A big part of E3 2019 was the sudden explosion of game subscription services. Once the territory of a few has become a battle royale as several publishers have now made their game catalogues available for one monthly fee. If you don’t mind losing access to games should you unsubscribe, any one of these services is a substantial value as all of them include access to dozens—if not hundreds—of games in addition to their various other features.
But which one is most worth your time, and which offers the best library of games (not just in terms of size but also in terms of quality)?
We feel like Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass currently is the best bang for your buck. For $10/month (there's a $1 promotion for E3 (opens in new tab)), it's the cheapest of the subscriptions and still gives you an excellent library of games and new releases at no extra charge. More than that, Microsoft has been aggressive as hell these past two years, buying up indie studios and making good on its promises to better support PC gaming, like with the upcoming release of the Halo: Master Chief Collection and the release of the new Xbox app. That gives us a lot of confidence that the Xbox Game Pass will only get better in time, and you won't feel as guilty if you spend $10 one month but don't make full use of the available games.
But one size doesn't fit all. Below, you'll find some things to consider when looking at signing on for one of these subscriptions. And we've also broken down the biggest subscription services too, so you can get a more granular look at what each offers.
Before you sign the dotted line
The big three subscriptions—Xbox Games Pass, Ubisoft's Uplay+, and Origin Access—all offer enormous libraries and promise access to big upcoming games, But it's worth considering two things before you buy:
- Think about whether or not you'll end up spending more than the price of the games you want. A subscription might seem like a great deal at first, but if you only play a few games per year, you might be better off buying them individually than paying monthly for them.
- Services like Uplay+ get you access to live-service games like The Division 2, effectively doubling as an MMO subscription. If you end up paying just to play The Division 2, in a few years you'll have spent way more than if you had just bought it full price. And if you stop paying, you lose all those hundreds of hours of playtime. So be careful when mixing subscriptions and live-service games.
- And though access to 100+ games sounds great on paper, you probably aren't going to have time to play all of them. Sure, we all dream of replaying the Mass Effect trilogy from start to finish, but unless you're committed to constantly playing games from these catalogues, you might be better off saving your money.
Here's a breakdown of each major service.
Xbox Game Pass
Cost: $10/month ($1 promotion for E3, $15/month for Ultimate, which includes Xbox games)
Number of games: 100+
List of every game: Here (opens in new tab)
Notable games: Metro Exodus, Wolfenstein 2, Gears of War 5 (September 2019), The Outer Worlds (October 2019), Wasteland 3 (2020)
- Lots of great indies
- Great value if you have an Xbox and get the Ultimate passlist
- The PC version has way fewer big-budget games than the Xbox One
- The new Xbox app is nice but still a little cumbersome
During E3, Microsoft announced that the PC version of Xbox Game Pass was immediately available as an open beta, and it's a pretty great value. The biggest allure is that some of the most-anticipated games of 2019 and 2020 will be releasing on Game Pass at launch, meaning you can play The Outer Worlds or Gears of War 5 for dirt cheap. In addition to that, there's a wonderful selection of quality indie games like Hollow Knight, The Outer Wilds, and Astroneer. Using the Xbox Game Pass will require downloading the new Xbox app, though. Don't worry, it's way better than the terrible Windows Store—but it is one more launcher to contend with.
While I love the variety and quality of the Xbox Game Pass, if you compare the PC version with its Xbox One library, you'll quickly notice that Xbox players get access to more big-budget games like Monster Hunter: World. If you happen to own an Xbox, though, you can get both passes and Xbox Live Gold for $15, which is an outrageous value.
Number of games: 100+
List of games: Not released
Notable games: The Division 2, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Rainbow Six Siege, Watch Dogs Legion (2020), Ghost Recon Breakpoint (October 2019)
- Access to premium editions of new Ubisoft games at launch
- Access to all DLC
- Enrollment in betas for new games
- All the Ubisoft games
- Slightly more expensive
- Mostly just Ubisoft games, very few indie games
Do you love Ubisoft games? And I mean loooove Ubisoft games? If yes, then UPlay+ is worth considering because it's basically a subscription to Ubisoft's entire catalogue of PC games. Announced during its E3 press conference, UPlay+ won't launch until September. We're not entirely sure what games will be available yet, but it's a safe bet that it'll be pretty much everything on Uplay. So if the idea of playing 2012's Ghost Recon Future Soldier, Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, or any other Ubisoft classic is appealing, this might be an enticing offer.
The real value in UPlay+, though, is getting access to upcoming releases like Watch Dogs Legion or Ghost Recon Breakpoint—and Ubisoft even promises you'll get the top-tier digital premium editions to boot. So even if the service is expensive and lacks the variety of its competitors, it might be worth it if you buy all of Ubisoft's new games. It comes to $180 a year, so ask yourself if you really spend more than that on Ubi games already.
Cost: $5/month (Basic), $15/month (Premier)
Number of games: 200+
List of games: Here
Notable games: Anthem, Battlefield 5, Madden NFL 19, Fifa 19 (Premier), The Sims 4, The entire Star Wars collection of PC games
- Early access to EA games (10 hours of play for Basic, unlimited for Premier)
- 10 percent discount on Origin
- More games than other services
- Good variety of games
- DLC locked behind more expensive Premier
- Premier required to access new releases
EA was the first publisher to roll out a subscription service and, with the biggest library of games, it still remains a strong competitor. Though you'll have to fork over the extra cash for Premier, getting to play EA games five days before their official launch is a nice perk, but you'll need to be a fan of sports games like Madden and FIFA to really get the most out of this more expensive tier. Otherwise, the Basic option gets you access to a lot of games, including some great indie hits like Into the Breach and Pillars of Eternity 2.
While Basic is a nice option if you fancy binging the Star Wars collection or Dragon Age games, EA very obviously wants you to fork over the extra cash for Premier. New games like Anthem aren't available to Basic members and all DLCs are also locked behind the Premier payall—even for much older games like Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Other options to consider
The three options listed above are set apart from other subscription services because each offers unlimited access to big libraries of existing games and free access to upcoming games. But there are plenty of other subscriptions that will get you access to relatively new games on a regular business.
The value proposition of these services is much different: You're paying for a mystery bundle or a curated selection of games. But we feel like these are still worth mentioning.
Humble Monthly Bundle (opens in new tab) costs $12/month and gives you a mystery pack of six games each month and access to a library of over 60 games. One game in each monthly bundle is usually a very recent big-budget release, so you end up saving roughly a hundred dollars all told—assuming you were going to buy those games anyway. But it's a fun way to sample games you might not otherwise try.
Twitch Prime (opens in new tab) is a part of Amazon Prime's much bigger subscription service. In addition to letting you subscribe to one channel a month, you get a host of in-game goodies for select games and four free games a month (though these are usually small, unheard of indie games).
PlayStation Now lets you stream PlayStation games to your PC, assuming you have a Dual Shock 4 and an internet connection that can handle it. It's expensive, though, at $20/month (you'll need to pay for PS Plus too so you can save your games). While it's neat if you really want to play PS4 exclusives like Bloodbourne, the streaming has noticeable input lag, variable quality, and you'll be stuck playing everything on a controller.
Discord Nitro is great if you love Discord and want to unlock extra features like better quality screen sharing, custom emojis, and a small library of great indie games. It doesn't come close to what other services are offering in terms of games, though, and it's $10/month.
Correction: An earlier version of this article states Uplay+ cost $20/month when it, in fact, costs only $15/month. That was due to me being from Canada and the Uplay+ website showing me the price in Canadian dollars. I regret the error.