Apple Arcade vs. Google Play Pass: Which $5 game streaming service wins?


Apple and Google have both planted flags in the gaming world in the past year with the launch of mobile gaming streaming services: Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass. Both subscription services offer unlimited access to a library of games you can play on your mobile devices without advertisements or in-app purchases, all for $4.99 a month. 

While Apple Arcade is all about the games, Google Play Pass also includes productivity, photography and utility apps. Since its release, Apple Arcade has built up a catalog of over 110 games, some exclusive to the platform, while Google Play Pass has over 350 games and apps, but no exclusives so far. 

If you own exclusively Apple or Android devices, the choice is easy: You can only play Apple Arcade on iOS devices, and you can only play Play Pass on Androids. But if you have both — or game services factor into your buying decision for your next phone — it gets a little tougher to choose. Google Play Pass is US-only for now, but Apple Arcade is also in the UK, Australia and other countries.

Read on to find out how the two mobile gaming services compare, and which makes the most sense for you.

Read more: Best game subscription services: Here’s how to choose

Google

Play Pass is Google’s all-you-can-eat subscription app service, with 350-plus apps and games available. It’s a solid option for Android users. The mobile gaming subscription service offers a 30-day free trial, and then costs $4.99 per month for up to six family members to use. Play Pass gives you access to over 350 games and apps with no ads, paywalls or in-app purchases. 

The Play Pass is easy to find in the Google app store on your phone. Just click the settings bar in the upper left corner and tap Play Pass. After you subscribe, a ticket icon appears next to Play Store items that are part of the program — a nice filter to find quality downloads. 

Google announced the Play Pass ahead of the much anticipated Stadia platform. It includes popular games like Monument Valley, Risk and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. If you aren’t looking for brand-new games or exclusives but like the variety of games offered, Play Pass might be a good choice for you.

I liked the number of games and utility apps that were available through Play Pass. Titles like Monument Valley and Eloh are included with your subscription, whereas you’d have to pay for them on iOS, even if you subscribed to Apple Arcade. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Apple launched mobile gaming subscription service Apple Arcade in September, as part of iOS 13’s public beta. You can now play over 110 games across iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac and Apple TV devices. When you sign up, you can test Apple Arcade out with a one-month free trial, after which it costs $4.99 (£4.99, AU$7.99) a month, or $50 (£50, AU$80) a year.

Apple Arcade lives in the App Store, and the games download to your device so you can play offline. You can play directly on any of your Apple devices, or you can also use Microsoft Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4 controllers for the feel of a more traditional console experience. 

New games, or game updates, are released almost every week, so there’s always something new to try. Apple Arcade doesn’t have any ads or in-game purchases, and one subscription works for up to six family members.

The service features exclusive single-player, multiplayer and AR games across various genres from developers like Square Enix, Bandai Namco, Ubisoft, Capcom and Hipster Whale. Some of the top titles include nostalgic favorites like Pac-Man Party RoyaleRayman Mini and Frogger in Toytown, along with new hits like Crossy Road Castle and Ultimate Rivals: The Rink

I like the constant stream of new content coming to Apple Arcade each week. The games are beautifully designed, and there’s something for every mood and every player. Even though more of the games are now appearing on Steam and other locations for standalone purchase, with an Apple Arcade purchase you’re just paying that flat fee.

Read our Apple Arcade review.

Here’s how the two services stack up. 

Apple Arcade vs. Google Play Pass

Apple Arcade Google Play Pass
Cost $4.99 (£4.99, AU$7.99) a month with a one-month free trial. $4.99 a month with a 10-day free trial.
Number of titles 100-plus games and exclusives 350-plus cross-platform games and apps, no exclusives so far
Compatible software iOS, iPadOS, TVOS 13 or MacOS Catalina Play Store version 16.6.25 and above and Android version 4.4 and above
Compatible hardware iPhone SE through iPhone 11 iPad Pro (all models), iPad 5th and 6th gen, iPad Mini 4th and 5th gen, iPad Air 2nd and 3rd gen, iPod Touch 7th gen, Apple TV 4K, Macs released later than 2012 Mobile, laptop and tablet devices with Play Store version 16.6.25 and above and Android version 4.4 and above. 
Compatible controllers Made for iOS Controllers, Xbox One S Controller, PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 Controller Controller support varies by game, but can include Razer Raiju Mobile Controller, Samsung’s GamePad Controller and the Xbox One S Controller
Can you play on multiple devices? Yes, up to 10 devices with the same iCloud account Yes, up to 10 devices with the same Google Play account
Can you share your account? Yes, up to 5 other family members accounts, through Apple’s Family Sharing Yes, up to 6 other family members accounts through Google Play Family Library


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