PlayStation+ vs. Xbox Live Gold. A 2017 Tightwad Year in Review

Which Online Service Offered the Most Value?

2018 brings a new year for gaming, and for many of us, a new year for gaming resolutions. Maybe you will set out to beat more games than you buy (link to article). Or perhaps you’d like to be more present with family and friends by implementing a monthly game night. Regardless, we at Tightwad Gamer hope one of your resolutions is to PAY LESS, and PLAY MORE and this article aims to do just that!

One possibility to consider (or reconsider) when assessing your frugal gaming needs are online subscription-based services. These are typically required for online play if you have either a Sony or Microsoft console. But who has time to figure out whether these services are really worth it? (hint: we do).Today, specifically, we’d like to offer a detailed comparison on PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Live Gold (Plus vs. Gold). Plus and Gold are premium subscription services for Sony and Microsoft consoles. Xbox Live and PlayStation Network each provide access to messaging and apps, including video streaming like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Ultimately, games on both consoles require Plus and Gold to take advantage of online play and communication services. Each service however does offer another unique perk: free games and special discounts offered each month. This article intends to examine both services and make an conclusion on which offered the most value in 2017.

Let’s cover pricing and terms. PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold both have the same pricing structure: $9.99 for one month, $24.99 for three months, or $59.99 for one full year. Free games span the following platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox One for Xbox Live Gold and PS3, PS4, PSVR, and PSVita for PS Plus. All games can be played with an active subscription, but cannot be accessed if a subscription expires. There is one exception: 360 games are retained permanently once “purchased” through the Xbox store.

Methods:

Before we jump into all the details that follow, here are the overall questions I focused on in this comparison:

  1. Which service delivers the most value in free games based on Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)?
  2. Which service provides the highest quality games based on Metacritic aggregate scores, as part of the free games it offers each month?

Calculating total retail cost provides an objective variable to determine overall value. This will not include the price of the same game bought in physical format, either new or used (as these prices are variable). Discounts on purchases will be omitted in this comparison. Another variable we’ll use is Metacritic aggregate scores to provide broad insight on the quality of these games. The intention is to see if any differences emerge. Games lacking a metascore will not be calculated into the final average, for fairness sake.

With this information, let’s take a look at the list of complementary games made available by participating in PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold:

Xbox Live Gold

PlayStation Plus

Name: Price (MSRP): Metacritic Score: Name: Price (MSRP): Metacritic Score:
World of Van Helsing: Deathtrap $19.99 80 Day of the Tentacle* $14.99 84

January

The Cave $14.99 70 This War of Mine $29.99 78
Killer Instinct Season 2 Ultra Edition $34.99 85 Blazerush (PS3) $9.99 70
Rayman Origins $19.99 87 The Swindle* $14.99 73
Azkend 2* $7.99 67
Titan Souls* $14.99 74
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime $14.99 82 LittleBigPlanet 3 $19.99 79

February

Monkey Island 2 Special Edition $9.99 85 Not a Hero $12.99 74
Project Cars Digital Edition $29.99 81 Starwhal $11.99 78
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed $19.99 73 Anna: Extended Edition (PS3) $9.99 75
Ninja Senki DX* $4.99 64
TorqueL* $9.99
Layers of Fear $19.99 78 Disc Jam $14.99 72

March

Evolve: Ultimate Edition $39.99 74 Tearaway: Unfolded $19.99 81
Borderlands 2 $19.99 89 Earth Defense Force 2025 (PS3) $49.99 69
Heavy Weapon $9.99 77 Under Night: In-Birth (PS3) $39.99 80
Severed (Vita) $14.99 82
Lumo* $19.99 73
Ryse: Son of Rome $19.99 60 Drawn to Death $19.99 56

April

The Walking Dead: Season 2 $24.99 79 Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime $14.99 82
Darksiders $19.99 83 Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom (PS3) $14.99 50
Assassins Creed: Revelations $19.99 80 Alien Rage (PS3) $14.99 52
10-Second Ninja X* $9.99 76
Curses’N’Chaos* $9.99 70
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams $14.99 77 Tales from the Borderlands $14.99 86

May

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris $19.99 72 Abzu $19.99 78
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 $19.99 61 Blood Knights (PS3) $9.99 43
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga $19.99 80 Port Royale 3: Pirates and Merchants (PS3) $19.99 54
Laser Disco Defenders* $9.99 80
Type: Rider* $7.99
Speedrunners $14.99 84 Killing Floor 2 $39.99 75

June

Dragon Age: Origins $14.99 86 Life is Strange $19.99 85
Watch Dogs $29.99 78 Abyss Odyssey (PS3) $14.99 70
Assassin’s Creed 3 $19.99 84 WRC 5 FIA World Rally Championship (PS3) $29.99 62
Phantom Dust $14.99 81 Neon Chrome* $14.99 63
Spy Chameleon* $4.99 71
Grow Up $9.99 74 Until Dawn $19.99 79

