Game subscription services: Here's how to choose the right one – CNET

Coronavirus-related lockdowns and quarantines remain in place in most states, and many people have been turning to video games to pass the time and stay entertained.

If you’re getting tired of your PS4 or Xbox One (and aren’t sure you want to shell out the cash for a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X later this year), you might want to check out one of the growing number of gaming subscription services out there. Many offer early access to anticipated games, exclusive content, creative indie titles and options that can enhance your console experience. 

It’s hard to decide which is the best game streaming service for you, so here’s some information and advice on each of them to help you make the right choice.

Read more: Apple Arcade vs. Google Play Pass: Which $5 game streaming service wins?

EA

Gaming giant Electronic Arts offers two gaming services: EA Access, which works with Xbox One and PS4 consoles, or Origin Access, which works with PCs. EA Access membership is $4.99 a month or $30 a year. When you subscribe, you get access to a catalog of Vault Games that include titles like Madden NFL 20, Anthem, Battlefield V and the classic Sims 4 console version. 

With streaming service EA Access, you can also play a 10-hour trial of new games before their launch day. For example, when EA Access launched for PS4 it featured a Play First trial for Madden NFL 20 ahead of its official release date. 

Some Vault Games can be played offline, but Play First Trials require an internet connection. Games are playable without an Xbox Live Gold or a PlayStation Plus account, but having those accounts lets you use online features. 

Additionally, members of the EA Access game streaming service get 10% off all digital EA games and content. For example, if a game is full price at $60, a membership would drop the price to about $54.

EA also offers Origin Premier for $15 a month or $100 a year. A Premier subscription gets you full early access to new games and access to the Premier Vault as well as extra game content and 10% off purchases.

Screenshot by Joseph Kaminski/CNET

A subscription to video game streaming platform PlayStation Now, Sony’s “Netflix for games,” gives you access to over 800 PS4, PS3 and PS2 games on the PlayStation 4 and PC. You can either download games to your console, or stream them. PS Now offers a seven-day free trial and then three plans — $10 per month, $25 for three months, or $60 for a year. 

PS Now includes both exclusive games and popular hits, like Doom Eternal, Call of Duty: Warzone, The Last of Us, Just Cause 4 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. There are also online multiplayer games, sports games and family-friendly options available too. The game collections are updated monthly. To date, Iron Man VR and The Last of Us II have been delayed.

To get started, you need a PS4 or a PC, a PlayStation Network account, and a DualShock 3 or 4 controller. In addition to the PS Now subscription, PlayStation recommends an active broadband connection 5Mbps or higher. If you use a PC, you’ll need to download the PS Now app. 

Read more: You can buy a year of PS Plus for $35

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass offers unlimited access to over 100 games on console, PC or both. The subscription offers popular games like Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Bleeding Edge and NBA 2K20. The games are sorted into various categories so you can easily find the right one for you, whether it’s family-friendly, action or games that are expiring soon from the platform. From there, just download the game to start playing.

There are different plans depending on your gaming needs, like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for $14.99 a month, which adds the perks of the gaming social network Xbox Live Gold and the Xbox Game Pass (typically $9.99 a month each). With this package, you get those benefits on the console and PC. 

Xbox Game Pass for PC is available on Windows 10 after you download the Xbox beta app from the Microsoft Store. For now, the PC game pass has an introductory price of $1 for the first month, then $4.99 a month.

James Martin/CNET

Announced last June at E3, Uplay Plus is Ubisoft’s PC gaming subscription service that includes a library of over 100 games for $14.99 per month. As well as the catalog of games, you get early access to beta programs, Free Weekends, trials, DLCs, expansions and updates, and a discount on games you buy. 

Browse PC games like Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Far Cry: New Dawn. After you find a game you want to play, activate it and it’ll appear in your games library on Uplay PC. 

The Ubisoft Uplay desktop app isn’t available for Mac.  

Apple launched its $4.99 a month or $50 a year mobile gaming subscription service Apple Arcade in September, as part of iOS 13’s public beta. You can now play over 110 games across iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac and Apple TV devices. When you sign up, you can test Apple Arcade with a one-month free trial

Read more: Apple Arcade review: Mobile gaming gets a massive upgrade for $5 a month

The service features exclusive single-player, multiplayer and AR games in various genres from developers like Square Enix, Bandai Namco, Ubisoft, Capcom and Hipster Whale. Some of the top titles include nostalgic favorites like Pac-Man Party Royale, Rayman Mini and Frogger in Toytown, along with new hits like Crossy Road Castle and Ultimate Rivals: The Rink

Apple Arcade lives in the App Store and the games download to your device so you can play offline. You can play directly on any of your Apple devices, or you can also use Microsoft Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4 controllers for the feel of a more traditional console experience. 

New games, and game updates, are released almost every week, so there’s always something new to try. Apple Arcade doesn’t have any ads or in-game purchases, and one subscription works for up to six family members. One of the downsides is that some of the more anticipated titles — like Fantasian and The Pathless — have yet to be released. 

Google

If you like the idea of mobile gaming like Apple Arcade, but don’t have any iOS devices, Google Play Pass is a solid option for Android users. The mobile gaming subscription service offers a 30-day free trial and then costs $4.99 per month for up to six family members to use. Google Play Pass gives you access to over 350 games and apps with no ads, paywalls or in-app purchases. 

The Play Pass is easy to find in the Google app store on your phone. Just click the settings bar in the upper left corner and tap Play Pass. After you subscribe, a ticket icon appears next to Play Store items that are part of the program — a nice filter to find quality downloads. 

Read more: Google Play Pass trumps Apple Arcade because the Play Store is such a mess

Google announced the Play Pass last September ahead of the much anticipated Stadia platform. It includes games like Monument Valley, Risk and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

GameClub/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

GameClub is a mobile game subscription service full of back-catalog games that gives you access to over 100 titles, overviews, game histories, tips and strategies. For $4.99 a month you can play games with no ads or in-app purchases. No internet connection is required since the games are downloaded from the app store, not streamed. In addition, game progress saves locally to your device, you can share your subscription with family members and play across multiple iOS devices. The Android app is still in beta with a future release planned.  

GameClub organizes content similarly to Apple Arcade. You can sort through different genres like RPG, strategy, adventure, action, tower defense, and arcade. In addition to old favorites and hidden gems, the app adds more titles regularly. Most recently, GameClub brought Big Journey, Bardbarian and Monster Wars onto the platform. Some games — like Mikey Shorts and Mage Gauntlet — are also compatible with PS4 DualShock and Xbox Wireless controllers via Bluetooth. 

Ultimately, the choice between Apple Arcade, Google Play Pass and GameClub depends on what device you have, and which games you’re most interested in playing.

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