Which Has Better Freebies -- PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold?

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Unlike in the 1990s, when we got free games via magazine demo discs and registering our consoles online, subscription services now meet our appetite for new titles. PlayStation owners can subscribe to a service called PS Plus, whereas Xbox owners have the Xbox Live Gold series.

Both offer free games every month to owners of the PS4 and Xbox One, as well as last-generation systems like the PS3, PS Vita and Xbox 360. You also need to subscribe to these paid services if you want to play online.

PS Plus began life on the PS3 in June 2010 as an optional alternative to the free PlayStation Network. The Microsoft equivalent, Xbox Live Gold, started giving games with their subscription package in 2013. PlayStation may have been first out of the starting block, but how good are the freebies on offer when compared to its American rival? We look at all the games both services have offered since January 2017 to decide who gets the better deal.

January PS Plus/Xbox Live Gold Comparison

In January, PlayStation 4 owners were treated to an HD remaster of LucasArts’ classic Day of the Tentacle Remastered, the depressing survival sim This War of Mine: The Little Ones, the randomly generated action platformer The Swindle as a cross buy with PS3 and PS Vita, puzzler Azkend 2 and Devolver Digital’s Titan Souls as a cross buy with PS Vita. If you owned a PS3, you could also pick up futuristic racer Blazerush.

Xbox One owners received a new IP from Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle creator Ron Gilbert in The Cave, as well as Ubisoft’s platforming hero in Rayman OriginsThey also go the hot-selling fighting game Killer Instinct: Season 2 and the intriguing World of Van Helsing: Deathtrap, which is described in the Xbox store as “A truly unique mixture of tower defense games and action-RPGs”. The Cave and Rayman Origins are backwards compatible with Xbox 360 consoles.

PS Plus Games Price Xbox Live Gold Games Price
Day of the Tentacle Remastered 
(8/10)
$14.99  World of Van Helsing: Deathtrap
(8/10)
$19.99
This War of Mine: The Little Ones 
(8/10)
$29.99 Killer Instinct Season 2 Ultra Edition 
(8/10)
$39.99
Blazerush 
(6/10)
$9.99 The Cave 
(7/10)
$14.99
The Swindle 
(7/10)
$14.99  Rayman Origins
(8/10)
$14.99
Azkend 2
(6/10)
$7.99   -- --
Titan Souls 
(7/10)
$14.99   -- --
Total Games: 6
Average Score: 7/10 
Total Savings: $92.94 Total Games: 4 
Average Score: 7.75/10
Total Savings: $89.96

 

The Verdict: Microsoft

Sony is the loser for this month, as Xbox owners received The Cave rather than an HD remake of a really old game, and its titles covered almost every genre. Azkend 2 was a particular disappointment, as the graphics and gameplay are no better than a free to play puzzler I would play on my smartphone. That's not to mention that the average score of the game's on offer was higher for Microsoft, which offset the extra $3 in savings PS4 players received. 

February PS Plus/Xbox Live Gold Comparison

LittleBigPlanet 3 was the AAA title of February, with other titles including Devolver Digital’s pixelated and gory shooter Not a Hero, the insane fighter Starwhal, where you play as a giant whale with a unicorn horn against garish ‘80s backgrounds, and the super-difficult platformer Ninja Senki DX available as a cross-buy with PS Vita. PS3 owners were treated to Alpine horror Anna: Extended Edition and their version of Starwhal.

Microsoft seems to have gotten the big franchises on board again this month, with Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Project Cars (both available as paid titles for PS4) as free titles for Xbox Live Gold subscribers. For any fans of old-school LucasArts games, Monkey Island 2 was a special treat. Indie co-op Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime was later released as a free game on the PS Plus service in April 2017.

