If there’s a buzzword I hate more than any other, it’s “pivot”. Meaning to turn towards something else, the industry has been pivoting away from physical media with glee and embracing gaming subscription services — there’s a whole bunch of different ways to spend your cash monthly if you’re a gamer nowadays.
Unless you own one of the companies below, it’s unlikely that you will have the resources to afford all of these gaming subscriptions — you may actually ending up paying more a month than you used to if you just bought physically each month.
Personally, I’ve had them all at one time or another: some have been essential for me and others have been kicked to the curb once the free trial has expired, but different gaming subscription services are better suited to different people.
I’ve complied a list of the best gaming subscription services based on my previous experiences with pros and cons for each alongside prices. The below are listed in USD and GBP, so regional differences may apply.
The Best Gaming Subscription Services
1. PlayStation Plus
Pros: better games releasing each month. Cons: Vita and PS3 support being dropped. Platform(s): PS4 Price: £6.99/$9.99 Free trial? Yes
PlayStation Plus is a prerequisite to play most PS4 games online, but you tend to get your money back with its selection of free monthly games. It used to be pretty underwhelming until Sony really ratcheted up their game with massive hitters like Bloodborne and The Phantom Pain; two games which already pay for the entry fee.
Sadly, the Vita and PS3 are no longer a part of the service; Sony have given extra save storage in the cloud to try and make up for it. Couple that with needing to pay to play online –a silly idea to PC gamers– and you have yourself some pause for thought before signing up for a monthly plan.
Pros: play some hidden PS3 gems. Cons: way overpriced and demanding. Platform(s): PS4, PC Price: £8.99/$9.99 Free trial? Yes
By far the most expensive and least essential subscription service on this list for actual games, PlayStation Now is a very hard sell. Not only is the streaming service quite pricey, but it also demands a very steady and fast internet connection in order to stream games, and even then they are noticeably pared down in terms of quality.
The introduction of PS4 games sweetened the deal, though there are still far better ways to spend your cash as a PlayStation gamer, even if it does allow you to play some PlayStation exclusives on PC.
Pros: reliable connection and some decent deals on the store. Cons: free game quality has been dropping drastically. Platform(s): Xbox One, Xbox 360 Price: £5.99/$9.99 Free trial? No
One of console gaming’s very first services has remained affordable throughout its lifetime. What hasn’t remained consistent, however, is the quality of “free” games it offers.
After routinely trumping PlayStation Plus since the Xbox One and PS4 launched, the roles have been reversed as Games With Gold now trots out some rather uninspired fare seemingly to make Game Pass look even better.
You also need it to play online for most premium games, so if you’re more of a single-player gamer, it could be an excess that you can live without.
Pros: all of Microsoft’s headlining acts available at launch. Cons: some games get cycled out each month, bit pricey on top of Live. Platform(s): Xbox One, PC Price: £7.99/$9.99 Free trial? Yes
It’s a little wild just how good the value for money with Game Pass is. For a slender amount of money each month, you get access to an impressive library of 360 and One games, including all of the Xbox One’s big exclusives going forward.
We’ve already had Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, and Crackdown 3 at a total snip compared to their retail prices, even better if you take advantage of its free trial for two weeks. It’s similar to PlayStation Now but all games are downloaded instead of streamed. There’s only one real winner here.
There’s even the option to sign up for Game Pass for PC, though it is a separate subscription from the console version. You can, however, sign up for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which consists of both Game Pass versions as well as Xbox Live.
Pros: comparatively cheap, loads of old games. Cons: the infrastructure isn’t brilliant, no new games. Platform: Switch Price: £3.49/$3.99 a month, £17.99/$19.99 a year Free trial? Yes, 7 days
The rather blandly named Nintendo Switch Online is Nintendo’s first attempt at a paid subscription service for online gaming, and you can kind of tell.
While a rather good deal overall, the Switch’s online play isn’t exactly robust and reliable, and there really aren’t too many “big” games that actually require a subscription to access online play. Really, Splatoon 2 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are the only Switch multiplayer games that most would want to fork a subscription out for.
