Edit: We want to acknowledge that while GameClub’s goal is clear, we feel it’s a difficult buy in for many who may be comparing it to Play Pass at this time. We’ve amended the article to reflect this and will do better to make our point clear in the future.
A new subscription service called Gameclub launched this week on Android which seeks to offer premium games for a small monthly fee. The goal is to offer subscribers a few new games every week which are said to stand out above the offerings of the Google Play and App Stores. Today, we’re looking at how Gameclub compares to Google Play Pass so that you will know which one is worth your money. Let’s get right into it!
Google’s Play Pass offers subscribers about 450 apps and games with no in app purchases and no ads for $4.99 per month the option for a free trial. The service is offered by in an effort to bring attention to a wide variety of experiences for all age groups and types of people. You can also subscribe once and share all of the games you receive with everyone in your family group. Google says they add new apps and games once a month and that’s true, but we’ve already had our gripes with them for potentially under utilizing the service’s potential. With such a large backlog of content available to users signing up for the first time though, this is something they can seemingly get away with for now.
Gameclub, on the other hand, has about 100 games at launch and charges the same $4.99 per month with the option of a one month free trial. They also strip out ads and in app purchases in their games and tend to focus on titles which are not tied to a free to the modern play model where developers can no longer make much money except through ad revenue. The idea is that you get the game and you can complete it without any extra buy in. There is no family sharing option and it remains to be seen if one will exist in the future. Their goal is to hand pick premium Android and iOS games and offer them to you through an exclusive service…or ‘club’ if you will. They also offer new games every week, which is a lot more frequent than Play Pass. If we’re honest though, it feels like the service has little reason to exist in the capacity that they’re advertising it. The games provided don’t necessarily feel more premium than what you can find by yourself on the Google Play Store by any means and it seems like GameClub intendeds to offer remastered classics instead.
We’re on a mission to fix mobile gaming.
At GameClub, we believe premium game experiences still have a home on modern mobile devices. That’s why we’re bringing back your old favorites, and launching new titles we know you’re going to love.GameClub’s website
From what we gather, the creators of the service seem to think that Google Play doesn’t exactly believe that premium games belong on mobile devices anymore, or at the very least is implying that they aren’t doing much to promote premium games, so they’ve taken it into their own hands to change the narrative and be the hero. Apparently, mobile gaming is broken. Now, while we agree that more can be done to highlight games with a high level of polish and providing services which do so are welcome, we also believe that these services need to add enough value to customers over their competition to be worthwhile. So, does GameClub do that? We took it for a test drive to find out.
In order to sign up for GameClub, we had to visit their website and click through a simple form. Upon finishing, we verified our email address and got a chance to look around at their offerings. We liked that each game had a hand written description that wasn’t copied and pasted and they also had screenshots depicting their editor’s favorite moments as they played through each of them. We found that these moments could be a bit spoilery for those who may want to experience the game for themselves and refrain from being told which moments they should give special attention to. The screenshots also could not be enlarged in a lightbox, similar to the how Apple’s App store operates. This was particularly frustrating as an Android user who is used to being able to do so. I also noticed that each game’s developer was not given credit for creating the game on the page. I’m not really sure what that’s about.
Near the bottom of the page, there was a blog tied specifically to that game which showed articles which were written about it. It seems that they even partnered with the developers of these games to get special insight into the development process and have written some behind the scenes posts about it, but you don’t need to be subscribed to read them.
All of these things show that great attention and care has been put in by a passionate group of people who are interested in showing people why their favorite games are awesome. Our fear with this approach is that as more games are added, each one will receive less of this special attention and care and eventually be left alone forever as the developers of the site move on to more popular titles. It just doesn’t seem sustainable to curate games this way on a large scale over a long period of time without adding a lot of people to their staff continually. It also doesn’t really seem like the goal of the service. If they can pull it off, however, then it could be something special.
Aside from the blog posts, this personalized approach seems to be where the service could truly offer value for that $4.99 though the game selection doesn’t seem particularly special. We noticed that some of the games are from the early era of mobile gaming. Games like Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon and Pocket RPG, which haven’t been available on the Play Store for years had a spotlight shone on them in GameClub. This cements our theory that they have partnered with these developers to re-publish old titles for reconsumption. For some people including myself, it could be slightly appealing to get your hands on such titles nowadays and play through them again for nostalgia. In fact, I never had money for some of these games when they were popular back in the day, circa 2010 or so, but it’s nostalgia necessarily synonymous with premium? We think not, at least, not with every title.
