Value Comparison: Google Play Pass vs Apple Arcade

  • Google Play Pass: Inexpensive access to casual apps

  • Apple Arcade: Similarly casual-friendly, but offers more exciting titles

  • Stadia and other Google services add up to be quite expensive. Subscriptions are an increasingly popular monetization model that is not consumer-friendly.

Comparison Table

Google Play PassApple ArcadeGoogle Stadia
$1.99 per month (promotion) $4.99 per month (regular)$4.99 per month$9.99 per month
Focused on mobile appsMultiplatformMultiplatform
Mixed bag of titlesExclusive and early-access titlesSmall yet high-quality library
Online and offline playOffline playOnline only
Compatible with any Android deviceLimited to Apple devices, newer titles will need latest iphone to playLifts hardware limitations by using Google's equipment

Google Play Pass Overview

  • $1.99 per month (promotion) $4.99 per month (regular)
  • Focused on mobile apps
  • Mixed bag of ~350 titles-- some gems like Stardew Valley/Terraria/Monument Valley 2, others are random kid’s games and productivity apps
  • US only for now
  • Games are not exclusive, can be standalone purchases
  • Removes ads and microtransactions. Games that had DLC or other expansion-style content will simply have the content unlocked (but you can’t do this with gacha titles)
  • Can be shared with up to five users

In short, this only has value if you actually plan to play several of the games in the bundle. Otherwise, you’re out $24 for the first year, which is enough to buy the greatest hits on their list. (subsequent years are $60 each) Google Play Pass is excellent for sampling, but pales compared to individual purchases for those who want to play games more in depth.

For discerning players out there, I’d save my cash and purchase only a few apps a year. If you're the head of a family though and can share the service with multiple users, the value of Google Play Pass goes up immensely.

Apple Arcade Overview

  • $4.99 per month
  • Multiplatform
  • Exclusive and early-access titles
  • Focused entirely on games
  • Accommodates offline play
  • Can be shared with up to five users
  • Some titles will be exclusive to iPhone 11

Apple Arcade is more deliberate in that its titles are developed for the service and therefore roughly equal in depth and play time. The yearly cost is higher at $60, but it’s a more curated library for those seeking a selection of decent games to access.

There are two big reasons not to get Apple Arcade, though:

  • Newer releases will require the updated hardware of the iPhone 11, which is an expensive phone upgrade.
  • Many Apple Arcade games become available on Steam and other platforms after a short period. If you have your eye on a few titles, it's worth considering outright purchase instead of paying $60/year.

What About Stadia?

  • $9.99 per month

  • Multiplatform

  • Subscribers pay a monthly fee to stream from Google’s hardware

  • Individual game titles must be bought still. That said, game titles bought through stadia will have free streaming included 

  • Players need a strong internet connection at all times (but on the flip side, minimal storage is used). This limits availability in certain areas. 

  • Eliminates hardware limitations of consoles and even PC. Developers have a lot more power to work with and users can tap into very high-end graphics at a lower initial cost.

Stadia is quite clearly for a different audience than Google Play Pass, but its existence as a gaming subscription service still warrants comparison. Neither of Google's offerings have exclusive titles, but they are quite accessible hardware-wise, with any Android phone being compatible. The main drawback to them is the lack of bundling options. 

A number of Google's services would make for strong discount bundles, but the fact that services remain separate keeps all their apps quite expensive. A $15 per month subscription that includes say, Stadia, Play Pass, Youtube Red, 2TB of Drive storage and Google Play Music would be an absolute steal. But instead, those five services cost almost $50 per month, which is a significant expense. The Amazon Prime model of fixed pricing for an array of services would serve well in this situation. 

The Decline of Ownership

To me it's a scary feeling that something I might enjoy playing can suddenly be taken away with the snap of a finger the next day. The trends in video games we play today will not be popular forever. How long does each game last on these services? If streaming services like Stadia have you pay for the games full price, will it happen to Game Pass and PS Now?


The 'Holy Grail' of software is recurring income, meaning you make a payment to that company every month instead of every few years.

This is a -horrible- thing for consumers and only benefits the companies. It is Microsoft's ultimate plan for Windows. (A monthly fee to use your computer).

There is no long term upside to the consumer. Only the downside of paying forever for something you used to be able to buy.

Source: Discussion Thread

If anyone has found the Holy Grail of monetization, it’s gacha games-- so it’s not unexpected that other game developers follow suit.

However, many players have anxiety around permanent ownership of their games, which is a valid question with any subscription. Google Stadia is especially concerning, since game purchases are hosted server-side and remain within Google’s possession even after purchase. Google does promise that games removed from their store will remain playable, but the truth is that physical copies of games are hard to beat in terms of lasting value. 

I’d argue that collecting games and playing them are two separate hobbies, but truthfully the average consumer is worse off with the shift away from physical ownership. When considering subscriptions like Apple Arcade or products like Stadia games, the key question is what value they provide in the moment. Entertainment doesn’t have to be an investment, and sometimes services are most enjoyable. It all depends on what you value as a consumer-- if you’re like me and take months to finish a single Switch game, these probably aren’t a good value. But for trying a variety of games and having access to endless options, game subscription services make variety easier than ever.


Content Editor and News Writer at GamePress! I write about mobile games, maintain databases, and draw fanart of said games. Sometimes I play them too. Native to Austin, loves cacti and hiking.