July

Runbow $14.99 82 Game of Thrones $19.99 69
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days $14.99 63 Tokyo Jungle (PS3) $14.99 74
LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean $19.99 73 Darkstalkers Resurrection (PS3) $14.99 80
Element4l (Vita) $9.99 62
Don’t Die, Mr. Robot* $3.99 76
Slime Rancher $19.99 81 Just Cause 3 $59.99 73

August

Bayonetta $19.99 90 Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry $14.99 71
Trials Fusion $19.99 80 Super Motherload $14.99 65
Red Faction: Armageddon $29.99 71 Snakeball (PS3) $9.99 65
Downwell* $4.99 80
Level 22 (Vita) $6.99 69
Forza Motorsport 5 $39.99 79 Infamous: Second Son $19.99 80

September

Oxenfree $19.99 78 Strike Vector Ex $14.99 75
Hydro Thunder Hurricane $14.99 75 Truck Racer (PS3) $9.99
Battlefield 3 $19.99 84 Handball 16 (PS3) $19.99
We Are Doomed* $9.99 61
Hatoful Boyfriend* $9.99 72
Gone Home $19.99 85 Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain $19.99 93

October

The Turing Test $19.99 80 Amnesia: Collection $29.99 78
Rayman 3 HD $9.99 69 Monster Jam Battlegrounds (PS3) $9.99
Medal of Honor: Airborne $19.99 73 Hustle Kings (PS3) $9.99 81
Hue* $14.99 77
Sky Force Anniversary* $9.99 77
Trackmania Turbo $39.99 76 Worms Battlegrounds $24.99 62

November

Tales from the Borderlands $14.99 88 Bound $19.99 71
Nights Into Dreams $9.99 72 R-Type Dimensions (PS3) $9.99 82
Deadfall Adventures $39.99 43 Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic (PS3) $9.99 68
Dungeon Punks* $14.99 71
Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse (Vita) $24.99 72
Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide $39.99 77 Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition $29.99 72

December

Back to the Future: The Game $19.99 75 Kung Fu Panda: Showdown… $9.99 63
Child of Eden $29.99 84 Syberia Collection (PS3) $29.99
Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death $14.99 66 Xblaze Lost: Memories (PS3) $39.99 63
Forma.8 $9.99 78
Wanted Corp $11.99 59
Total: $1,034.51 Total: $1,228.28

Results

Average $/Month $86.21 Average $/Month $102.36
Average Metacritic Score: 77.22 Average Metacritic Score: 71.88
Results:

Plus:

  • (+): PlayStation Plus, in terms of retail value and quantity, offered 72 games at an estimated $1228.28 for various consoles on the PlayStation Network. This is a difference of $193.77, which is a clear margin between Xbox Live Gold.
  • (+): A unique factor for Plus is the Crossplay function that allows certain games to be played on both the PlayStation Vita and the PlayStation 4 through Cross Buy. Offers some additional games on the Vita that let you play on the go, as long as you have a Vita.
  • (+/-): Some games released each month are solely for PS3 or Vita (25 in 2017). If you don’t either of these, you’re out of luck. Still, six games a month free on average across PS3, PS4, Vita, and PSVR is pretty nice.
  • (-): PlayStation had a slightly lower Metacritic aggregate score of 71.88 for all free games offered in 2017.

Gold:

  •  Xbox Live Games With Gold offered 49 games for an estimated retail cost of $1034.51. In the comparison of retail price of free games, Gold was edged out by Plus, but $1000 of games is hardly something to scoff at. Still, for comparison’s sake, this results in a mark against Gold.
  • (+): All Xbox 360 games provided through Gold in 2017 are backwards compatible through the Xbox One console. They’re also free to keep if your membership expires.
  • (+): Gold edged out Plus in the metacritic comparison, winning with an aggregate score of 77.22.

Some of the finer details are noteworthy: both services offered a comparable number of quality first and third party games as well as large and small studio games. Multiple genres of games are also well-represented. However, the conclusions are still fairly subjective. If you’re on a budget and have one of these consoles, the value from free games you get from having one of these premium services is considerable. You’ll often get a number of quality games for your consoles each month.

Determination: 

  • If you have PS3, PS4, and Vita, then clearly you’ll get more mileage out of Plus. Annually, you may get more retail value than Gold, but you’ll still get 50% more games than Gold. Six games a month might be plenty for PlayStation gamers to enjoy.
  • If you’re looking for slightly better quality of games offered, Gold provided this in 2017. To be fair, 2018 might be a different story. However, if you also want to play all the games offered on a single console, The Xbox One with Gold is a worthy choice with its backwards compatibility.

Overall, this decision seems like a no-brainer if you already enjoy online console gaming. If not, you still get quite a good deal for only $60/year. Regardless, I’d love to hear your experiences about PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold and any other thoughts you might have in the comments below! Happy 2018 to you all! Have a New Year’s resolution? Perhaps starting a budget? The Tightwad Gamer Guide to Budgeting may be of use!

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