Xbox Game Pass vs PlayStation Plus Essential, Extra and Deluxe
For many gamers, the discussion is irrelevant. They're in camp Xbox or they're in camp PlayStation, and nothing is going to change that. You'll come across these gamers being very vocal in any discussion thread on the Internet that plugs into the "Console Wars" debate, and frequently in conversations that don't.
But for the vast majority of the hundreds of millions of people around the world looking to buy a video games console each generation, such loyalty plays second fiddle. It plays second fiddle to value and affordability, to the actual game experiences they want to play, and ultimately, to the features that speak most to them.
I've covered the launch of every console in both companies' histories, including the latest skirmish between the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X (and Xbox Series S). As such, I'm asked all the time by friends, family, colleagues and readers, "which console should I buy?" To summarise a lengthy discussion, my answer has yet to waiver.
"While I think PlayStation 5 is the better console, Xbox Series X has Game Pass."
As such, the announcement of a PlayStation Game Pass alternative, originally codenamed Spartacus, genuinely impacts how we should view both consoles.
Xbox Game Pass vs PlayStation Plus
Before I walk you through a detailed comparison of these 2 services, let's look at the facts. Here are how the service offerings from Sony and Microsoft look on paper.
|Subscription||Xbox Live Gold||PlayStation Plus Essential||Xbox Game Pass||PlayStation Plus Extra||Game Pass Ultimate||PlayStation Plus Deluxe|
|If paid annually||NA||$6.66/month||NA||$11.25/month (annual)||NA||$12.91/month (annual)|
|2 or 3 x free games/month||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Game library access||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Number of included games||3/month||3/month||100 to 150||up to 400||200 to 250||up to 400|
|1st party games on release day||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|PC pass included||No||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|Android pass included||No||No||No||No||Yes||No|
Why is Game Pass Ultimate so good?
Especially in this post COVID world where so many of us are struggling financially, value cannot be underestimated. Every dollar counts. When it comes to getting the best bang for buck, 3 things separate Xbox Series X from PlayStation 5. You can use the cheaper old Xbox One controllers. There's more internal memory, so you're less likely to need an HD upgrade. And you never have to buy a game.
Game Pass on Xbox costs $10.95 a month in Australia. Through this subscription, you get access to a revolving list of well over 100 video games that you can download and play for no additional cost. Big games. While there are plenty of great indies in the mix, there is also a run of major AAA blockbusters as well. This includes every first-party game made by Xbox on the same day it releases in stores.
The amount of quality gaming experiences offered through Game Pass is more than any one person could ever play. Or any family, for that matter. And if you spend a bit more and get Game Pass Ultimate for $15.95 a month, you also get access to 2-4 free games a month through Xbox Live Gold, near endless PC games, almost 100 games offered through EA Play, and cloud gaming via xCloud.
The maths is a no brainer. Halo Infinite retailed for $99.95. For the same price you can get unlimited games, including Halo Infinite, for 9 months through Xbox Game Pass. The long-term saving of being an Xbox Series X gamer over a PlayStation 5 gamer was so significant, I couldn't recommend PlayStation to anyone on a budget.
PlayStation Game Pass was a must
As mentioned earlier, the PlayStation 5 is the better console in my opinion. Where the Xbox Series X tends to play it safe as a machine, the PS5 boldly tries to push gaming forward with its innovative DualSense controller, 3D audio, PlayStation VR2 headset and lightning fast NVMe m2 SSD hard drive system.
But as a value proposition for cash-strapped gamers, it was poor. DualSense controllers are very expensive and you can't get away with cheap previous-gen peripherals. The smaller internal storage space fills up quickly and expansion is very expensive. And with no Game Pass alternative, you have to buy each new game outright.
Sony tried to bridge the gap by giving PlayStation Plus members a bundle of 20 excellent PS4 games for free, which was a welcomed move. But really, a PlayStation Game Pass alternative was inevitable. The question was, what form would it take? And would it be enough?
Spartacus becomes PlayStation Plus Essential, Extra and Deluxe
In late March 2022, the cat finally emerged from the bag. Sony revealed that its long-running PlayStation Plus program would be given a shake-up. Project Spartacus had landed. Where once there was 1 tier, now there are 3. The middle tier is the like-for-like alternative to Game Pass.
