- Google has a huge new gaming initiative: A Netflix-like video-game streaming platform named Stadia that’s set to launch this November.
- The service is intended to run high-resolution blockbuster games on any device that runs Google’s Chrome – from smartphones and tablets to computers and TVs.
- When Stadia arrives this November, it will only be available as a $129 “Founder’s Pack” bundle that comes with a controller, a Chromecast Ultra, one game, and three months of “Stadia Pro” service.
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After years of rumors and speculation, Google officially detailed its plans to enter the video-game business earlier this year.
Those plans start with a new service named Stadia (pronounced “STAY-dee-uh”), which Google CEO Sundar Pichai said will offer blockbuster games on any device that can run the Chrome web browser – everything from smartphones and tablets to laptops and TVs.
Google expanded on that announcement in June: Stadia launches this November, and costs $129 for the “Founder’s Pack.”
The pitch is simple: If you’ve got a Chromecast or an iPhone (or whatever device you’re reading this on), you could potentially run Stadia.
Stadia promises to do for video games what Netflix-like services did for TV and film.
Here’s everything we know so far:
1. Stadia is a cloud-based video-game streaming service. You don’t need to buy a game console.
Unlike Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation, and Nintendo’s Switch, Google is promising no additional hardware is required with Stadia.
“At launch, we’ll support being able to play games across desktops, laptops, TV, tablets, and phones. This new generation of gaming is not a box,” Phil Harrison, a Google vice president, said in March.
Instead, processing is handled “in the cloud” – by Google’s hardware in a data center – and streamed to you instantly. Your inputs are then instantly beamed back to the computer elsewhere.
This is an oversimplification of what is assuredly a deeply complicated process, but it’s similar to how Netflix works: Instead of having to run physical media, it’s simply streamed to wherever you’re watching it.
2. Stadia promises a single ecosystem for gaming across all devices.
Google’s aim for Stadia is high – the ability to take your games and your game saves with you to any device. Regardless of where you access the service, you’ll have access to the same games with the same controller (more on that in a moment).
The very concept of streaming-based gaming is an ambitious challenge to the blockbuster video-game market, which is dominated by physical game consoles and games sold piecemeal.
Instead, Google is offering a service-based video-game platform that goes where you are – like the music industry, the film industry, and the TV industry have already done.
3. There’s a Stadia gamepad that’s built by Google.
In many ways, the Stadia controller looks an awful lot like a hybrid of the Xbox One gamepad (in shape and design) and the PlayStation 4 gamepad (in thumbstick layout).
Functionally, it more or less is exactly that. But there’s one major aspect of the gamepad that sets it apart: it’s got WiFi.
This may sound strange, but it connects the controller’s inputs directly to the data center running the game. It’s a simple solution and enables the controller to be easily swapped between devices.
There are two other buttons on the Stadia controller that stand out: The capture button, which uploads gameplay directly to YouTube, and the Google Assistant button, which activates Google Assistant. Perhaps you want help with a specific part of a game? Or need to suddenly know the weather in Tokyo? Solved!
The controller can also just be used as a basic USB gamepad, and even works on platforms it wasn’t built for (like a PC game running on Steam, for instance). And yes, local multiplayer is supported: You can use up to four Stadia controllers at once for the same game.
4. Google’s got some pretty hefty computing power backing up its platform.
Whether the word “teraflops” means anything to you, or you’re laughing out loud at this silly new word, all you need to know is this: Stadia promises serious horsepower in the cloud.
Google partnered with AMD to create a system that offers far greater horsepower than the most powerful modern video-game consoles. Moreover, Google is promising that the service will stream games in 4K at 60 frames-per-second, with surround sound.
Again, this is on your phone.
5. The next “DOOM” game is coming to Stadia, and a handful of other important publishers offered support.
- id Software
Only a few games were teased during Google’s press conference in March, but the one big standout was “DOOM Eternal.”
It’s the next major game in the classic “DOOM” first-person-shooter series, and it’s particularly notable here because it’s a pretty demanding game in terms of hardware. It’s a series known for being tremendously fast, and its fans demand pixel-perfect control.
In so many words, it’s a great test case for what Google is promising: lag-free video games over modern broadband connection speeds.
A ton more games were announced during a stream in June.
“DOOM Eternal” publisher Bethesda Softworks is providing a gaggle of titles for Stadia’s launch later this year: “DOOM 2016,” “Rage 2,” “The Elder Scrolls Online,” and “Wolfenstein: Youngblood.”
“Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” publisher Ubisoft is also on board, and is promising “Just Dance,” “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint,” “Tom Clancy’s The Division 2,” “Trials Rising,” and “The Crew 2.”
Some other major standouts were revealed during the first Stadia stream: “Final Fantasy XV,” “Destiny 2,” and “Mortal Kombat 11,” among others.
6. Google launched a first-party game-development division headed by the former Ubisoft executive Jade Raymond.
Beyond just working with various game developers and publishers, Google has created its own game-development division headed by veteran video-game executive Jade Raymond.
