Opinion post by
Phillip Prado

Google Play Pass, the company’s app subscription service, is finally here. The service already boasts more than 350 games and apps, but it doesn’t quite live up to the same standard as the similarly priced Apple Arcade. Luckily, it isn’t too late yet, and Google can still make sure Play Pass doesn’t suck with a little bit more curation.

What Google Play Pass can learn from Apple Arcade

Google Play Pass vs Apple Arcade featured image

We already wrote an entire article comparing these two brand new app subscription services. In short, what makes Play Pass better than Apple Arcade is that Google’s service offers more than just games. What makes Apple Arcade better than Play Pass is the exclusive game titles.

The Play Pass app selection is pretty overwhelming.

Play Pass also has more than three times as many apps to choose from than Apple Arcade. At first, that sounds awesome, but after a quick dive into the library, you realize that the app selection is pretty underwhelming.

The library has more word search games and voice recorder apps than anyone will know what to do with. Are you looking for a simple game of Sudoku? There are seven games to choose from. What about solitaire? There are 11.

Read also: 10 best games on Google Play Pass: Great value at $2 a month

Most of these apps were already free. The only difference now is they don’t have ads with your Play Pass subscription. When all is said and done, there are probably less than 50 great games and less than 20 great apps. Compare that to Apple Arcade’s approximately 100 highly curated games library, and the 350 mark doesn’t hold the same weight.

The problem with the Google Play Store

Huawei Mate 20 Pro Google Play Store

One of the biggest downfalls of the Play Store compared to the App Store has always been the quality of apps. Because of Google’s leniency with app developers, there are more bad apps in the Play Store than good ones.

The Play Store experience has definitely improved over the years. It was even recently redesigned in the name of app discoverability and accessibility. But it still has a long way to go if it wants to truly break free from that stigma. Achieving that will take more than a fresh coat of paint.

People are more willing to spend money on a great application library, even if there are fewer to choose from.

Play Pass has only just begun, and so far it’s a pleasantly well-curated experience. It’s not hard to find the gems amid the fillers, but this could all change in the blink of an eye if too many terrible apps make their way into the service. 

Don’t get me wrong, the more apps included in the service the better. It just means you get more value for your money. All I’m saying is people are more willing to spend money on a great application library, even if there are fewer to choose from.

The literal value of a product comes second to its perceived value. A successfully curated selection can dramatically increase that perceived value. The App Store and Apple Arcade prove that, and as mentioned before, Google could learn a lot from Apple in this regard.

Related: 10 best games on Google Play Pass: Great value at $2 a month

Titles like Star Wars: KOTOR, Terraria, Stardew Valley, and Monument Valley 1 and 2 are easy enough to find. But unique titles like Agent A: A puzzle in disguise or 80 Days could be a little challenging to weed out if you don’t already know they are good. Continuing to curate and push great titles like these in front of users will lift Play Pass out of the Play Store’s poorly curated shadow and develop a successful service.

Discoverability and developers could help

Google Play Pass apps games

Discoverability is key in a good software store. Right now, Play Pass almost functions like its own store within the Play Store. Featured games at the top of the Play Pass page and sections like “top games” and “recommended for you” do a pretty good job at helping users discover fun titles. It’s only when you start digging deeper that you see how confusing finding good lesser-known games can be.

Play Pass could easily become just another one of Google’s folded projects if it isn’t careful. To combat that, it needs to continue improving Play Pass application discoverability and partner with developers to bring higher quality applications to the service.

Apple Arcade exclusive titles like Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm are part of what’s going to set Apple’s service apart. Add that into a simple, easy-to-digest UI and you have a recipe for success.

Play Pass could easily become just another one of Google’s folded projects if it isn’t careful.

There are a few ways Google could achieve something similar. Working hard to entice high-quality game and app developers to release their products exclusively on Play Pass is one obvious option.

Another is by simply working with those same developers to include their apps at all, even if they aren’t exclusive. Better yet, including paid services like Todoist or Pocket Premium with your Play Pass subscription is a sure way to get people to sign up.

But really the most important way Google can increase Play Pass’ perceived value is to further develop the UI and curate the choice titles to the front. In the end, it doesn’t matter how many good apps there are if no one can separate them from the underwhelming ones. A well designed and personally-curated Play Pass page is really the only way that will happen.

If Google takes the time to make sure Play Pass doesn’t start looking like the rest of the Play Store, the service can really shine in the future. If Google loses control and Play Pass gets flooded with a bunch of nonsense, a bloated UI, and even more solitaire apps, then I have a hard time believing people will continue jumping on board.

Read next: How to sign up for Google Play Pass

Pro tip: A Google Play gift card is perfect if you want to make sure your first year of Play Pass is taken care of off the bat. Add at least a $25 gift card to your account if you sign up while the service is only $1.99 a month, and you can freely use the Play Pass service without giving it a second thought until next year. This is also a great option if you don’t want to add your credit card information to the Play Store. 

Buy a Google Play Gift Card

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