Known as the PlayStation Plus Extra plan, the middle tier offers Sony's customers the same 2-4 free downloadable games they get now, plus access to a catalogue of up to 400 games from the PS5 and PS4 library to download and play at will. It costs $18.95 a month. However, you can pay upfront for a year and get a discount. If bought in this fashion, PlayStation Plus Extra is $11.25 a month.
The top tier PlayStation Plus Deluxe is comparable with Game Pass Ultimate in most countries, but not so much in Australia. Its big selling point is cloud streaming access to some 350 games dating back to the PS3 era. This was previously known as PlayStation Now overseas, but as that service was never available to Australians, it doesn't come with our PlayStation Plus Deluxe sub in 2022.
Indeed, in overseas markets, it's called PlayStation Plus Premium. In Australia it's called PlayStation Plus Deluxe to account for the lack of cloud gaming. It will set you back $21.95 per month, or $12.91 per month if bought by the year.
Is PlayStation Plus Extra better than Xbox Game Pass?
I've long argued that Xbox Series X is the better purchase for gamers on a budget because Game Pass is such an incredible value proposition. It saves you hundreds if not thousands of dollars on games, because its catalogue is of such a high quality.
The new PlayStation Plus Extra tier goes some way to rectifying that. While the exact catalogue of 400 games is yet to be revealed, it's a number so huge you can't imagine many gamers will ever get through them all. Even if most of them are old PS4 games. But while on paper the 100+ games of Game Pass look far below the (up to) 400 games of PlayStation Plus, the details are in the fine print.
Sony has confirmed that new first-party games will not be released on PlayStation Plus Extra day and date with retail. This all but confirms that the service will not be home to the latest and greatest games unique to the console, unlike what we see in Game Pass. And considering Microsoft now owns Bethesda and Activision-Blizzard, it means Game Pass remains a superior option simply as it will be home to the latest and greatest games.
PlayStation Plus Deluxe vs Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
The Austaluan price of PS+ Deluxe works out to $21.95 a month, but it goes down to a much more reasonable $12.91 a month if bought in a year bundle. So that's a fair bit cheaper than Xbox Game Pass Ultimate's $15.95 a month.
Yet at the top tier, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate remains a clear winner, especially in Australia. The xCloud service is available to Australians, while the PlayStation Now cloud streaming component of PlayStation Plus Deluxe is not. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also unlocks a huge supply of great gaming experiences on PC and Android, which Sony cannot offer. You also get EA Play, offering nearly 100 great games from that revered third-party publisher.
PlayStation Plus Deluxe instead leans on retro gaming. You get a catalogue of PSone, PS2 and PSP games you can download and play as part of the price. Plus, you get access to timed trials of upcoming games.
While the latter point certainly sounds good, if said trials are of first-party Sony games, it will be a hard pill to swallow. Xbox gamers get the whole first party game by comparison, and at the cheaper price tier no less.
I can't recommend PlayStation Plus Deluxe as a result.
Verdict: Which console should you buy?
There's no doubt that PlayStation 5 becomes a more compelling console on the back of the new PlayStation Plus Extra tier. It's not as good as Game Pass because of its lack of day-and-date launches of first-party games. And if you're someone who wants the latest and greatest games to play from Sony, then it effectively does nothing to change the value prospect of the console.
If, on the other hand, you're a family or not too fussed about when you play your Sony first-party games, then PlayStation Plus Extra is a big win. While they won't be there at launch, first-party exclusives will end up there eventually you'd think. If you're in this camp, and you love the futuristic experience offered by the DualSense and PlayStation VR2, then camp Sony is now a much more compelling option.
Personally, I'm conflicted.
I love Sony's console and the company's vision for gaming. PlayStation's first-party exclusives are better, VR is a great value-add and the DualSense has the potential to offer immersion unseen on Xbox. But Xbox Game Pass will give you the best overall gameplay library due to it offering new releases and Microsoft's aggressive acquisitions. As such, my gut still says Xbox. Just.