Since the coronavirus pandemic first began, US video game sales have soared. Today, they’re still as popular as ever. If you’re someone who values your gaming time, you may want to consider signing up for a game streaming service to make the most out of your experience.
The best game streaming services offer options that can enhance your console experience, such as exclusive content, early access to anticipated game releases, and creative indie titles. If you aren’t sure you want to shell out for an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 later this year and you’re getting tired of your Xbox One or PS4, these services give you access to new and interesting games and features to keep you entertained.
Read on for information and advice on how to choose the best game streaming service for you, including which ones have free trial offers. One note: The services included here are those that let you download and play games locally, not in the cloud — so you won’t find Google Stadia or Amazon’s newly announced cloud gaming service Luna on the list.
Read more: Apple Arcade vs. Google Play Pass: Which $5 Game Streaming Service Wins?
EA/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET
Gaming giant Electronic Arts offers two gaming services: EA Play (formerly EA Access) which works with Xbox One and PS4 consoles, or EA Play Pro (formerly Origin Access and Origin Access Premier) which works with PCs. EA Play costs $5 a month or $30 a year. EA Play Pro is $15 a month or $100 a year. The new services are the same as before. It’s just a name change, according to EA’s website.
With a subscription to EA Play you’ll get early access to new releases with 10 hours of play time, unlimited access to the Play List, and a 10% discount on EA digital purchases. The subscription only applies to one platform however — Xbox One, PS4, Origin or Steam.
If you subscribe to EA Play Pro for PC, you’ll get early access to deluxe versions new releases, unlimited access to the Pro Play List, pro-level rewards and content, and a 10% discount on EA digital purchases.
Screenshot by Joseph Kaminski/CNET
A subscription to video game streaming platform PlayStation Now, Sony’s “Netflix for games,” gives you access to over 800 PS4, PS3 and PS2 games on the PlayStation 4 and PC. You can either download games to your console, or stream them. PS Now offers a seven-day free trial and then three plans — $10 per month, $25 for three months, or $60 for a year.
PS Now includes both exclusive games and popular hits, like Doom Eternal, Call of Duty: Warzone, The Last of Us, Just Cause 4 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. There are also online multiplayer games, sports games and family-friendly options available too. The game collections are updated monthly. To date, Iron Man VR and The Last of Us II have been delayed.
To get started, you need a PS4 or a PC, a PlayStation Network account, and a DualShock 3 or 4 controller. In addition to the PS Now subscription, PlayStation recommends an active broadband connection 5Mbps or higher. If you use a PC, you’ll need to download the PS Now app.
Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET
Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass offers unlimited access to over 100 games on console, PC or both. The subscription offers popular games including Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Bleeding Edge and NBA 2K20. The games are sorted into categories so you can easily find the right one for you, whether it’s family-friendly, action or games that are expiring soon from the platform. From there, just download the game to start playing.
There are different plans depending on your gaming needs, like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for $14.99 a month, which adds the perks of the gaming social network Xbox Live Gold and the Xbox Game Pass (typically $9.99 a month each). With this package, you get those benefits on the console and PC. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate now also supports mobile and tablet gaming from the cloud, though it’s still in beta.
Xbox Game Pass for PC is available on Windows 10 after you download the Xbox beta app from the Microsoft Store. For now, the PC game pass has an introductory price of $1 for the first month, then $10 a month.
In addition, as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, EA Play will be available on Xbox consoles— including the Xbox Series S and Series X. Starting in December, if you have an Ultimate of PC subscription, you can download and play games from the EA Play library on Windows 10 PCs at no additional cost.
Announced last June at E3, Ubisoft Plus is Ubisoft’s PC gaming subscription service that includes a library of over 100 games for $15 per month. As well as the catalog of games, you get early access to beta programs, Free Weekends, trials, DLCs, expansions and updates, and a discount on games you buy.
Browse PC games like Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Far Cry: New Dawn. After you find a game you want to play, activate it and it’ll appear in your games library on Ubisoft PC.
The Ubisoft Play desktop app isn’t available for Mac.
Apple Arcade, Apple’s $4.99 a month or $50 a year mobile gaming subscription service, launched last year. You can now play over 130 games across iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac and Apple TV devices. When you sign up, you can test Apple Arcade with a one-month free trial.
Read more: Apple Arcade Review: Mobile Gaming Gets a Massive Upgrade for $5 a Month
The service features exclusive single-player, multiplayer and AR games in various genres from developers such as Square Enix, Bandai Namco, Ubisoft, Capcom and Hipster Whale. Some of the top titles include nostalgic favorites like Pac-Man Party Royale, Rayman Mini and Frogger in Toytown, but there are also new hits including Crossy Road Castle and Ultimate Rivals: The Rink.
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 a more traditional console experience.
New games, and 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. One of the downsides is that some of the more anticipated titles — including Fantasian and The Pathless — have yet to be released.
GameClub/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET
GameClub is a mobile game subscription service full of back-catalog games that gives you access to over 100 titles, overviews, game histories, tips and strategies. For $5 a month you can play games with no ads or in-app purchases. No internet connection is required since the games are downloaded from the app store, not streamed. In addition, game progress saves locally to your device, you can share your subscription with family members and play on iOS and Android.
GameClub organizes content similarly to Apple Arcade. You can sort through different genres like RPG, strategy, adventure, action, tower defense, and arcade. In addition to old favorites and hidden gems, the app adds more titles regularly. Most recently, GameClub brought Big Journey, Bardbarian and Monster Wars onto the platform. Some games — like Mikey Shorts and Mage Gauntlet — are also compatible with PS4 DualShock and Xbox Wireless controllers via Bluetooth.
Ultimately, the choice between Apple Arcade, Google Play Pass and GameClub depends on what device you have, and which games you’re most interested in playing.
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