Both PlayStation and Xbox systems offer great games and plenty of features out of the box. But to get the most out of your PS4, PS5, Xbox One, or Xbox Series X|S, you need to sign up for their premium services: PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold, respectively.
If you’re considering buying a new console, its premium service could help you decide which one to get. Let’s compare PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold to see what they offer you.
PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold: Basics
Neither PlayStation Plus nor Xbox Live Gold is required for the basic functionality of your console. You can enjoy media apps like Netflix and Spotify, buy digital games, and play single-player titles without subscribing.
The PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S consoles all allow you to share certain benefits of one subscription with every user on the console. As long as you designate your console as your primary system and keep your subscription active, anyone using it can play games online without having to pay for their own subscription. For more, we’ve shown how to gameshare on PS5.
Note that in June 2022, PlayStation Plus expanded to include three different tiers. The base tier, Essential, is most similar to Xbox Live Gold. As a result, we’ll spend most of this comparison on PS Plus Essential and Xbox Live Gold, then cover the other tiers at the end.
Let’s walk through the primary benefits of both services.
While PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold still include some benefits for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, we exclude them from discussion here since those consoles are no longer current.
Access to Online Multiplayer
The key benefit to both PS Plus and Xbox Live is online multiplayer. On the PS4 and PS5, as well as the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, the relevant service is required for all online multiplayer in paid games, whether competitive or cooperative.
Thankfully, PlayStation and Xbox both let you enjoy free-to-play multiplayer games like Fortnite and Rocket League online without a subscription. Only paid games require membership for online play.
Free Games Each Month
Both PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold offer “free” games (included as part of the cost) with your subscription. Here’s how they work.
PlayStation Plus Free Games
Each month, PlayStation Plus subscribers get to add a few free games to their library. Since the PlayStation 5’s launch, there have been three games per month. Generally, two of them are PS4 games, with at least one PS5 title that may also have a PS4 version.
The new PS Plus games arrive on the first Tuesday of each month and stay available until the first Tuesday of the following month. As long as you add the games to your library when they’re free, they’re yours to keep as long as your Plus subscription stays active.
If you let your subscription lapse, you lose access to any free Plus games you grabbed. However, should you ever re-subscribe, you’ll get access to those games again.
On PS5, there’s also a unique benefit called the PlayStation Plus Collection. This allows you to play some of the PS4’s biggest hits on your PS5, thanks to backward compatibility. Like the other games, they’re free to download, but you lose access if your subscription lapses.
Some of the included games are Uncharted 4, God of War, Persona 5, and Resident Evil 7.
Xbox Games With Gold
Microsoft’s free game system is called Games with Gold. Historically, it provided two free Xbox One/Series X|S games, as well as two free Xbox 360 titles. Due to the backward compatibility of the Series X|S and Xbox One, all Games with Gold titles for older Xbox consoles are playable on the newer systems.
However, as of October 1, 2022, Microsoft no longer provides Xbox 360 titles as part of Games with Gold. For now, you can expect two titles that are playable on both Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
Like PS Plus, you’ll need to “buy” the games during their free period to add them to your library, and you’ll get locked out of your free games if you let your subscription run out. However, any Xbox 360 titles you claimed through Games with Gold in the past are yours to keep forever.
Games with Gold releases games on a staggered schedule. One free game launches on the first of the month and is available until the end of the month. The other game is free from the 16th of the current month to the 15th of the next month.
Digital Game Discounts
In addition to the free games, PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold both offer a variety of discounts on their respective digital stores.
Of course, there are differences in the frequency and volume of what’s available. It’s hard to compare the services directly in this area, as the sales vary in frequency and value. You might find a Gold-exclusive sale on the Microsoft Store, or deeper discounts with PlayStation Plus than non-members get.
These discounts extend to DLC and consumable items, so it’s not just full titles. With PS Plus, you’ll also sometimes get exclusive access to betas, plus some freebies like add-ons for various games or profile avatars.
Other Subscription Features
We’ve covered the main features above, but PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold both have a few other considerations to keep in mind.
Cloud Save Storage
PlayStation Plus gives you space to store your game saves in the cloud. Subscribers get 100GB for PS4 saves and another 100GB for PS5 saves. This space allows you to back up your precious save data, as well as easily transfer your saves to another console.
However, both the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S provide cloud storage without a subscription. Microsoft says “as your game library grows, so does your cloud storage,” so the exact amount isn’t known.
Party Chat and Share Play
On both PS4 and PS5, even without PS Plus, you can create parties to chat with your friends no matter what game you’re playing. Xbox consoles also allow you to do this; you don’t need Xbox Live Gold to join a party and chat with friends.
PlayStation also offers a pair of features called Share Screen and Share Play. Share Screen lets friends watch you play games, while Share Play lets someone else take control of a game—they can either take over from you or join as a second player in local play.
You need PlayStation Plus to host a Share Play session. Both people need PS Plus to use the “play a game together” feature.
PlayStation Game Help
The PS5 has a feature called Game Help that lets you see tips and tricks for supported games. It works without leaving your current game, so you don’t have to pull up a separate walkthrough in the browser.
This isn’t available on PS4, and requires a PS Plus subscription to use on PS5.
Automatic Updates and Other Perks
Finally, PS Plus enables some convenient features on PS4 and PS5, such as automatically downloading game updates in Rest mode. It also gives you priority shipping if you order physical goods from Sony’s online store.
The Cost of PS Plus and Xbox Live
The retail price of Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus Essential is the same: $60 per year. Thankfully, you can find occasional deals on both that let you save $10 or more on a yearly subscription. As a result, you shouldn’t ever have to pay full price, especially if you wait to renew your subscription until Black Friday or other seasonal sales.
You can join either service on a monthly basis, but this ends up costing a lot more. They both cost $10 for a month or $25 for three months. Unless you’re only looking to play online for a short time, paying yearly makes much more sense.
At the time of writing, Microsoft isn’t selling 12-month Gold subscriptions directly, but you can still buy them from GameStop, Amazon, and similar retailers.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and Higher PlayStation Plus Tiers
As mentioned above, we’ve looked at PlayStation Plus Essential here, but there are two higher tiers of the service. PlayStation Plus Extra ($100/year) includes access to hundreds of PS4 and PS5 games via the Game Catalog, while PS Plus Premium ($120/year) tacks on a classic library of titles from every PlayStation generation.
Similarly, Microsoft likes to push people towards its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription ($15/month). Like the higher PS Plus tiers, Game Pass includes full access to hundreds of games that you can download and play all you want as long as you’re a subscriber. Game Pass Ultimate includes Game Pass access on both Xbox and PC, plus Xbox Live Gold.
See our overview of Xbox Game Pass and comparison of the PlayStation Plus tiers for full details about each of them.
Depending on what you’re interested in, both of these options can provide more value than the base subscription alone. If you’re interested in even a few of the games available on the service for your console, it’s cheaper to play them through this service than to buy them outright.
We’ve compared Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus for a deeper look at both, including how their streaming offerings differ.
Premium Gaming With PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold
Now you know what PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold each offer, and can decide whether they’re worthwhile for you.
There’s no real “winner” between the two services, but they do have some small differences. Either one is required for online multiplayer, and the free games and discounts are effectively a wash. With free-to-play games and party chat now available at no cost on either system, there are fewer differences than ever.
Xbox including cloud saves without a subscription is nice, though PlayStation Plus does offer a few perks that Xbox doesn’t match. For those with a PS5, the PS Plus Collection is great for catching up on the PS4 library.
Whichever system you play on, you’ll get a lot of value out of either service.
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