Google Play Store could soon have a service to beat Apple Arcade

Google Play Store
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Subscription services are becoming the common way of consuming content, and with Netflix providing you films and TV, Spotify filling your ears, and Amazon Kindle Unlimited letting you read to your heart's content, the competition is now heating up for gaming equivalents.

The battle is particularly fierce for mobile gaming, with Hatch and soon Apple Arcade vying for your eyes and thumbs, and it looks like Google has an equivalent on the way too.

Certain users of the Google Play Store have noticed prompts from Google, suggesting they sign up to Google Play Pass, which looks to be a subscription service for apps and games on the Play Store. These images were shared with XDA Developers.

According to the screenshots, Play Pass requires you to pay monthly (with the price currently set at $4.99, but that might change at launch), but that means you have unlimited free access to a curated list of apps from Google. On top of that, there will be no in-app ads, and in-app purchases will already be unlocked.

Beyond games, a description in one screenshot suggests music and other apps will be included too, however the screenshots only actually show Stardew Valley and Marvel Pinball, both of which are paid games.

At the moment, we don't know much about Google Play Pass, because these screenshots show Google is testing the service out, which implies it's not quite ready for release yet.

TechRadar has contacted Google for comment, or any information, and will update this article when we hear back.

Taking the competition to Apple

Earlier in 2019 Apple unveiled the Apple Arcade, a subscription service that brings the best of Apple's App Store for a monthly fee. Apple Arcade will have over 100 exclusive games when it launches, but for now we don't know a release date or price for the service. 

As an Apple service, it will only be available on iPhone, iPad, and other Apple products, so only a relatively small number of phone owners will actually be able to use it. Therefore the Google Play Pass, which looks set to be a rather similar service, has a much larger built-in potential user base.

Depending on the games offered, price, and release date, Google Play Pass could steal a lot of Apple Arcade's thunder, so it could be an interesting race between the two services.

Is this 'Google Stadia lite?'

Google Stadia, which is a cloud-based games streaming service hosted by – you guessed it – Google, is coming at the end of 2019. While it's mainly designed for computers and TVs, its also available on smartphones, so you can play from its library on the go.

However its games are mostly console and PC ones, which means they're not designed for touch controls, and it looks like you need to use the Google Stadia Controller to play. In short, the service probably won't be great for gaming on the go.

Therefore Google Play Pass would sit at a different point in the market, designed for people who love their phone games as opposed to those who want a console-like experience, and the two services theoretically won't compete. Could there be some cross-over between the services though? Only time will tell.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist.