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As subscription-based, on-demand gaming services have gained popularity in recent years, both PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass have established their positions at the top of the market by offering a variety of content and great value for subscribers. There’s just one burning question demands to be answered: Which one is better?
It’s a tough one. Each has advantages over the other – PS Now has more attractive pricing plus its library of 700+ titles makes Game Pass’ library of around 200 look paltry in comparison, whereas Xbox Game Pass tends to offer more recent games as well as including first party titles on the day of release.
It’s hard to say which one is better overall, but taken one month at a time, we may get our answer. So join us as we look at what’s been added and what was removed from each service and declare which one came out on top in December 2020.
Sidebar: If you’d like to find out more about before venturing on a subscription to either PS Now or Xbox Game Pass, check out our feature examining the pros and cons of PS Now where we investigate how it stands up against its biggest competitors.
Well Sony has gone ahead and set the bar ludicrously high for any one new addition to either service this month with the permanent inclusion of Horizon: Zero Dawn – Complete Edition. Yes, the game that recently ranked at number one in both our list of the best PS4 exclusives of the generation and the best new IPs of the generation, along with its excellent Frozen Wilds expansion is there for the taking for all PS Now subscribers.
The PS Now game selection committee (which is definitely a thing) continues its trend of finding some absolute gold in the expansive mines of the PS4s catalogue with this month’s inclusion of Wreckfest – a racing/destruction derby hybrid with all the zany, high velocity thrills you need to keep you and your friends occupied for weeks, all accompanied by an incredible soundtrack of hard rock bangers. This is a must try for anyone who hasn’t already – I mean, the opening challenge is a destruction derby exclusively for lawnmowers! Yeah, I thought that would convince you.
Last month we sassed Xbox Game Pass for losing Darksiders 3, a title we’ve praised as being a top tier action game and one of the best hidden gems on the service. Well, PS Now didn’t hesitate to scoop it up and slot it into to the already colossal PS Now Library in December. Rounding out the month are Broforce, Stranded Deep and futuristic Souls-like The Surge 2.
A couple of big names walk out of the door this month – Metro Exodus and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard both reach the end of their limited time inclusion in the PS Now catalogue.
Xbox Game Pass
Well we said that Sony set the bar unreachably high with PS Now’s main inclusion, but Microsoft came as close to it as they possibly could by adding the game that took second place in our best new IPs of the generation feature – Control. Much like PS Now did with Darksiders 3, Xbox Game Pass wasted little time in scooping up this treasure shortly after its stay at the opposition camp ended.
Xbox Game Pass’ December lineup offers a selection of big name releases such as the day one inclusion of The Game Bakers‘ critically acclaimed adventure Haven, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age, Gang Beasts, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition and anime Souls-like Code Vein.
Rounding out the month are a slew of indies, racers and smaller budget offerings made up of Phogs!, Slime Rancher, Yes Your Grace, Call of the Sea, Monster Sanctuary, Unto the End, Assetto Corsa, Greedfall, Superhot: Mind Control Delete, Beholder Complete Edition, Monster Train, MotoGP 20, Neoverse and Wilmot’s Warehouse.
Eleven titles leave Xbox Game Pass in December though only a handful will be particularly missed. The two most notable losses are Mortal Kombat X and eFootball PES 2020 Standard Edition, both being hugely popular franchises that ooze mass appeal, but the rest of the field is made up of a pretty niche ensemble. These are Age of Wonders: Planetfall, Ticket to Ride, Pathologic 2, Untitled Goose Game, Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker, MudRunner, The Turing Test, Farming Simulator 17 and Fishing Sim World: Pro Tour.
Winner – Xbox Game Pass
We’ve said in the past that we always favour quality over quantity, but every now and then the quantity is just overwhelming, and this is one of those times. What do we mean by that? Let’s examine.
PS Now added six new games in December whereas Xbox Game Pass added 21. We’ve mentioned that although Game Pass rarely lags behind in the number of games added in a month, many of these new additions feel like filler and that was definitely the case here, with many looking and playing like free to play phone games. Then there are games that seem like strong additions but when you think about it, aren’t. For example, Skyrim is a big name to add to the service, but really, who’s that interested in Skyrim but hasn’t played it in the decade since its release?
Then there’s Dragon Quest 11. While we often go by critical and general con census when compiling these comparisons, I hope you’ll allow me this instance of pure subjectivity… While this should be a huge addition, being a well regarded long-time PlayStation exclusive now available on Xbox for the first time, I begrudge giving this any weight in this comparison simply because it is a terrible game. Tedious and drawn out with a repetitive, mindless battle system and a painfully predictable story, this game is the embodiment of all the stereotypes about JRPGs that non-JRPG players often hold.
So if you whittle down Xbox Game Pass to its eight or nine worthwhile additions and put them face to face with PS Now’s, then we have a war on our hands: Horizon: Zero Dawn with The Frozen Wilds vs. Control and Haven? The Surge 2 vs. Code Vein? Wreckfest vs. Assetto Corsa and Gang Beasts? It would be a coin toss, but of course, those ‘filler’ additions may not be a great influence on the outcome alone, but they still count for something and in cases like this, they come together to swarm the competition and hand Team Xbox a convincing win.
In the ‘Farewells’ section, PS Now lost two games in December versus eleven losses for Game Pass. While this should be an incredibly easy win for PS Now, those two losses were pretty noteworthy whereas the Game Pass clear out only had a handful of big hitters tossed to the curb, so the PS Now win in this section is a healthy one rather than a dominant one.
So yes, overall we’ve got to give the month to Xbox Game Pass, largely for the sheer volume of new titles gracing our virtual libraries.