other.

Meanwhile, the $9.99 a month PlayStation Plus plan is…well, it’s really just PlayStation Plus (the rough PlayStation equivalent of Xbox Live Gold). Now that PlayStation is retiring the PlayStation Now service, they’re no longer offering a separate, cheaper subscription plan that allows you to access a library of classic and new release titles. If you want to start accessing some of those features, you’ll need to move up to the $14.99 a month PlayStation Plus Extra plan.

PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Game Pass: Free Monthly Downloadable Games

Xbox Game Pass: Monthly downloadable games are included with the $14.99 a month Game Pass Ultimate plan but not the $9.99 Xbox Game Pass plan. You will need to subscribe to Xbox Live Gold to access those select titles.

PlayStation Plus: Monthly downloadable games are included with the Essential, Extra, and Premium plans.

This ties into the point we mentioned above, but since the free monthly downloadable games you get with Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus are those services’ most popular features, it’s worth highlighting how each subscription service does (or doesn’t) deliver them.

Simply put, those who subscribe to the $9.99 Xbox Live Gold plan or the $14.99 a month Game Pass Ultimate plan will receive access to a new collection of free downloadable games every month. Those who only subscribe to the $9.99 a month Xbox Game Pass plan will not be able to access those downloadable titles (though they’re obviously still able to access the actual Game Pass library for as long as they’re a subscriber).

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Meanwhile, anyone who subscribes to any of the PlayStation Plus tiers will be able to continue to access the monthly downloadable games already offered via that service. Again, the base PlayStation Plus program isn’t really changing in any way. It’s everything else that’s slightly different.

PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Game Pass: Cloud Streaming

Xbox Game Pass: Cloud streaming is available for select titles via the $14.99 a month Game Pass Ultimate Plan. Cloud streaming is accessible via Xbox consoles, PC, and compatible mobile devices.

PlayStation Plus: Cloud streaming is available for select PlayStation, PS2, PS3, and PSP games via the PlayStation Plus Premium plan. Cloud streaming is accessible via PS4, PS5, and PC (in select markets).

Xbox Game Pass’ cloud streaming service is pretty simple. Those with the Game Pass Ultimate plan will be able to play over 100 Xbox Game Pass titles via Xbox’s cloud streaming program. Those compatible titles can be played on Xbox consoles, PC, and select mobile devices. Cloud streaming is not currently available via the $9.99 a month Xbox Game Pass plan.

With PlayStation Plus, cloud streaming is a bit more complicated.

Sony says that the $17.99 a month PlayStation Plus Premium plan will grant you access to “PS3 games available via cloud streaming” as well as “cloud streaming access for original PlayStation, PS2, PSP, and PS4 games offered in the Extra and Premium tiers in markets where PlayStation Now is currently available.” Those compatible games will be streamable via PS4, PS5, and PC to subscribers in eligible markets.

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That last part is particularly interesting. It seems that those who live in markets that didn’t previously have access to cloud streaming via the PlayStation Now service will not be able to access cloud streaming via this service either. Instead, they will be able to access a special “PlayStation Plus Deluxe” subscription tier that is cheaper than Premium but still allows users to access all of the other features included in that Premium subscription tier. PlayStation has said that they “plan to expand our cloud streaming benefit to additional markets,” but there is no word on when that expansion will happen or what the rollout will look like.

It’s also worth noting that the wording of PlayStation’s recent announcements strongly suggests that the only way to play PS3 games via the Premium plan will be through the cloud. Retro games from other consoles will seemingly offer both streaming and download options.

For now, it doesn’t seem like PlayStation intends to allow you to stream compatible games to mobile devices via the cloud, and they still haven’t released the full list of cloud streaming compatible titles that will be included in the Premium plan. While it’s clear that PlayStation Plus’ cloud streaming system won’t be quite as expansive as the one featured in Game Pass Ultimate, we’ll need to wait for additional information before making an official ruling on how big the differences will be.

PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Game Pass: Access to New Release Games on Day One

Xbox Game Pass: All Game Pass subscribers can access a selection of first and third-party titles the day they are released.

PlayStation Plus: Day one access to new releases is not included in any PlayStation Plus plan. PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers can access a select collection of “Time-limited game trials.”

Xbox Game Pass subscribers are able to access select new games on the day they are released at no additional cost. That policy applies to most first-party games developed by Xbox Game Studios and those developers under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella, but some third-party studios do choose to make their new games available via Game Pass on day one as well.

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Meanwhile, the PlayStation team remains adamant that they do not intend to offer day-one access to new PlayStation Studios releases via any tier of the new PlayStation Plus subscription service. Instead, PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers will be able to access time-limited trials of select titles.

This is the big difference between the two subscription services in the minds of many. The PlayStation team is leaving the door (or at least a window) open for the possibility that they will change their mind on offering day-one access to new releases via their subscription services, but don’t hold your breath. We’ll just have to wait and see how generous the Premium plan’s free trial system ends up being.

PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Game Pass: Game Library

Xbox Game Pass: Over 400 games in the Game Pass Ultimate lineup (including select new releases, first-party, third-party, EA Play, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Xbox titles)

PlayStation Plus: Over 700 games in the PlayStation Premium lineup (including select first-party, third-party, PS5, PS4, PS3, PS2, PSP, and PlayStation titles). Around 400 PS4 and PS5 games are included in the PlayStation Plus Extra tier.

This is kind of the hardest category to talk about at the moment given that (as of the time of this writing) PlayStation has not revealed the full list of games that will be available in the various PlayStation Plus tiers. Once that information is available, we’ll be sure to share those updates with you.

However, Sony has said that the current plan is for PlayStation Plus Premium to allow you to access a library of over 700 games when the revamped service launches in June. That would seem to mean that most of the games that were on PlayStation Now will make the jump to PlayStation Premium, but we’ll have to wait and see which titles survived the transition or will be available via a PlayStation service for the first time.

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On that note, those who only subscribe to the “base” PlayStation Now service will only be able to access the aforementioned collection of downloadable games added to that service every month. PlayStation Plus Extra subscribers will gain access to “up to 400” downloadable PS4 and PS5 games. Only Premium subscribers will be able to access the service’s full collection of titles.

While Microsoft strangely doesn’t keep an official tally of how many games are available via Game Pass at any time, most modern estimates suggest there are around 400 downloadable games available via the service (some of which can be streamed via the cloud or only accessed on select platforms). However you slice it, it seems that the plan is for PlayStation Plus Premium to offer more games than Game Pass at launch.

As for which service offers the better collection of games…well, that remains to be seen and will ultimately be up to subject to quite a few opinions.

Of course, it’s also worth mentioning that both services rely on a rotating series of available titles, so the exact games that you’ll be able to access via each service will change over a long enough period of time.