Stadia has free and premium tiers, not launching in Asia yet
We have new details on Google Stadia from this morning’s Connect livestream. Presented by Stadia boss Phil Harrison, the pre-recorded video touched on games, territories, internet requirements and pricing.
But first, what everyone needs to know: Stadia is not coming to Asia at launch. The service is headed to 14 regions but they’re all westward, so we’re once again left out of the game streaming party. Looking at you, PlayStation Now.
Stadia is a new way to play games, one that doesn’t require a console, downloads or any discs to run. Rather, all you’ll need is a screen – your TV, desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone (only Pixel 3 or 3A for now) – and Google’s data centers will take care of the rest.
The initial announcement in March was at once both exciting and frustratingly vague, so many were waiting to see just how much actual meat Google had in Stadia. The results? Well, have a look.
Pricing, connection speeds and availability
A Stadia Pro membership costs US$9.99/month (~S$14), which lets you stream games at 4K HDR at 60 FPS with 5.1 surround sound. Google states you’ll need a 35 Mbps connection for the best quality, whereas the recommended minimum is 10 Mbps for 720p60 stereo audio.
It also turns out that the “Netflix of games” moniker isn’t quite true. A Stadia Pro subscription gets you Destiny 2 and “free games each month”, although other games require a full-priced purchase. That suggests no back catalogue and no renting, sort of like the current PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold.
Alternatively, skip the subscription and go for the free Stadia Base. With it, you can still stream games but are capped to 1080p60.
Time-wise, Stadia is mostly launching in 2020. Only those who drop cash on a Founder’s Edition pre-order (US$129) can get in early this November – I’ll get to that later. Not all features revealed at their March announcement may be available then, either, though hopefully the servers will be ready to handle lag-free game streaming.
All you need to run Stadia is the Chrome browser on computers or the Stadia App (Google Play and Apple App Store) on everything else. According to the FAQ, it seems that TV users require more power since they’ll “need to use the Stadia Controller and Google Chromecast Ultra.”
Then there’s the Stadia Controller. It’ll set you back US$69 and comes in Clearly White, Just Black and Wasabi color options. A fourth, Night Blue, is a limited model exclusive to the Founder’s Edition.
Stadia Founder’s Edition Bundle
For a service that wants to push gaming distribution to a new phase, it’s kind of funny how they eventually wound up with a box of hardware. You know, just like a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
Priced at US$129, this Founder’s Edition comes with the above-mentioned Night Blue controller, Nov 2019 access to Stadia, a Chromecast Ultra, 3 months of Stadia Pro, and a 3-mth Buddy Pass. Other tidbits include a founder’s badge and “first dibs” on your Stadia name.
Stadia launch games
After Ubisoft’s prolific involvement with Stadia’s reveal, is it any wonder that we’d see more from the publisher? Falling in beside the historical stabbing adventure Assassin’s Creed Odyssey are the Tom Clancy shooters Ghost Recon Breakpoint and The Division 2.
Experienced RPG fans are likely foaming at the confirmation of Baldur’s Gate III by Larian Studios, the developers behind the wonderful Divinity: Original Sin games. We’re also looking at indie propositions Gylt, a third-person horror by Tequila Works, and Get Packed, a four-player party game by Moonshine Studios – they give me Little Nightmares and Overcooked! vibes respectively.
Google’s giant bomb is apparently a full, up-to-date collection for Bungie’s Destiny 2. Players will be getting everything, from the base game to the upcoming Shadowkeep expansion, which should tie-in nicely with a rumored free-to-play shift as a means of boosting the player count. The game is getting cross-save support too, something that PlayStation has already agreed to despite the in-video disclaimer.
Other games coming to Stadia include:
- Borderlands 3
- DOOM 2016
- DOOM Eternal
- Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
- Farming Simulator 19
- Football Manager
- Just Dance
- Mortal Kombat 11
- NBA 2K
- Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid
- Rage 2
- Samurai Shodown
- The Crew 2
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- Trials Rising
- Wolfenstein: Youngblood
In all, there will be at least 31 games from 21 publishers. More will be revealed during the E3 week.
A larger stadium
If anything, it doesn’t seem as if “core gamers” – the very ones who’ll soak up all the E3 news next week with red-eyed excitement – are the primary target here. They already have their PCs and consoles, so why would they shoot themselves in the foot by paying full price for a game… only to stream it? That makes no sense, although there is cool potential in Stadia being a next-gen demo service.
No, it feels as if Google are serving a wider audience they’ve already cultivated through mobile games. Couple that with a widely acceptable subscription rate (my Netflix costs more) and a high-profile flagship, Destiny 2, and this could be a great doorway for many to experience “serious” titles. Getting games to more folks is always a good thing!
Or it could turn into another Ouya, except I doubt Google would let the project sink like that. There’s strong competition too, particularly Microsoft’s Project xCloud. If that streaming service pairs up with Xbox Game Pass then wow are we in for a ride. Not forgetting Apple Arcade, which may be the odd one out but could have better curation and value.
For us and everyone else not in the 14 launch regions: it looks like we’ll have to just play our games the good old way – buying discs and downloading off digital stores. Don’t feel too crestfallen, there’s E3 2019 turning around the corner.