The latest battle between Sony and Microsoft isn't over consoles or games, but subscription services. Both console makers are fighting to establish the Netflix of games, with Microsoft introducing Xbox Game Pass and Sony beefing up its long-running PlayStation Now streaming program in response.
Each of these services let you play a whole bunch of titles for a set monthly fee, but vary pretty significantly in terms of cost, selection, and functionality. If you're wondering which all-you-can-play games buffet you should spend your cash on, here's how PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass stack up so far.
Price and Value
Xbox Game Pass is the cheapest of the two options, giving you access to its entire game library for $10 a month. Better yet, Game Pass subscribers can buy any games in the catalog for 20 percent off (while also getting 10 percent off any add-on content).
PlayStation Now starts at a pricier $20 per month, though you can get a better value by buying a 3 month subscription for $45. While it's costly, PS Now does offer significantly more games (500-plus versus Microsoft's 100-plus), even if they're mostly older PS3 titles.
PlayStation Now originally launched as a means to get easy access to older games. As such, its current library consists largely of PS3 games that you stream from the cloud, with a selection of 500-plus titles including Red Dead Redemption, The Last of Us and the Uncharted trilogy as well as more niche favorites like Catherine and Journey.
As of July 2017, PlayStation Now finally lets you stream PS4 games as well. The service's PS4 lineup currently consists of 20 titles including Killzone Shadow Fall, God of War 3 Remastered, Saints Row IV, Ultra Street Fighter IV and Resogun. While you probably won't find Uncharted 4 or Horizon Zero Dawn here any time soon, it's nice to see Sony bring some newer games to the program.
While PlayStation Now is focused on last generation's hits, Xbox Game Pass offers mix of old and new. The service currently features over 100 Xbox One and backwards-compatible Xbox 360 games, including Halo 5: Guardians, Payday 2, Resident Evil 6, NBA 2K16, Soul Calibur II and LEGO Batman. Other highlights include all three BioShock games, the original Gears of War Trilogy, the Mega Man Legacy Collection and Borderlands.
Quality: Streaming vs. Downloading
Game Pass has one huge advantage over PS Now: you can download your games. Whereas PS Now games are streamed from the cloud (and thus, at the mercy of your internet connection), Xbox Game Pass games are installed to your hard drive just like any other digital game you own.
Game Pass games play just like any title you've bought and downloaded, which is a better overall experience than the mixed results we've had with Sony's service.
You can currently use PlayStation Now on both PS4 and Windows PCs, meaning you don't need to own a console to access it. That could give it an edge over Game Pass in the long run, especially if it means you'll eventually be able to stream huge PS4 hits such as Uncharted 4 and Bloodborne to your laptop.
Game Pass is currently limited to Xbox One, though that could change down the line. Xbox chief Phil Spencer hinted at the possibility of a Windows 10 version on IGN's Podcast Unlocked, and since many of Microsoft's newer games work on both Xbox and Windows as part of the Play Anywhere initiative, it's easy to imagine some sort of crossover happening in the future.
While it's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison, Xbox Game Pass is shaping up to be the service that PlayStation Now should have been all along. You get a mix of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games, exclusive discounts and the ability to download your games, all for $10 less than the cost of Sony's streaming service.
That said, PS Now has plenty of unique benefits. If you never owned a PS3, it's a pretty cost-efficient way to catch up on hundreds of last generation's best games. And if Sony can bring a healthy amount of high-profile PS4 games to the service, it could make PS Now's higher price worth it -- especially since you don't need a PS4 to enjoy it.
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