What's the difference?
Xbox Game Pass (Microsoft) and PlayStation Now (Sony) are each of its respective company's answer to Netflix for games. In the case of Xbox Game Pass, no streaming is required, but both services are monthly subscriptions that give you access to a rotating catalog of hundreds of titles. Despite the similarities on the surface, there are a few key differences between Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now that set them apart from one another.
|Category||PlayStation Now||Xbox Game Pass|
|Price||$60/year or $10/month||$120/year or $10/month|
|Number of games||Over 800||Nearly 400|
|Download||Only certain titles||Yes (all games)|
|Streamable||Yes||No (Project xCloud to be bundled at a later date)|
|Previous generation games||Yes (PS2, PS3)||Yes (Xbox, Xbox 360)|
|Available regions||19 countries||40 countries|
|Bundled with online service||No||Yes (Xbox Game Pass Ultimate)|
|Exclusives launch into service||No||Yes|
|Offers discounts on games||No||Yes|
What these features mean to you
Why should you care whether you can stream or download games? What does it mean that Xbox Game Studios games launch into the service the day of their retail release? We'll answer these questions for you and why they should matter when you consider buying either service.
Streaming vs. downloading
PlayStation Now lets players stream every game in its catalog to PS4 or PC, but only about 300 of its over 800 games can be downloaded to PS4. In contrast, Xbox Game Pass is not a streaming service. Each game you want to play through Xbox Game Pass is downloaded onto your console, just like it would be if you bought the game digitally.
Downloading a game directly to your console will always yield a better result than streaming one. Imagine your day browsing Netflix and you're in the middle of a binge, then the show starts buffering. Now imagine that but while playing a game. Maybe it doesn't register your button presses right away or maybe it freezes altogether. Your streaming quality is dependent on your internet speeds, and you don't have complete control over it.
Xbox exclusives launch into Xbox Game Pass
One of the main selling points of Xbox Game Pass, and what makes it such an attractive offer, is that Xbox exclusive games launch into the service the same day they launch at retail worldwide. That means for just $10/month, you could be playing a brand new $60 game without needing to shell out that kind of cash on it. This also goes for all exclusives published or developed by Xbox Game Studios. Gears 5? Launched into Xbox Game Pass. The Outer Worlds? Also launched into Xbox Game Pass. When Halo: Infinite comes out, you can be sure it'll launch into Xbox Game Pass, too.
PlayStation Now, on the other hand, doesn't offer anything close to this. Yes, there are over 100 PlayStation exclusives available on PlayStation Now, but they're all several months or years old. Sony exclusive games do not launch into PlayStation Now.
Despite Xbox Game Pass clearly offering a better value when it comes to newer exclusive releases, its total library has about half the number of games that PlayStation Now does. PlayStation Now currently has over 800 games — including PS2, PS3, and PS4 titles — while Xbox Game Pass only has about 400 games including original Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
Xbox Game Pass Quests
Xbox Game Pass Quests are a way for subscribers to earn Microsoft Rewards points by playing games in the XGP library. These points can then be redeemed through the Microsoft Store for Xbox gift cards, in-game content, games, devices, movies, apps, accessories, and more.
Quests range from daily, weekly, and monthly objectives and can be as simple as earning an achievement in a particular game or completing another task. For example, for May 2020, players can earn 75 Microsoft Rewards points by playing Alien: Isolation and successfully avoiding the Alien for 20 minutes.
Discounts on games
Even though you can download games with Xbox Game Pass, you don't technically own them — you technically don't truly own any games you buy, but that's a whole other conversation. Regardless, whenever you choose to cancel your Xbox Game Pass subscription or just let it expire, you'll lose access to every game you downloaded through it unless you bought them outright and paid full price.
There is a way around this. With Xbox Game Pass, members can save up to 20% on included games, and they also get discounts on DLC. If you buy a game using your Xbox Game Pass discount, you'll still be able to play it after your subscription lapses.
Sony offers no equivalent discounts for PlayStation Now members, and you also lose access to any games you downloaded through PlayStation Now if your subscription ends and you haven't bought them.
Anyone wishing to play online multiplayer in games on Xbox Game Pass will still need an Xbox Live Gold membership to do so (or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate). This is not the case for PlayStation Now. Members of Sony's service can play online multiplayer in PlayStation Now games without a PlayStation Plus membership.
PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass both support PC to play, but Xbox Game Pass is far more reliable because games can be downloaded to PC. PlayStation Now only allows subscribers to stream games to their PC. On the flip side, all PlayStation Now games can be streamed to PC. Not every Xbox Game Pass game is available on PC.
Despite Sony being a Japanese company, its PlayStation Now service is lacking in its available regions. Xbox Game Pass is available in over twice as many countries around the world.
PlayStation Now: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States.
Xbox Game Pass: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Rep, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States.
Microsoft and Sony both have premium online memberships called Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus, respectively. These subscriptions give players access to online multiplayer and come with some added benefits like exclusive discounts and a couple of free games every month. Both cost $60/year.
Microsoft bundles Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold together into a package called Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. For a lot of people, it makes no sense buying two separate services when you could just bundle it up into one convenient package. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is $15/month, equivalent to $180/year, which is the exact amount you'd be spending on a year of Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold together. You're not exactly saving any money, but Microsoft frequently offers deals on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for those who have Xbox Live Gold and would like to upgrade.
Sony does not offer any bundles of PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus. If you want to buy a year-long membership of PlayStation Now along with 12-months of PlayStation Plus, it'll set you back $120. If you subscribe to PlayStation Now monthly instead, you'll end up paying $120 for the entire year (at $10/month) plus an additional $60 if you buy PlayStation Plus.
Project xCloud is Microsoft's upcoming game streaming service that's still in preview. It differs from PlayStation Now's streaming capabilities in that it allows players to stream to mobile and tablet devices. Think of xCloud as something more akin to Google Stadia. While Sony's PlayStation Now let players stream games before either of the aforementioned services, it also hasn't evolved much since its debut. PS Now members can only stream to PS4 and PC.
So how does this relate to Xbox Game Pass? Xbox head Phil Spencer announced that once Project xCloud leaves preview, it will be available for all Xbox Game Pass members. This effectively bundles the two services together.
When it comes to the value you're getting, Xbox Game Pass easily bests PlayStation Now as a game subscription service. Every game is downloaded, new exclusive games launch into it, and it's available in more countries. PlayStation Now is a good alternative if you're looking to save money and want to play exclusive games, but it's still an inferior service to Xbox Game Pass all things considered.
The best there is
King of the hill for now
Xbox Game Pass released as a terrific service and only continues to get better and better as Microsoft adds games to it. It might seem like a lot of money, but well worth the price given everything it offers. Bundle it up with Xbox Live Gold and you're good to go.
Good but not great
PlayStation Now has some work to do
With its recent price drop, it's easy for me to recommend PlayStation Now to people, especially given some of the exclusive games Sony offers through it. However, it's still playing catch up to Xbox Game Pass in terms of overall quality and value.
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