Game-subscription services have graduated from a curious trend to the industry standard. Gone are the days of dropping big bills on a single video game and playing it repeatedly. Nowadays, gamers have enormous access and choice, all for one monthly price.
While the competition between Xbox, Nintendo, and PlayStation has been intense for decades, these streaming services can make even the most brand-loyal consumer think twice. Let’s review the best video game subscription services on the market today.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate offers day-one releases of major game launches – which, in 2023, will include hyped titles like Starfield, Diablo IV, Forza Motorsport, and Stalker II – plus an ever-changing variety of third-party titles 1.
On top of that, Game Pass Ultimate hooks you up with beloved games from Microsoft’s back catalog (like Halo Infinite) as well as Xbox Live Gold, which hand-picks different games each month. Did we mention the free membership to EA Play, which offers about 100 additional games? For $16.99 per month, Xbox makes it easy to move on from the nostalgia of buying single cartridges 2.
Alternative Game Pass Options
Although Game Pass Ultimate is the aptly titled 2019 upgrade, the original Game Pass is still available for $11.99 per month. While it doesn’t have the EA Play or Xbox Live Gold content, the real drawback is the lack of an online multiplayer mode. If you’re content to play Xbox games on your own, Game Pass is a steal – but for many people, online multiplayer is where the action is!
For gamers who are mostly invested in a handful of popular multiplayer titles, Xbox Live Gold might be all you need. With this long-running package, you get Grand Theft Auto Online, Call of Duty, FIFA, Madden, and other big names. Alternatively, if you’re a PC enthusiast, PC Game Pass is an excellent way to enjoy the benefits of an Xbox without owning the console. These options are also $11.99 per month.
Nintendo Switch Online (Plus Expansion Pack)
Much like Xbox Live Gold, Nintendo Switch Online is a basic package offering online multiplayer for $4.99 per month, with bundles maxing out at $24.99 per year. If you’re a fan of the Mario, Zelda, Kirby, and Metroid franchises, Nintendo Switch is the only place to find them. As an added perk, their classic NES and SNES games have been upgraded with options to save or rewind play, making them instantly more satisfying.
Nintendo also offers an Expansion Pack option which includes access to N64’s library, exclusive booster editions of recent Switch favorites, and even Sega Genesis games! The Expansion Pack subscription costs $64.99 per year 3.
While either subscription lets you cruise through new releases and revisit classics from Nintendo’s golden age, the multiplayer mode is known to get pretty glitchy 4. Nintendo’s famously loyal fan base might overlook the issue, but if you’re open to all consoles – and passionate about multiplayer – you might have a smoother experience with Xbox or PlayStation. Speaking of…
PlayStation Plus offers their own multi-tiered subscription service for gamers of all stripes. While all three packages – Essential, Extra, and Premium – offer online multiplayer, monthly PS4 and PS5 games, plus a variety of discounts and content, the real value is in the Extra and Premium tiers.
Unlike the Essential package, which offers basic access and a few free games for $11.99 per month, Extra subscribers score 400 PS4 and PS5 games for a monthly fee of $17.99 5. On top of that haul, Premium subscribers net around 340 additional games from the PS1, PS2, and PS3 archives for the monthly price of $21.99 6.
You’ll want to make sure that each game subscription is compatible with your tech set-up. Xbox is compatible with game consoles, Windows PC, Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. Although Xbox doesn’t offer free trials, the first month of Game Pass Ultimate and Game Pass costs a whopping $1. Nintendo Switch only works on its console, and offers a 7 day free trial. Finally, PlayStation Plus is compatible on game consoles and PC, offering a 14-day free trial 7.
It’s never been tougher for gamers to identify which console – let alone which subscription plan – is the right fit for them. And this is without delving into EA Play, Apple Arcade, Google Play Pass, Prime Gaming, Netflix Games, or a host of other niche platforms that are available. There’s a surprising amount of options out there, so research is key to finding the ideal subscription for your interests and budget.
Despite lots of burgeoning competition for your attention and money, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, Nintendo Switch Online, and PlayStation Plus still rule the roost. These titans of the gaming world continue to churn out exciting new releases, while introducing their early classics to new generations.