Just like movies and television, gaming streaming services have taken over. Every gaming platform has at least one, with Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo building their gaming subscription services around multiplayer and a library of playable titles.
That’s right, even if you aren’t interested in a digital gaming library, it might be more cost-effective to subscribe to one just to access things like multiplayer — and you might even find a new favorite game along the way.
With cloud gaming and the PC version of Xbox Game Pass, subscriptions are a big part of PC gaming, but not yet the default. It helps that PC gamers can buy games a la carte from a variety of shops (Steam, GOG and so on), which means individual games are often discounted.
And if content subscriptions are the future of gaming, then cloud gaming subscriptions are the future of that future, as they require almost no specialized hardware, and generally work anywhere, from an iPad to a cheap Chromebook. For this roundup, we’re including both download and cloud-based subscription services.
That said, the road to cloud gaming isn’t always a smooth one. Google shut down its Stadia service in January. And the very first cloud-gaming service, On Live, started in 2010 and shut down in 2015.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate remains the gold standard, offering a catalog of games across console, PC and cloud (which works on practically any device). But Sony has revamped its PlayStation Plus service to be much closer to what Microsoft offers.
The top tier of services includes:
- Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
- PlayStation Plus
- Nintendo Switch Online
- GeForce Now
- Apple Arcade
Other players include:
- EA Play
- Ubisoft Plus
- Google Play Pass
- Amazon Luna
- Amazon Prime Gaming
For $5 to $15 a month, you get access to a catalog of EA games, but EA Play is also included in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
For $15 a month, you get access to Ubisoft games as a stand-alone PC subscription, or as a paid add-on to Stadia or Luna, and eventually Xbox.
Google Play Pass
Like Apple Arcade, the Google version for Android phones includes lots of games, but also other apps. It works on Android devices only.
Amazon Luna/Prime Gaming
Luna is Amazon’s cloud-based service, like Stadia, that offers different catalogs for between $5 and $18 a month. Prime members can stream some games at no additional cost, and also get access to “a rotating selection” of full downloadable games. Amazon also owns Twitch, so there’s deep built-in integration for streamers.
Google’s cloud-based service is no more, but you can still go back and read our launch review of Google Stadia.