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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 January 2021.
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.
Taking the headline spot in January is Ubisoft‘s open-world racer The Crew 2, a versatile, online multiplayer experience that sets players loose across the U.S via land, sea and air.
This month also saw the addition of the PS4 remasters of Bioshock, Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite – three fantastic games that broke new ground on release and are held in the highest regard by fans (Bioshock Infinite would probably make my all-time top ten, so I would recommend this trilogy to anyone yet to try it).
Elsewhere, PS Now fans have had their civilisation building skills put to the test with the addition of Frostpunk and Surviving Mars.
Just one, but it’s a big one. Underrated epic yarn Days Gone reached the end of its three month stay on the service and rode off into the sunset at the start of January.
Xbox Game Pass
We’re currently waiting on the biggest additions to hit the service as the day one inclusion of upcoming horror title The Medium is set for 28 January, as is the arrival of remastered versions of PS3 hits Yakuza 3, 4 and 5.
For now though, we’ve seen Game Pass follow the recent example of PS Now by recruiting superpowered brawler Injustice 2 into its ranks, with support coming from Torchlight 3, Desperados 3 and the PES 2021 Season Update. Rounding out the month are bite-sized indies The Little Acre and Donut County.
January saw one of the biggest and best single-player games of the last generation head out the door, in the form of Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition. Being the Royal Edition, this was farewell to not just the base game, but the handful of DLC story expansions, content updates and the sizable multiplayer mode added post-launch. Suffice to say, this one does some damage.
FF15 wasn’t the only cutting loss in January, as Game Pass also bid farewell to venerated fighter Tekken 7, critically acclaimed RPG/platformer hybrid Indivisible and Sword Art Online: Hollow Bullet.
That’s not all though, My Friend Pedro, Sea Salt, Death Squared and (after having it’s intended removal delayed by one month) Fishing Sim World: Pro Tour were all thrown out in the cold.
Winner – PlayStation Now
This one came as a surprise. As in, when the PS Now games were added at the start of the month, I thought this would be a fairly easy win for Xbox Game Pass. Why? Well, let’s break things down:
The Crew 2 is an excellent addition to the service – not only is a Ubisoft game a rare catch seeing us the company has its own games on-demand service with Ubisoft+, but a massive, online AAA game with broad appeal has the potential to keep a huge number of subscribers entertained for the whole month alone.
While the Bioshock trilogy would be a knockout punch, enough to hand PS Now a decisive win in other circumstances, there’s one reason that it’s not – THESE GAMES WERE ALREADY ON PS NOW! Sure, it’s the PS3 versions so they can only be streamed rather than downloaded, but still, it considerably waters down the strength of these additions. That being said, for anyone who is unable to stream games, hasn’t had a chance to play the DLC expansions that come with the PS4 remasters or just wants to replay them with the graphical boost, these are still pretty great additions.
As for Surviving Mars and Frostpunk, they’re both absorbing games that can provide dozens of hours of enjoyment and there’s no knock to either of them, but they are quite similar games, which means that while we usually commend Sony for the variety of their new additions, this month we got six new games covering three genres.
So, with these points in mind, how did Game Pass lose?
First some positives: Yakuza 3, 4 and 5 are excellent additions. While these remasters may not live up to the Yakuza games already on the service, they are a huge plus to those who have only fallen in love with the series in recent years.
While The Medium’s initial review scores haven’t set the world on fire, the fact that it’s a console exclusive added on the day of release is enough to consider it a strong addition.
The problem is when you lose about as many games as you add, it always begs the question: Has the library actually gotten worse than it was at the start of the month? In this case, we’d say yes. This is unlikely to bother long-time subscribers who have had plenty of time to play the discarded games, but for newer or potential subscribers, it feels like a pretty weak month.
So, despite there being cause for criticism of the PS Now lineup, we’re going to have to give it the win for January 2021. After all, there’s some gold in that lineup and while its opposition’s new offerings have a lot to offer, the weight of the ‘farewell’ section was just too much.