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Bang for buck: Which gaming subscription offers the most value right now?

By Kenneth Ang - 23 Jun 2020

The good kind of “pay to play”

Note: This feature was first published on 23 June 2020.

Image: Unsplash

What do you think of when people mention “subscription service” nowadays? For many of us, the first word that pops into mind would probably be Netflix. And although such business models have been around a while, Netflix was the company that shoved that business model into the public eye.

Fundamentally, this model operates along the same lines as most newspaper subscriptions. By paying a certain amount every so often, usually monthly or yearly, users get access to the service's entire repertoire of games and bonuses for that same duration of time. Essentially, this business model aims to derive consistent returns over a period of time versus a single big dollop of money. 

Following Netflix's train of thought, it didn’t take long for other companies, especially gaming publishers to think along similar lines for their own video games. Currently, we now have various such options, like Xbox Game Pass, EA Access and Apple Arcade, among others that utilise such a model. Of course, these are a little different from our regular membership subscriptions, in the sense that signing up gives you direct and unlimited access to games in their particular collection, rather than just discounted prices and the occasional freebie. 

However, that doesn't mean the latter can't make big bucks anymore. Good examples of services that still utilise it today are Sony’s PlayStation Plus, Microsoft's Xbox Live Gold and Nintendo Switch Online. After all, it still has its plus points (no pun intended), and the offerings tend to be slightly different versus the Netflix-style model. However, the main point here is: which of these services are the most worth spending on? We’ll get into that, but first let’s see what each of them has to offer.


The Netflix-style subscription

Image: Rockstar Games

From a bystander's point of view, this is the model that seems to be more popular amongst gamers and developers nowadays. By paying a monthly, or yearly subscription fee, members get instant access to a wide variety of games that they can play as much as they want. Consider it like signing up for the gaming version of a mobile library - once you join, you can download and read the “books” as and when you want. 

Sounds pretty peachy on paper, but here’s the catch: you can only play the games as long as you continue paying the membership fee. Sure, most of them don’t cost an arm or a leg, but in the event that you do terminate the membership, you won’t be able to play them at all, although you do retain your game progress should you decide to return. 

Of course, this last bit isn't a hard and fast rule - some games don't set up shop in the service's library forever. They might get taken off the roster indefinitely for a myriad of reasons, and while they'll probably stay inside the console storage for as long as they're downloaded and installed on the device itself, it's gone for good if you happen to delete it.


Xbox Game Pass: A never-ending buffet of games

Image: Unsplash

Moving on to the actual value discussion. Well, if we’re talking about these three services purely by merit of their roster, Xbox Game Pass is far and away the best option, but why’s that? Well, just look at the absolute number of AAA games that they’ve got in the repertoire, which you’ll be able to download and play for free, no questions asked.

From widely-acclaimed hits like Red Dead Redemption 2 to interesting newcomers like Minecraft Dungeons, the variety is quite simply gobsmacking. In fact, the sheer quantity of top-shelf titles alone is almost enough to justify subscribing for it, and the only other service that gets you this many games is probably the Apple Arcade. However, that's an entirely different ball game, considering it's catered purely for iOS devices while Xbox Game Pass is open to Xbox One and PC users. 

Oh, and since we're on the topic of Minecraft Dungeons, why not check out our review of it here? It's a simple and great gateway into the dungeon crawler genre, but you'll probably enjoy it even if you're a seasoned veteran.

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