Google Play Pass is an Apple Arcade competitor for $5 per month

(Image credit: Google)

Google Play Pass, an obvious Apple Arcade competitor, is now live - and offers 350 games and non-game apps for $5 per month. But to sweeten the deal, you can try it for free for 10 days - after which you can sign up for a discounted $2 per month for a full year before the regular price kicks in.

Unfortunately, it’s only out in the US, and is unclear when the service will be available elsewhere.

While Google teased that Google Play Pass was coming in early September, the company was coy with details. But now that it’s surprise-launched the service - conspicuously soon after the public release of Apple Arcade, which it’s clearly competing against – we know almost everything. 

How it's like, and unlike, Apple Arcade

It’s no accident that Google Play Pass launched so soon after Apple’s large-catalog mobile gaming-focused subscription service, but they do differ. 

For one, Google Play Pass’ subscription library is larger, with 350 games and non-game apps - a departure from Apple Arcade’s games-only catalog. But whereas the latter’s selection criteria strictly allows only new titles, Google Play Pass includes a bunch of existing games, including beloved classics like Limbo, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Monument Valley 2, Terraria, and others.

And yet, iconic as it is, KOTOR came out in 2003 - there’s something to be said for only including select new titles in your service for a more curated experience. In our short time with the service, we already found the Apple Arcade catalog tough to sift through. Browsing over 300 is a taller order. 

We don’t know the full list of games and apps appearing on Google Play Pass, either, so it’s tougher to size it up to Apple’s service. Two thirds of the catalog are games, while the apps include the likes of AccuWeather and Hi-Q recorder.

Like Apple Arcade, games appearing on Google Play Pass are ad-free and have no in-app purchases. If you’d bought a game before that now appears on the service, you’ll find all its monetization removed and extra content fully unlocked, according to The Verge.

Google Play Pass is multi-platform like Apple Arcade, and supposedly works with mobile, laptop, and tablet devices with Play Store version 16.6.25 or Android 4.4 and newer, per the official Play Pass FAQ

The future of Google Play Pass

Google Play Pass isn’t quite as committed as Apple Arcade to developers - it isn’t directly funding developers to make games appearing on the service. But it also isn’t forcing exclusivity, which is a major feature (and strict requirement) for games to appear on Apple Arcade. 

Of course, the real value of either service is in the games to come, which could convert the wary if a must-have title appears on one or the other. 

David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.