Time for a comparison: which game subscription service is the best for you?
Shopping guideGaming

Time for a comparison: which game subscription service is the best for you?

Philipp Rüegg
Zurich, on 02.04.2020
Translation: Patrik Stainbrook
As with movies and series, subscription services for games have existed for a while now. Their ranges and availabilities vary enormously. That's why I've decided to break it down: here's an overview of the most popular candidates and whether they're right for you.

The games industry is becoming increasingly digital: physical sales are declining. They're being replaced by new deals such as streaming and subscription services. Instead of buying games, you pay a standard fee and get access to a flat-rate offer of games in return. Microsoft, Sony and EA are just a few of the developers who have jumped on this bandwagon. I'll help you keep your head straight in this jungle of offers.

Xbox Game Pass

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Games on offer: over 100
Platforms: PC, Xbox One
Price: 12-15 CHF/month
Trial period: 1 month for 1 CHF

The Xbox Game Pass includes over 100 Xbox One and PC games. Every month, new titles are added while others disappear. You can even play Microsoft Studios games such as «Ori and the Will of the Wisps», «Bleeding Edge» or the upcoming «Halo Infinite» right on release.

The Game Pass is available in three variations. One for PC, one for consoles and the Ultimate version for PC and consoles including Xbox Live Gold. Thanks to synchronized saves, you can start a game on console and continue playing on the PC. The Xbox Game Pass offers most novelties out of all subscriptions.

If you still want to buy games so that you can play them even after your subscription expires, there's a 20 percent discount on game purchases and ten percent on DLCs and the like. There's also monthly Game Pass quests. You can even use the points you earn to renew your subscription. Unfortunately, this system is part of Microsoft Rewards and not yet available in Switzerland.

Microsoft currently offers a trial of the service for one franc a month. If you own an Xbox One, the Game Pass is a No Brainer. But the subscription is also worthwhile for PC gamers who like to try out new things regularly.

Playstation Now

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Games on offer: over 800
Platforms: PC, PS4
Price: 10.90 CHF/month, 26 CHF/3 months, 63 CHF/year
Trial period: 7 days

Playstation Now offers the largest selection of all game subscriptions. Over 800 PS2, PS3 and PS4 titles are available. And you're not just restricted to your PS4, you can also play them on your PC with the appropriate app. The games are streamed, which unfortunately does detract from the quality. Controls are almost instantaneous, but PS4 games look more like PS3 games.

Since last year, PS Plus subscribers have also been able to download PS4 and PS2 games and play them offline. Then you'll be able to game at full quality. By the way, instead of exclusively allowing Dualshock, PC gamers also get to use their Xbox controller.

You won't find the latest PS4 games on Playstation Now, nor many Sony-exclusive titles such as «Spiderman». «Control» is probably the latest blockbuster on offer at the moment. Inexplicably, the PC app doesn't have a Search function.

If you're not looking for the latest titles and can live with some loss of quality, Playstation Now is definitely worth a try.

EA Access

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Games on offer: 47 and 90
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One
Price: 4.50 CHF/month, 39 CHF/year
Trial period: not available

Initially, the subscription was only available on Xbox One, but now PS4 players can also enjoy it. However, your choice of games isn't identical. Xbox gamers get almost 90 games while PS4 users end up with only 47. This includes «Fifa 19» (the one from 2018), «Anthem» or «Plants vs Zombies Battle for Neighborville». You can try out newly released EA games for up to ten hours in a test phase. Then you have to either buy them or wait until they become part of EA Access.

The subscription grants you an additional ten percent on all purchases of EA titles as well as DLCs and addons. You can also play EA games a few days before their regular release.

If you'd like to check out new EA games before you buy them, or if you don't always need the latest games, EA Access may be worth a look.

Origin Access

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Games on offer: over 200
Platforms: PC
Price: 4.20 CHF/month, 26.50 CHF/year or 16 CHF/month, 106 CHF/year
Trial period: not available

EA's offer for PC gamers is slightly better. Origin Access is – as the name suggests – accessible via the Origin Launcher. Origin Access comes in two versions: Basic and Premier. Basic is much cheaper and the equivalent of EA Access. However, this version gives you access to well over 200 games. A ten percent discount as well as early access to new EA games are also available, even if only for ten hours.

The more expensive Premier version unlocks the entire EA range: about 240 games, including all new releases, DLCs, expansions, etc. This on top of early access and a ten percent purchasing discount.

If you only buy two new EA games a year, you've more than made up for the subscription cost.

UPlay+

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Games on offer: 100+
Platforms: PC
Price: 16 CHF
Trial period: not available

Ubisoft's subscription service debuted last fall. For the time being, it will only be available for PC, but in the course of 2020 it will also release on Google Stadia. The whole thing is available for around 16 francs a month. With over 100 games, the range is somewhat meagre and primarily interesting for hardcore Ubisoft fans. Ubisoft games make up the majority of the library. However, real fans should have bought «Assassin’s Creed Odyssey» or «The Division 2» long ago. Besides you'll mostly find older titles such as «POD», «Might and Magic VII» or «Prince of Persia». Still, you always get the complete versions with all additional content. Most other subscription services make you pay extra for this.