Still, it’s a work in progress, and a very cheap one at that. £17.99/$19.99 a year is pocket money compared to how much others are demanding, and the NES and SNES libraries of games to play that you get with your sub are fairly robust.
6. Twitch Prime
Pros: built-in to the Amazon Prime price, now includes free games. Cons: yet another launcher on PC. Platform: PC, Mac Price: £5.99/$12.99 Free trial? Yes
If you already have an Amazon Prime account, you really ought to take advantage of Twitch Prime. Not only does it give you exclusive loot and a free subscription to your favourite streamer, but it was recently revealed that free monthly games would be a staple of the service.
The only major downside? You need the Twitch launcher and cannot use the games on Steam; well, not without fiddling. There are so many launchers. Still, hard to resist if you’re already using Prime for online shipping or Video.
Pros: one game is worth the monthly price, Trove, deals on the store. Cons: can be very much a lucky dip. Platform: PC, Mac Price: $15.99 Free trial? No
For sheer value’s sake, Humble Monthly is a gaming subscription service that’s hard to beat. For a relative pittance each month, you get at least one recent game and a collection of indie treasures at a later date.
By paying upfront, you get the early unlock to play there and then, which have included the likes of Dark Souls 3 and Civ 6 in the past. The only real downside is that some months are better than others, but if the newest line-up doesn’t take your fancy, you can just unsubscribe and recommit when it’s more to your taste.
Pros: stream games that you can’t find anywhere else. Cons: no real recent, big games. Platform: PC Price: £4.49/$5.99 Free trial? Yes
The least recognised on this list, Utomik certainly still has something to offer — over 700 games, to be exact. While it may not exactly be up to date with the biggest hitters in its library, the selection is still pretty impressive.
Utomik also has games that are no longer compatible with most PCs and all you have to do is download a portion of the game and then the service will stream the rest. Worth a look if you want to play older games at a very fair monthly price.
Pros: new games as part of the price, free trials. Cons: it’s EA, clumsy interface. Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, Steam Price: £3.99/£4.99 Free trial? No
Sony really missed a trick by saying no to EA Access to begin with. As much as we may all bag on EA, EA Access is a diamond that gives you access to a whole bunch of quality games for a low fee. Better yet, 6+ months after a game’s release, it winds up on EA Access so the library is constantly up to date.
There’s even a Steam version of it available. Unfortunately, though, you need a separate subscription for every platform you want to play EA Access on, which just isn’t worthwhile at all.
The only downsides are that it’s EA, which may instantly put off some folk, and that the interface for the app on Xbox One is absolutely terrible and unresponsive. If you’re unsure of a new EA game, you will usually be able to download a free trial: a move that has backfired on EA many times in the past.
Pros: great PC games at a low monthly price. Cons: it’s EA, another launcher. Platform(s): PC, Mac Price: £3.99/£4.99 Free trial? Yes
A very similar subscription service to EA Access, Origin Access has many of the same games as its Xbox counterparts but also a few other treasures that weren’t published by EA. Of course, there’s a catch: you have to use the Origin launcher to play them and cannot plug them into Steam.
The addition of a free trial means you should at least check it out, even if EA isn’t the most beloved publisher around at the minute. Heck, maybe if enough people play Dead Space then they may start working on a seq–sorry, that isn’t happening.
Pros: swag cheaper than normal. Cons: it’s just a lucky dip. Platform(s): N/A Price: £28/$28.95 Free trial? No
This subscription is different to any of the other services listed here in that it actually doesn’t feature any games, just the merchandise surrounding them. If you’re a total nerd for anything related to the biggest video game franchises, Loot Crate Gaming may have what you need with its subscription boxes.
However, as you don’t really know what you’re getting each month, it can be a total roulette. Sometimes you won’t receive merch that you really want, or stuff that just really isn’t up to scratch. Considering the steep price compared to everything else here, consider this geek subscription more of a luxury than a necessity.