When Xbox Game Pass launched in 2017, it was revolutionary for the gaming industry. Trying to replicate the success of Netflix, Xbox Game Pass offered subscribers the chance to play hundreds of games – many of which they might never play otherwise – for one low monthly price. Since its inception, competitors have popped up everywhere to try to capture a piece of the pie for themselves, but none have had the suite of options and reputation of Microsoft’s offering.
Earlier this year, Microsoft’s biggest competitor Sony retooled its PlayStation Plus service to frame it as a competitor to Game Pass, but unfortunately it has been relatively unsuccessful. While PS Plus Premium has some advantages over Game Pass, its subpar game offerings and loyalty to the original brand has Sony facing an uphill battle.
Day One Releases and More on Game Pass
Game Pass was experimental when it first launched. Microsoft treated the service similar to the current version of PS Plus Premium, offering quantity over quality. But as Xbox Game Pass has shifted toward a fresh market, PlayStation Plus remains in the past. Older, nostalgic games are a welcome sight, but pale in comparison to Microsoft’s offerings. As time has gone on, Game Pass adapted and offered premium games and content without raising its prices, something Sony needs to do sooner rather than later.
The biggest advantage for Game Pass is its day-one releases. Microsoft has prioritized making as many games as possible available on Game Pass right away, with everything from smaller indie games to huge AAA franchises. As Game Pass has grown, game studios have seen the benefits of a built-in audience. Thanks in large part to its inclusion on Game Pass, Forza Horizon 5 had the biggest release in Xbox history at the time.
Even Sony’s own MLB The Show 22 was released on Game Pass at launch. If Sony is going to give away one of its most popular in-house titles, PS Plus isn’t anywhere close to the product of Xbox Game Pass. Rather than keeping hope alive that it will change, Sony announced that PS Plus won’t contain day-one releases, and doesn’t have any immediate plans to make the shift.
Looking at raw numbers, one thing that could be affecting Sony is the net worth of each company. With all of Microsoft’s product offerings within and outside of gaming, it carries a $2.11 trillion valuation as of this writing, according to Yahoo! Finance, compared to Sony’s relatively small $108.94 billion. Sony could easily afford to put premium games on PS Plus immediately, but it may be harder to get the full buy-in from executives. It’s easier for Microsoft to eat the upfront cost of those hot games to turn over into long-term subscription fee profits. In the gaming industry, money talks, and Microsoft has more wealth than anyone else.
To its credit, Microsoft has earned the benefit of the doubt with Game Pass, repeatedly putting the best titles on its service and likely affecting console sales. There are amazing perks for both the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5, but there is an increasing group of fans that have migrated toward Xbox because their favorite games may be on Game Pass. When the consoles were first released, it was easy to see why some preferred Xbox when PlayStation still didn’t have an elite subscription service.
Sony was too slow at creating a true Game Pass competitor, and lost out on building a loyal subscriber base. If Sony wants to catch up to Microsoft, it will have to start offering real value by completely altering its release strategy and providing its best games to fans. Time will tell whether it succeeds with retooling PS Plus.
Xbox Game Pass is available now on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.