However, since new games are readily available on UPlay+, you can check back when «Watch Dogs Legion» or the next «Assassin’s Creed» are ready. After finishing, you can theoretically cancel your subscription and it'll still be cheaper than buying the games. Long-term customers will be disappointed.

Weirdly, you can only cancel UPlay+ after two hours. I like to do this immediately as otherwise I forget and the subscription renews itself automatically.

Stadia Pro

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Games on offer: 7
Platforms: Chrome Browser, Chromecast Ultra
Price: 10 CHF/month
Trial period: 3 days
Note: not officially available in Switzerland

Google's game streaming service has just seven games in its paid Pro version. Akin to PS Plus or Xbox Gold, but new titles are added regularly. The selection remains by far the smallest. 30 more games are available for purchase. As a Pro-User, you usually have juicy discounts on them.

The difference to most other subscription services is that with Stadia, you stream the games over the Internet, therefore you don't need a powerful PC. Stadia can be used on virtually any device that has the Chrome browser (laptop, smartphone or tablet). Google promised UHD, 60 fps, Surround Sound and HDR. In reality, it lacks sufficient resolution and image quality. In addition, you can't really get this service yet in Switzerland. In 2020, Stadia Base will be the model that doesn't incur any monthly costs and doesn't include free games.

When Stadia launches in Switzerland, try it out if you don't want to buy a console or PC, but you'd like to game on various devices.

Geforce Now

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Games on offer: all of yours
Platforms: computer, laptop, smartphone, Nvidia Shield
Price: free or 6 CHF/month
Trial period: not available

Geforce Now isn't your typical subscription service. You use it to stream your own PC games over the Internet to a device of your choice. This could be your PC, your smartphone or your TV, if you have an Nvidia Shield.

Nvidia gives you access to nearly 600 games via its Geforce Now platform. Not all Steam and Co. games are supported. Just like Stadia, you play on a virtual PC with the most popular games pre-installed. Others you have to download before playing. Nvidia is constantly expanding their offer. The image quality is limited to 1080p and 60 fps. Input lag is particularly strong when playing online shooters with a mouse and keyboard.

Some manufacturers such as Bethesda, 2K and more removed their games shortly after the official launch of Geforce Now. We're not entirely sure why, but there seems to have been disagreement on the conditions. So you can't play «Borderlands 3» or «Doom Eternal» with Geforce Now, even if you bought them. But «Mount & Blade 2 Bannerlords» is available, just in time for its early access release.

Geforce Now is available for free limited to one hour of play time at a time. Afterwards, you have to log in again. With the paid version, which is currently sold out, you can play up to six hours. Your virtual PC can even do raytracing.

If you have a large PC game collection, your PC or laptop is low performance, or you want to play on your TV or smartphone, give Geforce Now a chance.

Apple Arcade

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Games on offer: 100+ mobile games
Platforms: iOS, macOS, tvOS
Price: 6 CHF/month
Trial period: 1 month

With Apple Arcade, you get access to over 100 premium mobile titles. Many of them were developed exclusively for Apple Arcade and with support from Apple. You can tell by the quality, which is much higher than typical mobile games. You'll look in vain for advertising or in-game purchases. Various games are also available for PC or consoles.

Every month, new titles are added that you can play on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. Thanks to iCloud, your game progress is synchronized and all games can be played offline. If you prefer to play with a controller, you can easily connect a PS4 or Xbox One controller.

Apple Arcade is worthwhile for all those who like to play on the iPad or iPhone, want more quality mobile games or have a family to entertain. The offer is very broad and can be shared with up to six members via family release.

Google Play Pass

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Games on offer: 350+ mobile games and apps
Platforms: Android
Price: 2 CHF/month
Trial period: 1 month
Note: not officially available in Switzerland

Just to be thorough, I'll also list the Google Play Pass. It isn't officially out yet in Switzerland. Google offers you a flat rate of around two francs a month – not only on hundreds of games but also other apps. Nearly 400 are already included. Including «Stardew Valley», «Limbo» or «Terraria». As you can see, these aren't the newest games. Still, all titles are free of advertising and in-app purchases.

If you're a heavy user of various apps and games and are willing to pay a bit of money for them, then check out the Google Play Pass if it ever comes out in Switzerland.

Do you use subscription services? If so, which ones? And if not, what would a subscription have to include for you to pay for it?

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Philipp Rüegg
Philipp Rüegg
Senior Editor, Zurich
Being the game and gadget geek that I am, working at digitec and Galaxus makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop – but it does take its toll on my wallet. I enjoy tinkering with my PC in Tim Taylor fashion and talking about games on my podcast . To satisfy my need for speed, I get on my full suspension mountain bike and set out to find some nice trails. My thirst for culture is quenched by deep conversations over a couple of cold ones at the mostly frustrating games of FC Winterthur.

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