As online gaming has become a central selling point for consoles, we’ve seen every distributor add a fee to their online services. Even Nintendo, which has been a long-standing bastion against online fees, has eventually succumbed to the idea of a subscription service.
If you’re fresh on the gaming scene, this can all be a little confusing as to what each console asks for and what you get with each. Some services even provide additional bonuses that might be worth your consideration when choosing which console to take online.
The Nintendo Switch’s online service is one of the least exciting, but it’s also the cheapest of the bunch. You can get a monthly subscription for $3.99/£3.49. If you decide to go yearly instead, you pay an annual fee of $19.99/£17.99, which is a big savingS versus subscribing on a monthly basis.
The Switch also has a yearly plan for $34.99/£31.49 called the “Family Membership.” This allows you to invite seven more Nintendo accounts into a family membership, all of which will receive the benefits of the online service. You don’t even need each member to use the same console – even if everyone uses their own, they still get the benefits.
There are some fun games that come with the Switch’s online service. For one, the critically-acclaimed Tetris 99 is a Switch exclusive, free to play when you purchase an online membership. There’s also a free NES collection you can play by yourself or with a friend over the Internet.
Unfortunately, due to the Switch’s less powerful hardware, you’ll find less of the traditional free-to-play games in the library. The Switch does have Fortnite and Warframe, for instance, but games such as Apex Legends are currently missing. As such, it’s worth doing research on the free games you want to play to ensure it’s on the Switch – or, at least, having a port developed.
The PS4 has a more expensive online plan than the Switch. Called the PS Plus plan, it has monthly fees of $9.99/£6.99, while a yearly subscription comes to $59.99/£49.99. However, you’ll notice a few upgrades over the Switch’s online functionality as a result.
For one, you get free games every month as part of the PS Plus plan. At tHe time of writing, these are two games that are announced on the second of every month and are given free of charge to anyone with an active subscription during that month, regardless of whether it’s a new subscription or the continuation of one. The games have been pretty good in the selection, with Detroit Become Human and Sonic Mania being a few examples.
PS Plus also gives subscribers exclusive deals on games in the store. Sometimes the store will give sales only to PS Plus members, and sometimes there will be a “double sale” where non-subscribers get a small discount while subscribers get a larger one.
PS Plus also has a very cool “Share Play” feature. If someone has a PS Plus membership, they can invite their online friends to watch them play and even take over the controller for a bit. Each sharing session only lasts an hour, but you can remake the session as many times as you like. If both players use ethernet connections with fast Internet speeds, the lag during Share Play is surprisingly low.
The PS4 also has an additional subscription model, called PS Now, which allows players to stream games directly to their console or PC instead of downloading them to the storage drive. This includes some games that you can’t play physically on a PS4, such as PS3 games. It comes in at $19.99/£12.99 a month, or $99/£84 a year.
Xbox One and PC
Microsoft’s Xbox Live offering seems, at first, pretty good. They share similar features to PS4, such as up to four free games a month and deals that only apply to subscribers. The price is identical at $9.99/£6.99 a month and £49.99/$59.99 a month. However, there’s one thing you should look into when going online with the Xbox One, and that’s the Game Pass.
The Game Pass is priced at the same cost at Xbox Live and unlocks a library of over 100 games to play on either your Xbox One or PC. This allows you to download and play games such as the Borderlands series, Monster Hunter World, Football Manager 2019, and Mortal Kombat X at no additional cost. You can see the current library on the Game Pass Library page.
If you want both Xbox Live and the Game Pass, you can buy both in a discounted bundle for $14.99/£10.99. This allows you to play all the games in the library as well as unlock their multiplayer modes.
Which Should You Get?
If you’re looking for budget-oriented gaming, or you want to supply an entire family with online gaming, the Switch is the clear winner. It’s cheap monthly and yearly price, plus its generous family membership plan, allows you to get online for less.
If you want a standard online fare, PS Plus is a good choice. Its average price and stable service is pleasing, and the Share Mode feature is great fun for playing split-screen games over an Internet connection.
The Xbox One and PC plan is the ultimate choice for gamers who want more. If you’re going for the bundle, you end up paying a little more than the other options; however, with the very impressive games library, the free games every month via Xbox Live and online play for every game you play, you may never have to actually buy a game ever again!
Each console has online plans that meet a specific demand. Whether you’re someone who dabbles in games every so often or someone who wants to put both their console and gaming PC to work, there’s something for everyone.
Which plan suits you most? Let us know below!