It’s not clear exactly how large the studio will be, or how many projects it will work on, but Raymond is known for her work on huge franchises, such as “Assassin’s Creed.”
As of June, Google didn’t have anything more to say about first-party games; a rep told us that more information will arrive in 2020.
7. Google promises “No cheating, no hacking.”
Because of the structure of Stadia, Google promises that there’s no way for cheaters to cheat and no way for hackers to hack. That’s because games will be stored and operated on Google’s servers, thus cutting out the ability for players to inject code locally before playing online multiplayer.
Whether this works remains to be seen – to evoke “Jurassic Park,” cheaters “find a way.”
8. Google stuck a stake in the ground with cross-play: It’s fully allowed, including for game saves.
“As a new-generation game platform, Stadia will of course embrace full cross-platform play,” Harrison said in March. “Developers will have the ability to enable cross-platform multiplayer for all players and even bring games saves and progression across as well.”
That’s an important move: The video-game business has started to move toward the concept of multiplayer video games allowing players to play together across competing platforms. “Fortnite,” for example, allows players on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to play together – something that’s essentially never happened before.
With Stadia, Google is supporting cross-platform multiplayer – as well as game saves and progress – right from launch. It’s a smart, forward-looking move.
9. There are two versions of Stadia: a free version, and a paid version named “Stadia Pro.” The paid version costs $10 per month.
Though Google Stadia arrives this November, that’s more of a soft launch – there’s only one way to get in this November, and the free “base” tier doesn’t arrive until 2020.
With the base level of Stadia, you pay nothing, but are able to buy games from the Stadia storefront and play them across your devices. Games will max out at 1080p/60 frames-per-second in the base tier.
With the Pro level of Stadia, you pay $10 per month for what is essentially a PlayStation Plus/Xbox Live Gold-esque service. For that monthly fee, you get monthly games that are yours as long as you keep your subscription. You’ll also get a discount on game purchases.
Unlike PS Plus and XBL Gold, you don’t need to pay for Stadia Pro to get access to online multiplayer – that’s free across the board on Stadia.
Of note: Even if you end your paid subscription to Stadia Pro, your saves will continue to exist for games that were unlocked with a Pro account. If you buy the games individually, your save will carry over, and if you re-subscribe to Pro, your saves will also exist there.
10. When Stadia launches in November, the only way to get in is to buy the $129 “Founder’s Pack.”
For $130, you’ll get everything you see above: a Google Stadia controller (in limited edition blue) and a Chromecast Ultra.
Additionally, you’ll get three months of Stadia Pro service, a copy of “Destiny 2” (the first free game included with Stadia Pro), and early access to a username on the Stadia Pro service. As part of the founder’s bundle, you’ll also get a three month “Buddy Pass” to Stadia Pro that can be gifted – it’s the secret backdoor way in to Stadia this November without having to buy the $129 bundle.
Stadia Pro subscribers can stream games in 4K resolution with HDR support and 5.1 surround sound – in short, Stadia Pro enables games to look better, and it comes with free games every month.
11. Games cost the same prices on Stadia that they do on other platforms: Anywhere from $1 to $60.
- NBA 2K19/2K Games
Don’t get it twisted: Google Stadia isn’t offering an instant game library for a subscription price. It is an à la carte storefront that charges per game.
Just like buying a game on the PlayStation Store or the Xbox Live store, you pay per title.
Google didn’t provide specifics, but a representative told us, “Pricing will be similar to what you’d expect on other consoles, while of course being title dependent.”
12. When Stadia arrives this November, it will be a soft launch.
- REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Beyond the fact that only “Founder’s Bundle” buyers will get in this November, Stadia is only launching in 14 countries: the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland.
Additional countries are scheduled to light up in 2020.
The same could be said for the non-Pro version of Stadia – the free version of Stadia’s platform isn’t scheduled to launch until 2020.
The same could also be said for the list of game publishers providing games. Though both EA and Rockstar Games are listed (of “FIFA”/”Madden” and “Grand Theft Auto” fame, respectively), neither have committed specific games to the Stadia launch.
Moreover, not all of the games announced as coming to Stadia will be available in November – instead, they’re listed as part of the “launch window,” which encompasses November and several subsequent months.
13. There’s only one way to buy a Stadia gamepad and the Founder’s Bundle: The Google Store online.
You can’t walk into a GameStop or Best Buy to pick up the Google Stadia gamepad or the Founder’s Bundle – the only way to buy Stadia stuff is to buy it through Google’s storefront.
Notably, you don’t need the Stadia gamepad, nor do you need a Chromecast Ultra, to use Stadia. The promise of Stadia is that it works across pretty much any device.
14. Here’s the full list of game publishers signed up for Stadia.
Note: Not all games listed here will arrive in November. Some are scheduled to arrive within the “launch window” (the first few months after November 2019).
15. Stadia is said to work across a variety of internet speeds — here’s the full spectrum, according to Google: