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Play Pass is Google’s new subscription service. It provides access to a catalogue of apps and games for $1.99 for the first 12 months and $4.99 after that. Play Pass came out just after Apple’s similar “all you can play” Apple Arcade subscription service, and you might think that Pass is Arcade’s Android counterpart. It’s not, really. Android users will recognize a familiar dynamic between the two subscription services. As usual, Apple maintains its gardens behind a wall with a higher price tag ($4.99 per month). The high price is theoretically justified by higher quality and curated experience. Android, here as elsewhere, represents a more populist approach: a lower barrier to entry, a lower price tag, and an experience closer to rummaging the local thrift shop than shopping at a boutique. So today we will talk about the reasons why you should or should not buy Google Play Pass.
Why you should buy Google Play Pass
1. It is cheap
Because it’s cheap! It’s really, really cheap for the first year. If you’re reading this site, you use your phone to play games. Since it’s your phone, you are also probably not too invested in which games you play. It’s your backup gaming system to kill time away from your computer or console.
2. No more painful Micro-transactions
For two bucks a month, you can stop sifting through the Play Store looking for a game worth playing. Gone are microtransactions and the hunt for a game good enough to justify looking at ads or paying to remove them. For the casual phone gamer, Play Pass is very efficient. The selection is large enough that you’ll find something to like, and because Google has applied some curating, you can trust that the game is not an ad scam. Without worrying about ads, you can also easily download and reject games without friction until you find something good enough.
3. Beautiful experience
Play Pass is also an easy buy if you have a tablet, controller setup, or both. Some of the best and biggest-name games are great with a large screen and controller, but terrible on a phone. Knights of the Old Republic, Titan Quest, and Terraria are headliners that sound great in theory but are really only good if you have some extra gear.
Why you should not buy Google Play Pass
1. Not enough “real” contents
The shine may wear off more quickly than you would expect. Selection is an issue. Although Play Pass has been frequently described as having over 350 games and apps, there were, at the time of writing, 234 games. Of these, 90 were in the “educational” and “puzzle” categories, cluttered with low-effort entries like colouring books and repeated versions of sudoku.
2. Fluid catalogue
Further, the catalogue is fluid. Games and apps that were available through Play Pass last week may not be available next week. This means that the excellent game that you find may turn out to be no more than a demo. Google is spoiled for choice, but it remains to be seen whether it will strike a balance between adding fresh new games without dropping old games before players have had their chance with them.
And the selection is not just a numbers game. There’s plenty of shovelware and a heavy bias toward similar-looking puzzle games. RPGs are woefully underrepresented. Of 14 “RPGs,” six are Choose Your Own Adventure games, four appear to be fantasy simulators for the pre-teen set (but don’t let me judge you for enjoying Rhythmic Gymnastics Dream Team: Girls Dance), and the others are Evoland, Stardew Valley, and the only true RPG, Knights of the Old Republic, which is a poor fit for mobile.
3. Poor selection
Finally, the selection does a poor job supporting indie games. The headliners made their fame on computers and are out of place on phones. Most of the rest are either lacklustre filler or now-classic standards that most of us have already played. What’s missing are the indie gems: games that take a risk, eschew microtransactions and would be easy to miss on the Play Store at large. They would be perfect for Play Pass if Google could bother itself to do some true curating.
Hope you are pretty much clear now that why you should or should not buy Google Play Pass. If possible, Give Play Pass a shot for a month. By the end of a month, you’ll either know that you love it or already be bored with the sliver of the catalogue that interests you. Right now, the ball is in Google’s court. Play Pass could become the primary way that everyone finds and plays games on their phones, but only if Google cares to make the effort. I can say that once my month is out, I’ll give Play Pass a pass. I don’t, however, regret the experiment.
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