Subscription services are quickly replacing HDMI cables as a console necessity. Which offers the best value for your money going into 2023?
What was once an optional service for a select few online multiplayer games has evolved into a mainstay of the console gaming experience. Imagine getting your first Switch, Xbox, or PlayStation today. If so, you might not think of it as fully operational until you’ve signed up for one of the accompanying subscription services, which frequently gives you access to online play.
These platforms have been adding incentives as they gain importance, though, to justify their close-to-required payments. Here are our recommendations for the top gaming subscription services as we start a new year.
Apple Arcade: There are other options besides the “big three” console services. Apple Arcade may be precisely what you need if you have an iPhone (or iPad) to make your downtime while away from home more enjoyable. Aside from the numerous trial offers that come with new iPhone purchases or certain mobile accessories, you may sample Apple’s subscription service for $6 per month.
There are some distinctive experiences on offer from well-known names in the industry, ranging from original exclusives like Fantasian, the most recent game from Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, to PlatinumGames’ World of Demons. Even better, if you’re fully committed to Apple’s ecosystem, you can play these exclusives on Apple TV. The majority of its material, on the other hand, is more typical mobile fare, such as improved editions of classics like Cut the Rope Remastered and other smaller, simpler games that you might buy separately on the stores of other systems.
Even while it lacks the big-name titles of other services, its inexpensive cost and easy connection with other Apple platforms make it worthwhile to investigate.
Thanks in large part to free-to-play games like Fortnite, season passes are becoming a standard in the industry, but some are going above and above to improve the experience for the biggest fans. Beyond the seasonal Battle Passes, there is a program called Fortnite Crew that offers users premium prizes for their steadfastness for a monthly fee of $16.
Members get a brand-new, exclusive skin every month that is only available to them. These include loading screens, coordinated accessories, and occasionally more design choices. If you currently hold the pass, you will receive a refund of 950 V-Bucks, and the most important thing to spend that cash on will be taken care of. Membership grants the current Season Pass and 1000 V-Bucks per month.
Xbox Game Pass: Microsoft established Xbox Live to pave the way for this future, and they have since increased their investment in it as the subscription service has evolved into a “Netflix-for-games” in recent years. For a pretty ordinary $17 monthly charge, it offers over 300 games, and more are added each month. Microsoft has also negotiated partnerships to add several new games to its catalog the same day they are released. Xbox Live Gold is still an option and may be purchased at a discounted price if you for some reason simply want access to online multiplayer.
For just $17 a month, parents can provide their children access to a wide range of options from the catalog, which is a lot less expensive than spending $80 on a game they might not enjoy or play for very long. For individuals with both a Series X and a gaming PC, Game Pass Ultimate also gives access to PC games (or even a modest laptop for older games). The original gaming subscription service is without a doubt a titan in the business, even though I have my doubts about creating a complete platform focused solely on borrowing games.
Nintendo Switch Online: When it comes to online functionality, Nintendo has always lagged behind, but in the case of Nintendo Switch Online, this actually worked somewhat in the players’ favor. Switch Online costs only $5 CAD a month for a single account or $25 for a full year, making it significantly less expensive than its rivals’ subscription services. This can be increased by choosing a family plan option for additional accounts or by purchasing the Expansion Pass plan, which climbs to $100 CAD for a year of the family plan and gives access to a number of DLC packs for key Switch games.
Membership grants access to the subscription service’s libraries of critical NES and SNES games, along with nearly all of the Nintendo-produced classics on those systems (plus N64 and Sega Genesis for Expansion Pass users). I could ramble on about what this library lacks and how it is inferior to the Wii U’s Virtual Console, but what is present still conjures up many fond memories for anyone who grew up in the 1990s. Plus, there are exclusive games like Tetris 99’s battle royale mode and the regrettably short-lived Mario 35 that have been quietly enhanced with features like online multiplayer.
Switch Online is one of the best options among gaming subscription services simply because it is one of the least expensive of the Big Three and offers some extra benefits to subscribers while still being required for online play.
PlayStation Plus: Sony’s Plus service followed in the footsteps of Xbox Live for a while, and it didn’t change its approach. Each month, 2-4 new full games are released, allowing members to add them to their libraries and play them as long as they remain subscribers. Plus also offers access to online multiplayer capabilities.
However, the subscription service grew in 2022 with the addition of two more membership tiers, making it a direct rival to Game Pass. The outdated program, now called Essential, costs $12 per month. The new Extra level, which costs $18/month and provides hundreds of PS4 and PS5 games for a dollar more than Microsoft, is a direct rival to Game Pass.
With “up to 340 more games” from previous generations, cloud streaming access for Extra games, and time trials for other games, PlayStation Plus Premium takes a step further. It is limited to $22 each month.
The new PlayStation Plus tiers are a tad more pricey than Game Pass, but they feel more well-selected than Xbox’s selection. Contrary to its direct rivals, the subscription service’s collection of games is not frequently updated. Players can tailor their Plus experience to their preferences and financial constraints thanks to the three price categories (each given monthly, quarterly, and yearly). Instead of forcing PlayStation owners to exclusively “rent” games from their service, the base level offers free titles to own digitally (with a slight proviso).
Of all, at the end of the day, you’re essentially forced to use whatever subscription service your preferred gaming console makes use of. They could all do better, but ultimately, all three are worthwhile. In a way, it’s comforting to know that in today’s world, if you feel like spending a few extra bucks each month, your console (or phone, or even your favorite online game) can be upgraded to a luxury item.