A lot of the games offered still appear on the Google Play Store or have an identical quality to those that still do. In fact, a few days before we dug into the service, I installed Breach and Clear, a top down tactical shooter and was surprised to find that I was locked out of the game until I signed up for a GameClub account. I of course refused and uninstalled the game. “What the heck is Gameclub and why do I need it?” I thought. Since I picked the game up on the Play Store, I saw no added benefit to signing up for yet another service when only months ago I could have played Breach and Clear without the extra step. I was actually quite annoyed by this. Definitely a turn off. On top of this, I recall the game being completely free to install from the get-go, so what exactly was GameClub doing for me?
Google’s Play Pass strips the price tag off of hundreds of games entirely and replaces them with the word ‘FREE’ so that they can feel they’re getting a huge value for their $4.99 per month. If GameClub’s goal here is to remove games from the Play Store from developers who have decided to partner with them and then to offer them for free after you pay for your subscription, then fine, I get that, but right now to the average consumer, they may coome off as a middle man who’s asking for a piece of the pie without earning it. They may also make a lot of people upset by pulling games from the Play Store for exclusivity with their service in the same way that Epic Games has done for PC games developers this year. We don’t feel that Google should have a monopoly on app stores in the Android device space just because they have for all these years, but the new guys entering the ring should definitely be ready to punch their weight. Maybe we’ve got it all wrong and we shouldn’t be comparing it to Play Pass to begin with, but we think a lot of other people may put them side by side as well.
Play Pass offers four times the amount of content for the same price. Sure, all 450 items you can install for that five bucks are not games, but we feel that at least half or more are, making Google’s service doubly valuable in comparison at this time.
Anyways, I went ahead and hit ‘Play’ on a game on the GameClub website and instead of it simply downloading to my Pixelbook Go, I was told I would receive a link in my email. Um, why? Oh well – I headed over to my email and clicked the link I received. Then, I was redirected to the Apple App Store…on my Chromebook – where it proceeded to crash my device. I tried several times and this continued to occur. Wait, what? Was GameClub unable to detect my device and direct me to the Google Play Store? Why did it crash the Chrome browser on my laptop? The game was listed as Android and iOS compatible, so why did this happen? Also, if it was going to redirect me to the Google Play Store…why? If they’re offering me something that’s exclusive to their service, shouldn’t they be emailing me an .apk file to sideload? What about users who can’t sideload apps? If we’re installing these games via the Play Store anyways and GameClub offers nothing on their site or in the games that’s specific to them which Play Pass doesn’t offer, then it’s hard to tell what the value to the average person is here.
With Google Play Pass, you’re signed in with your Google account, accessing the Google Play Store, signing up for Google Play Pass and installing the game directly on the store to your device with no email verification process or added steps and the added value is clear. 450 apps and games with a direct install, with no ads or in-app purchases and a unified system and process with no middle man in sight. When something like Play Pass exists, what value could GameClub hope to offer in its place for gamers prospecting both services simultaneously? Sure, their value to developers is clear, but to gamers, it’s less so at this time.
Mobile gaming is meant to be open and free and wild. A place to explore new experiences and to create them and tell your story. Services like Play Pass and Apple Arcade curate games that the majority of people would consider worth paying for or similar to their console counterparts, but that’s still just opinion and rotates out constantly to provide new editorial opinions often. Google has also gone through great lengths this year to add filters for Premium and Play Pass games and even a dedicated section for which games will run best on Chromebooks.
If you’re looking for some old classics like Pocket RPG and Spider Rite of the Shrouded Moon which are for some reason no longer available on the Play Store, then this service may be interesting to you, but not long term. We will certainly miss games like Breach and Clear, Aralon and Mage Gauntlet if they leave the Play Store in an exclusivity deal with GameClub. While they’re at it, they should look at offering games like the extremely popular Infinity Blade series for iOS and the Uncharted clone style game called Shadow Guardian. At this time, we will not be paying for GameClub and recommend that you spend your money on Google Play Pass instead. but what are your thoughts on the service? Let us know in the comments below!