Google launches Play Pass subscription service, its $4.99 Apple Arcade rival

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Google on Monday launched Play Pass, a monthly subscription service that gives people access to a library of games and other apps on Google’s Play Store, as the search giant experiments with new pricing models for its products. 

The service, which costs $4.99, includes more than 350 apps and games, including Monument Valley, Risk and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. But Google said it wants the service to go further, so it’s also bundling other types of health, fitness and photography apps. That includes photo retouching, weather and camera apps.

Play Pass is a $4.99 subscription service.


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“Games are super important, but we’re going beyond that,” Austin Shoemaker, a group product manager at Google, said in an interview last week. “It doesn’t just appeal to hardcore gamers.” 

Play Pass is similar to Apple Arcade, a service from the iPhone maker that launched last week and also costs $4.99. Apple’s offering, though, focuses solely on games and has a library of about 100 titles. Asked about the comparison to Apple Arcade, Shoemaker didn’t specifically address the competitor. He did say, though, that the company thinks of Play Pass as “much broader.”

The Play Pass launch comes as Google makes a big push into gaming. In November, the search giant is releasing its Stadia platform, a service that lets people stream games from the cloud instead of playing them on a console. Tech giants and media companies have also been more broadly experimenting with subscription services. For example, firms including Disney and NBC have announced plans for their own streaming video services. Meanwhile, Google has been building out Google One, a subscription service for consumers that gives people more storage for the company’s suite of apps, including Google Photos and Drive. 

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Google says the Play Pass service includes more than 350 games and other apps.


Google

Play Pass also gets rid of ads, in-app purchases and paywalls. For now, Google is offering a promotion that lets people pay $1.99 per month for the first year, with a 10-day free trial. Google will also let people share the subscription with up to five family members. 

To use Play Pass, subscribers will see a new tab with a ticket logo in the Google Play app. The page includes featured apps and recommendations that have been curated for the service. Google said it will share subscription revenue with app developers, but declined to provide details on how the money would be split.

Shoemaker said the service won’t come with any exclusive content, but that could change in the future.

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