PS Plus Games Price Xbox Live Gold Games Price
LittleBigPlanet 3
(9/10)
$19.99 Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
(8/10)
$14.99
Not a Hero
(8/10)
$12.99 Project Cars
Digital Edition

(6/10)
$29.99
Starwhal
(8/10)
$11.99 Monkey Island 2: Special Edition
(8/10)
$9.99
Anna: Extended Edition
(9/10)
$9.99 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
(8/10)
$19.99
Ninja Senki DX
(7/10)
$4.99  -- --
TorqueL
(7/10)
$9.99  -- --
Total Games: 6
Average Score: 8/10 
Total Savings: $69.94 Total Games: 4 
Average Score: 7.5/10
Total Savings: $74.96


The verdict: Microsoft

Although Sony didn't include a “shovelware” title as a free game like in January, Microsoft is the victor again by covering the nostalgic gamer with Monkey Island 2, the Star Wars fan with Unleashed, and the casual gamer with Project Cars.

LittleBigPlanet 3 is nearly 3 years old and had a game-breaking bug that has only very recently been ironed out by patches. I feel it is one of the weaker entries in the franchise, perhaps only saved by its user-generated content (such as the excellent recreation of Dark Souls).

Also, Ninja Senki DX is nostalgic in the worst sense; as like Super Meat Boy, it completely punishes you for missing jumps, while the mechanic is not pixel perfect. Furthermore, you're saving around $10 more with the Microsoft bundle. Easy decision. 

March PS Plus/Xbox Live Gold Comparison

March was a good month for PS Plus subscribers, with the excellent and innovative platformer Tearaway Unfolded available for free, as well as the multiplayer game Disc Jam, which plays as if Wipeout had Ultimate Frisbee matches. That was on top of the critically acclaimed isometric platformer Lumo. PS3 owners could pick up anime fighter Under Night In-Birth Exe and 2013 FPS Earth Defense Force 2025, in which you battle giant alien ants. PS Vita owners were treated to Vita version of Lumo and indie action RPG Severed.

Xbox owners got Aspyr’s survival hit Layers of Fear, monster hunter Evolve, highly praised FPS Borderlands 2, and indie shooter Heavy Weapon.

PS Plus Games Price Xbox Live Gold Games Price
Tearaway Unfolded
(9/10)
$19.99 Layers of Fear
(8/10)
$19.99
Disc Jam
(8/10)
$14.99 Evolve Ultimate Edition
(6/10)
$49.99
Lumo
(8/10)
$19.99 Borderlands 2
(10/10)
$19.99
Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late
(10/10)
$39.99 Heavy Weapon
(8/10)
$9.99
Earth Defense Force 2025
(9/10)
$49.99  -- --
Severed
(10/10)
$14.99  -- --
Total Games: 6
Average Score: 9/10 
Total Savings: $159.94 Total Games: 4 
Average Score: 8/10
Total Savings: $99.96

 

The verdict: Sony

This month, Microsoft seems to have dropped the ball as the variety of games and big names just isn't there. Although Borderlands 2 has an appreciative fan base, at this point, it is five years old, meaning that it is likely its fans have bought it already. The indie side scrolling shooter Heavy Weapon, like PlayStation’s Azkend 2, looks like a cheap mobile game and quite frankly, is a rip-off at the $9.99 normal retail price. 

PS Plus manages to cover a broader audience of gamers with its line-up and provide niche but good quality titles for its PS3 and PS Vita customers, and the store ratings prove the quality of these titles.

April PS Plus/Xbox Live Gold Comparison

April saw the PS Plus launch of the fun competitive shooter Drawn to Death, in which you star as a character entirely within the confines of a (very artistic) schoolboy’s sketchbook. The paper textures, much like Tearaway, are very realistic, and the humor in the game is very on-point and funny. PlayStation subscribers also got Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, which Xbox got in February. 10 Second Ninja X and Curses n' Chaos were both available as cross buys with PS Vita.

Microsoft owners got Ryse: Son of Rome, which is basically their version of God of War, Telltale’s tearjerker The Walking Dead: Season 2, action RPG Darksiders, and 2011’s Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.

All games included in the Xbox Live Gold offer, with the exception of Ryse: Son of Rome, could be purchased on Sony's rival console.

