The big picture: Google has announced its own app store subscription service with hundreds of apps and games for $5 per month, with the added perk of being able to share that with your family. Developers will presumably be paid based on user engagement and won't have to sign an exclusivity deal, but the company has yet to share more details on how that will work. The new Play Pass service is now available in the US and will likely expand to other regions in the following months.
Google recently announced Play Pass, a subscription service that will offer Android users access to a library of over 350 apps and games for $5 per month. The service comes hot on the heels of Apple Arcade and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and will first be available in the US later this week. The company didn't offer any time frame for when it will arrive to other regions, but is expected to begin rolling it out sometime over the next months.
People who are on the fence will be able to try Play Pass free of charge for ten days, and Google is also exploring the idea of offering the first year for only $2 per month, as long as you are among the early adopters (the offer ends on October 10).
Just like Apple Arcade, the new subscription service is supposed to offer an ad-free experience that's devoid of in-app purchases and adware that can put your personal data at risk. However, Google's vision for the app subscription is a little different than what Apple and Microsoft have, in that it's not limited to games.
It's worth noting that Google isn't trying to create its own exclusive content library and also doesn't sponsor the development of any of the apps and games that are included. You'll be able to access them through a dedicated tab, but many of these were already available in the Play Store, such as Terraria, Stardew Valley, Limbo, Mini Metro, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Lichtspear, Facetune, and AccuWeather.
Two thirds are games and the remaining third are apps, with plans to introduce more every month, such as Cytus and This War of Mine.
In contrast, the games available through Apple Arcade won't be found on Android, while many Play Pass apps and games are cross-platform. And in choosing to include utility apps alongside games, Google is hoping to create a more attractive overall package. On top of that, you'll be able to share your Play Pass subscription with up to five family members, and developers won't have to go through very strict requirements.
Google plans to pay developers through means other than the company subsidizing their participation, but they have yet to offer specifics on how that will work. In any case, the phenomenon of app store subscriptions is sure to cause some disruption within the industry. It's easy to argue that Google's Play Store is a mess and that developers will now be at the mercy of yet another algorithm, but there's also potential to extract more money from Android users while offering a more curated Play Store experience.