Markets

Google Really Wants More Play Pass Subscribers

Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) subsidiary Google launched Google Play Pass last September, right around the same time that rival Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) launched its Apple Arcade mobile gaming subscription service. While similar, one key distinction between the two services is that Apple Arcade is only for games, while Google Play Pass includes games and other apps from different categories.

Google is now expanding Play Pass in more ways than one.

Play Pass interface displayed on an Android tablet

Image source: Google.

Cheaper than a year of Apple Arcade

Google announced this week that it was introducing a new annual subscription tier for Play Pass priced at an aggressive $30 per year. Apple started offering an annual subscription for Apple Arcade a few months ago, but at a higher price point. The monthly cost is unchanged, but the discount associated with the annual Play Pass subscription is quite a bit more generous than Apple Arcade.

Service

1 month

1 year

Apple Arcade

$5 per month

$50 per year

Google Play Pass

$5 per month

$30 per year

Data source: Apple and Google.

In addition to the new tier, Google is expanding country availability for Play Pass, which is launching this week in Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, and the U.K.

Google says that it has added over 150 new apps and games to Play Pass in recent months, bringing the total number of titles available in the catalog to over 500. That's a lot more content than the 120 games available in Apple Arcade, but it's worth acknowledging that the two tech giants are taking very different strategic approaches to their respective services.

Exclusivity and engagement

Apple is going for exclusivity in exchange for helping fund development of premium mobile games. More specifically, that exclusivity only applies to mobile platforms -- Apple is intentionally targeting Android and developers that Apple is partnering with cannot release those Arcade titles on the competing platform. Those games can, however, be released on other non-mobile gaming consoles.

That type of mobile exclusivity is expensive, particularly since Android represents roughly 85% of the global smartphone market; mobile game makers would obviously like to address that bulk of the market.

The Mac maker is also reportedly in the midst of a strategic pivot toward more engaging Arcade games that can hopefully boost subscriber retention, which seems to be lackluster based on some anecdotal evidence. Apple is spending millions as part of this plan. In contrast, Play Pass is a bundle of non-exclusive apps and games, with Google paying participating developers based on a vague algorithmic methodology of engagement.

Both companies have been aggressively trying to grow subscription service offerings. While Arcade and Play Pass will ultimately be smaller contributors compared to more prominent services for video- or music-streaming, every little bit helps.

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Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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