PS Plus Games Price Xbox Live Gold Games Price
Drawn to Death
(7/10)
$19.99 Ryse: Son of Rome
(9/10)
$19.99
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
(9/10)
$14.99 The Walking Dead: Season 2
(6/10)
$24.99
10 Second Ninja X
(8/10)
$9.99 Darksiders
(9/10)
$19.99
Curses ‘n Chaos
(8/10)
$9.99 Assassin’s Creed Revelations
(9/10)
$19.99
Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom
(8/10)
$14.99  -- --
Alien Rage
(9/10)
$14.99  -- --
Total Games: 6
Average Score: 8.6/10 
Total Savings: $84.94 Total Games: 4 
Average Score: 8/10
Total Savings: $84.96

 

The verdict: Sony

Interestingly, this month, the bundle offered by each company works out to about the same in savings and user ratings. That said, Microsoft may have got Ubisoft to put its most famous franchise on their subscription service, but Sony has arguably shown innovation in releasing a relatively unknown game Drawn to Death within the PS Plus lineup. Although the game has received some mediocre reviews from sites such as Polygon, it is at least trying to stand out from the crowd. 

May PS Plus/Xbox Live Gold Comparison

In response to Xbox Live Gold’s Telltale Walking Dead freebie in April, PS4 owners got Telltale’s take on the Borderlands universe with Tales from the Borderlands. Quirky puzzle platformer Type: Rider was also available, which teaches you about the history of font types and printing while you make sure you don't get crushed by various objects. On top of that, subscribers also received the underwater adventure game Abzu. PS3 subscribers were treated to gothic hack and slash Blood Knights and swashbuckling fun with Port Royale 3.

Microsoft has again got the triple AAA third-party games on board, with Square Enix’s take on the Tomb Raider franchise in Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris available for free to Xbox Live Gold members. Subscribers were also treated to Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II.

PS Plus Games Price Xbox Live Gold Games Price
Abzu
(9/10)
$19.99 Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams – Director’s Cut
(7/10)
$14.99
Tales from the Borderlands
(9/10)
$14.99 Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
(7/10)
$19.99
Blood Knights
(9/10)
$9.99 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
(9/10)
$19.99
Port Royale 3: Pirates and Merchants
(9/10)
$19.99 LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
(8/10)
$19.99
Laser Disco Defenders
(8/10)
$4.99  -- --
Type: Rider
(8/10)
$7.99  -- --
Total Games: 6
Average Score: 8/10 
Total Savings: $77.94 Total Games: 4 
Average Score: 7.75/10
Total Savings: $74.96


The verdict: Microsoft
 

Sony may have tried to please a variety of gamers, from casuals with Type: Rider to shooter fans with Alienation, but once again, Microsoft has the better selection of games, catering for the younger Xbox fan with Lego Star Wars and the Battlefront players with The Force Unleashed II

June PS Plus/Xbox Live Gold Comparison

PS Plus subscribers on PS4 were lucky enough to get the complete season of Life is Strange for free, which was recently nominated as Best Original Property at the 2016 Gaming BAFTAs. In this game, you control high school teenager Max Caulfield, who finds out she can rewind time and change past events. Space shooter Killing Floor 2 was also available as well as shooter Neon Chrome. PS3 subscribers could pick up action scroller Abyss Odyssey (not to be confused with PS1 classic Abe’s Odyssey) and rally simulator WRC 5.

Microsoft seems to have agreed a good Xbox Live Gold deal with Ubisoft, as again their IPs feature prominently this month. Both Assassin’s Creed III and Watch Dogs feature, as well as hit RPG Dragon Age: Origins.

