Widescreen: 4 months into Sony's PS Plus redo, Xbox Game Pass still the best value
Spooky season is finally over on Monday, which means it's time for the next holiday season that takes over our lives for two months. It's going to be a big one for video games -- as the holiday season always is -- especially now that the next-generation consoles are more readily available.
My advice in this column to newcomers and to gift-hunting parents has, of late, been to buy an Xbox Series X (or the no-disc Series S) console instead of a PlayStation 5. That's not only because the Xbox is easier to find; it's also because their game subscription service, Xbox Game Pass, is an incredible value that lets gamers experience more for less money.
Has my advice changed now, four months after Sony launched the revamped version of its own PlayStation Plus subscription service?
Nope. And I am a PS5 owner and PlayStation Plus subscriber at the "Extra," or middle, tier.
For my upfront 12-month payment of $99.99, I got access to a new rotating library of games that, as of this writing, includes all but one of the roughly eleventy billion "Assassin's Creed" games, as an example. And that's great ... even though I had already bought almost all of them. That's a problem for the new PS Plus library across the board for hard-core gamers: We've already bought the biggest titles.
I could say the same about the Xbox Game Pass library, but there are a few key differences that give it the edge.
1. Some new games go straight to Game Pass on release day. Xbox subscribers can play "A Plague Tale: Requiem," "Disney Dreamlight Valley" and "TMNT: Shredder's Revenge" right now without spending more money. PlayStation owners would have to shell out $59.99, $29.99 and $24.99, respectively.
2. When a Game Pass game leaves the service, you can buy it at a discounted rate. So if you don't finish all 200 hours of content on "Assassin's Creed Odyssey" before it rotates out of the library, you won't be paying full boat to keep going. There's no such deal from PS Plus, which quietly removed the enormous (and enormously popular) "Red Dead Redemption II" from the "Extra" tier library last week.
3. All games in the Game Pass library are available to every subscriber on every version of the plan. Microsoft offers you three choices: a console plan for $9.99 a month, a PC plan for $9.99 a month, or a combined plan for $14.99 a month. All three contain the same number of games which, as of this writing, is 476. PlayStation Plus has three tiers, going up to as much as $17.99 a month (or $119.99 a year upfront), and each tier unlocks more of the game library. The middle tier has around 400 titles; the highest adds about another 300.
So why would anyone, myself included, choose PlayStation over Xbox? Sony has incredible exclusives. You can't play the two recent "Spider-Man" games on Xbox. Nor can you play next month's highly anticipated "God of War: Ragnarok," or Naughty Dog's "Uncharted" and "The Last of Us" franchises that have spawned a movie and HBO's next big TV show.
But for new gamers, or those who don't particularly value the single-player experiences that Sony's exclusives tend to be, Xbox is the clear choice this holiday season.
• Sean Stangland is an assistant news editor who will be playing the "Resident Evil Village" expansion pack on his PS5 this weekend.