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Google Play Pass vs Apple Arcade: The battle of the curated app subscriptions
Despite mobile app revenues being higher than ever, no one can dispute that the consumer app store experience is pretty dire. Things are a bit better on Apple’s App Store than the Google Play Store, but finding new apps and games is difficult. Thankfully, new app subscription services seek to change all that. Both Google Play Pass and Apple Arcade offer access to tons of highly curated apps and games for a single monthly fee.
So which one is a better deal? Keep reading our Play Pass vs Apple Arcade comparison to find out which one comes out on top!
Apple Arcade offers killer new games
The biggest thing to consider when comparing Google Play Pass vs Apple Arcade is content. When Apple Arcade was first announced, it featured a lineup of some of the best mobile (and non-mobile) developers around. Sega, Bandai Namco, Square Enix, Devolver Digital, Snowman (Alto’s Adventure), and more have signed on to create games for the service that won’t be available on any other mobile platform.
Now that the service has launched, I must say they’ve delivered. There are so many excellent and beautiful games on Apple Arcade, with more to come later this Fall. I’ve spent time with only a dozen or so, but they range in genre from puzzle games to full on Breath of the Wild-style experiences, so there’s sure to be something for everyone.
Apple Arcade games mostly play like really good indie games.
The only real criticism of Apple Arcade content is that the games are all, well, mobile games. Most of them play like (really good) indie games rather than AAA titles, even if they are made by AAA studios. They do push the envelope for mobile gaming, but don’t expect a console-like experience.
Google Play Pass offers versatility
Google took a different approach with its Google Play Pass. Instead of having developers create new games for its app subscription service, it simply offers a list of high-quality, hand-picked games. The list includes Stardew Valley, Terraria, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Monument Valley, and many others. Check out the full list below.
These games are all fantastic, but none of them are new. If you’re already invested in the Android ecosystem, you might have purchased and finished these games long ago. There’s also no guarantee that new titles will be added to the Play Pass right after release, so the service will always be playing catch up.
On top of that, none of the Play Pass games are exclusive. Sure, Apple Arcade games can be released on PC or consoles, but they’ll never come to Android. If you’re judging the Google Play Pass vs Apple Arcade on exclusivity, there is no competition.
The Play Pass includes both premium games and premium apps.
To make up for that, the Play Pass will feature premium apps in addition to games. These include a number of premium productivity apps, plus a few that are free, but without ads or in-app purchases. This could seal the deal for those looking to do more with their phones than just play mobile games.
In total, there will be 100+ games this Fall for Apple Arcade, vs Google Play Pass’ 350+ apps and games.
Price and value
Both the Google Play Pass and Apple Arcade come in at $4.99 a month, which is truly a steal for the amount of content on offer. Some of the individual games included in Google Play Pass cost more than the subscription fee, so if you’re interested in those the service is a no-brainer.
As for which is a better value, it depends on what you’re looking to do. Google Play Pass includes both apps and games, so you get both entertainment and productivity.
Play Pass is cheaper -- but only with a yearly subscription.
Both are great value, but you can get some serious savings with a yearly subscription to Google Play Pass at just $1.99 a month (for the first year). Apple Arcade does not offer a yearly subscription, so you have to pay $4.99 month-to-month. If we’re comparing Apple Arcade vs Play Pass on price alone, the latter is much cheaper initially.
The good news is that you can try out both before buying: Apple Arcade features a 30-day trial, while the Google Play Pass trial is just 10 days.
Availability and offline play
Apple Arcade launched globally on September 19, and is now available in more than 150 countries. Google Play Pass launched on September 23, but only in the United States. More countries will be added soon, but for now the rest of the world is out of luck.
Apple Arcade also takes the cake when it comes to offline availability. Every single one of its games are available offline, whereas not all of the games and apps on the Play Pass offer the same. That said, both will offer more than enough offline usability for most people.
For multi-platform support, Apple Arcade once again ticks an extra box. Play Pass is only available on Android phones and tablets, while you’ll soon be able to enjoy Apple Arcade content on a Mac or Apple TV.
Until more countries are added to Google Play Pass, Apple Arcade is the only choice for most of the world. That could change in the next few weeks, but for now Apple’s service pulls ahead.
Game developers provide the true backbone of both Google Play Pass and Apple Arcade, so developer support is a key aspect to consider. Solid paths to monetization and reliable income are hard to come by in today’s game industry, and app subscription services are one way to address this.
In the case of Apple Arcade, at least some of the development cycle is funded directly by Apple. Apple has invested half a billion dollars in the service, which removes a lot of the risk for developers. They can just focus on making great games, with the freedom to try out experimental approaches.
Developer revenue is much more secure in Apple Arcade than Play Pass.
In fact, Apple Arcade is more of a gamble for Apple than developers. Considering the huge stacks of cash Apple has lying around, the Cupertino company should have no problem funding the service until it catches on with users. That said, it only includes games, so app developers will have to look elsewhere.
Play Pass provides no such assurances. Developers are on the hook for development costs prior to joining the service, meaning that the risk and pressure to monetize quickly is still there. Revenue is determined by ‘time spent’ and ‘engagement’, which doesn’t bode well for the short, narrative style games that have flourished on Apple Arcade.
However, Play Pass games and apps are free to pursue other methods of monetizing. This includes free, ad-supported versions that theoretically compete with the subscription version. Developers are even free to publish their apps and games on Apple’s App Store.
On the surface, Apple Arcade appears to be the better deal for game developers. We’ll have to wait and see the effect each has on developer revenue, but both services offer big advantages to developers.
Google Play Pass vs Apple Arcade: And the winner is…
When it comes to quality, exclusivity, and availability, Apply Arcade can’t be beat. Even so, Google Play Pass is a more versatile service, with far more games and apps to choose from. Both Google Play Pass and Apple Arcade are great value, even if you don’t plan on using more than a few apps or games available.
Ultimately, which one you decide to get will depend on which device you use. iPhone users should get Apple Arcade if they’re into games, and Android phone users should pick up Google Play Pass if they’re looking to get even more use out of their phones.
Are you looking to pick up the Google Play Pass or Apple Arcade? Let us know what you think of these new app subscription services below!