PS Plus Games Price Xbox Live Gold Games Price
Killing Floor 2
(9/10)
$39.99 Speedrunners
(7/10)
$9.99
Life is Strange
(10/10)
$19.99 Watch Dogs
(8/10)
$29.99
Abyss Odyssey
(9/10)
$14.99 Assassin’s Creed III
(8/10)
$19.99
WRC 5: World Rally Championship
(8/10)
$29.99 Dragon Age: Origins
(9/10)
$14.99
Neon Chrome
(8/10)
$14.99 DLC for Phantom Dust (game rated 9/10) $14.99
Spy Chameleon
(8/10)
$4.99  -- --
Total Games: 6
Average Score: 8.6/10 
Total Savings: $124.94 Total Games: 5 
Average Score: 8.2/10
Total Savings: $89.95 (including DLC)


The verdict: Microsoft

Although an excellent game, not even Square Enix’s new IP could save PS Plus in June. Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold may not have the best average score, but it does for a broad audience by getting more well-known franchises as free games in comparison to Sony.

July PS Plus/Xbox Live Gold Comparison

From July 4, Telltale’s take on Game of Thronesparty game That’s You, horror adventure Until Dawnand indie title Don’t Die Mr. Robot are all free. People seem to either love or hate Telltale games, and in some ways, Until Dawn emulates this with its quick time event storytelling. Sony is again trying to be creative in rolling out That’s You to allow people to experience PS4 gaming on their smartphone.

Xbox owners can still download Watch Dogs this month, along with Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days, platform racer Runbow (from July 16) and Lego Pirates of the Caribbean. Also available on PS3 and PC, Kane and Lynch 2 plays better than the original and has a solid multiplayer mode.

PS Plus Games Price Xbox Live Gold Games Price
Don’t Die, Mr. Robot!
(8/10)
$3.99 Grow Up
(7/10)
$9.99
That’s You!
(8/10)
$19.99 Runbow
(6/10)
$14.99
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series
(9/10)
$19.99 Watch Dogs
(8/10)
$29.99
Until Dawn
(9/10)
$19.99 Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
(6/10)
$14.99
Tokyo Jungle
(9/10)
$14.99 Lego Pirates of the Caribbean (8/10) $19.99
Darkstalkers Resurrection
(9/10)
$14.99  -- --
Total Games: 6
Average Score: 8.6/10 
Total Savings: $73.95 Total Games: 5 
Average Score: 7/10
Total Savings: $89.95

 

The verdict: Sony

Sony has got some great IPs this month and their subscribers save more dollars in the long run. Until Dawn is a great game and Don't Die, Mr. Robot is a cute, quirky title, similar to Vib Ribbon in the original PlayStation era. 

However, they really need to get their act together in securing third-party developers for their PS Plus subscription program. Game of Thrones is a good Telltale game, but if Telltale games don’t appeal to you, there’s little else here to keep your interest, as arguably Until Dawn is similar to that style of "choose your own adventure" gameplay.

 

Overall verdict: Microsoft

With the exception of March and April, Microsoft’s subscription service consistently rolls out great third party titles, preferring quality over quantity. Most of Sony’s games, with the exception of Telltale's range of games and Life is Strange, are experimental first party titles. The rest are usually good indie games or remasters of older titles, such as Day of the Tentacle and last year’s Grim Fandango. Given that Sony’s reputation and finances were damaged by the 2011 PlayStation Network hack, this is perhaps their way of cost cutting. That said, considering most of the big-ticket Xbox Live Gold titles are available on PlayStation, it seems odd that Sony hasn’t tried to snap these up by making deals with the developers like Microsoft has.

Given that Sony’s reputation and finances were damaged by the 2011 PlayStation Network hack, this is perhaps their way of cost cutting. That said, considering most of the big-ticket Xbox Live Gold titles are available on PlayStation, it seems odd that Sony hasn’t tried to snap these up by making deals with the developers like Microsoft has.

Maybe Sony thinks they have won already with their exclusive games; Horizon: Zero Dawn, Nioh, and Nier: Automata are all great PS4 exclusives which the Xbox One simply doesn’t have. However, by not securing decent subscription service games, Sony is losing subscribers and potentially PS4 owners.

What do you think? Are you a PS4 owner who feels you get a raw deal from your subscription, or do you think you have it better than Xbox Live Gold subscribers? Let us know in the comments below!

Published Jul. 5th 2017

Contributor


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