Modern media consumption is all about subscriptions. Services like Netflix, Spotify, Kindle Unlimited and Marvel Unlimited are commonplace now. Movies, TV shows, books, music and more can now be had for a small monthly fee.
Video games haven’t escaped this trend either. It seems like every major company involved with the industry is now offering some form of game subscription service. Are game subscription services worth it? Let’s look at the nuts and bolts of this new way to play.
The “Netflix Of Games”?
When we refer to game subscription services, we’re talking about a very specific model. These services charge you a fee and then give you access to a library of titles that you can play. This excludes a subscription service such as PlayStation Plus or Games with Gold, which reward you with games on a piece by piece basis.
A new subscriber to PlayStation Plus does not get access to the entire library of games that have been offered by the service in the past. If you want to know if PlayStation Plus is worth it, check out our article on how it works.
In this article, we’re talking about the Netflix-style all-you-can-eat game subscription services. So let’s break down the value proposition and some of the caveats you should take into account.
Streaming Vs Local Play
Video game streaming services are another development in the video game industry which is taking off in parallel with subscription services. These services let you play games that are running on a remote computer. In other words, your local machine doesn’t do any of the processing or graphical work.
Sometimes these services also offer a number of games as part of the subscription, while also selling game licences for streaming on a title by title basis. PlayStation Now, as an example, offers hundreds of PlayStation games that can be streamed over the internet, included in your package.
A more common form of subscription service lets you download your games to your console or computer just as you would if you bought it the traditional way. Which means you still need a computer capable of meeting the minimum requirements, in the case of PC gaming.
In our opinion, streaming games are a neat idea. However, you can’t play them if your internet is either too slow or disconnected. Something to keep in mind.
You’ve Got No Choices
Just as with Netflix, you don’t have any control over which games are offered in the library of the subscription service. Most of these services do a good job putting together a game library that will have something for everyone, but if you want specific franchises or games, your only option is to buy them.
Games Can Come And Go
The games on subscription services aren’t permanent. There will be a constant flow of new games becoming available and old games leaving. Luckily, in most cases, you’ll receive a notice a few weeks in advance, so you can finish games that you still meant to play before they’re gone.
Older Titles Are More Common
Most of these subscription services build their libraries out of older games. This is not a problem in and of itself. Though many gamers are mainly interested in the latest titles. Still, it stands to reason that the latest and greatest AAA titles are not going to show up immediately on subscription services.
There are exceptions to this. Where the subscriptions are offered by companies that also develop or publish games themselves, their own first-party titles may well end up on the service. This isn’t the norm however, so you’ll have to accept that your affordable game subscription service means playing older games.
It’s a Great Way To Expand Your Horizons
One of the great things about game subscription services is that you get to play games that you otherwise would not have bought for yourself. Since the subscription is a fixed cost, there’s no reason not to experiment and try everything in the library.
You may find that a game you didn’t think would be any fun is actually perfect for you. It’s also a good way to avoid building up a giant gaming backlog.
There Can Be Additional Perks
The main appeal of a game subscription service is, of course, the games you get to play as a member. However, you should also take into account whether there are extras to sweeten the deal.
The most common type of perk is the always-welcome discount. Games that are part of the library may be available for permanent purchase at a lower price. Likewise, subscribers might get better deals for downloadable content than non-subscribers. Consider these extra perks and how valuable they are to you, that could tip the scale on whether the service as a whole is worth it.
A Few Good Subscriptions
With so many subscription services out there, it can be hard to know where to look. The good news is that there are only so many worth mentioning. Let’s go through some of the premiere options on various platforms.
For PC gamers, the number #1 service at the time of writing is Xbox Game Pass for PC. This offers a huge selection of games, including 1st-party triple-A juggernauts such as Forza Horizon 4, Halo and Microsoft Flight simulator. If you also own an Xbox One, you can pay for a subscription tier that covers both platforms.
Publisher-specific subscriptions such as those from EA via Origin Access or Ubisoft via Uplay+ are worth looking into. However, they only make sense for gamers who are fans of those publishers in general. If you’re a big Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry fan, for example, Uplay+ will be worth more to you.
On macOS and iOS, the most compelling game subscription services are without a doubt Apple Arcade. These games are curated by Apple and offer a wide variety of quality experiences. Being able to play the same games across your Mac, iPhone and iPad is pretty great. It also supports Family Sharing! Read more about Apple Arcade here.
Google has something similar for Android in the form of Play Pass. It offers hundreds of premium games as well as non-game apps. An incredible deal for Android gamers, but not available worldwide as Apple Arcade is.
PlayStation fans will want to look to PlayStation Now. This service started out as a way to stream older classic PlayStation games to other platforms. You can still do this, but it also offers downloadable PlayStation 4 games.
As mentioned, Xbox One users can have GamePass or opt for the Ultimate tier, which includes GamePass for PC as well as the Xbox Live service.
The Best Deals in Gaming
While there are plenty of debates on whether game subscriptions are good for the game industry as a whole, there’s not doubt that they are incredibly good deals for gamers. Clearly, if you don’t actually play the games, they are worth nothing.