Stadia, Google’s new game-streaming service, would be way more compelling if it was truly unlimited like Netflix

Google VP and general manager Phil Harrison speaks at Google's keynote at GDC 2019 in San Francisco.

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Google VP and general manager Phil Harrison speaks at Google’s keynote at GDC 2019 in San Francisco.
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Reuters

  • Stadia, Google’s new streaming service for video games, is launching in November.
  • While Google Stadia has a lot of attractive features, the overall package doesn’t feel compelling because of how pricing works.
  • Customers have to purchase (or re-purchase) games to play them on Stadia – so if you already bought a game on PC, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One, you’d have to buy it again for Stadia.
  • Netflix has a better pricing structure: One flat monthly fee gives you unlimited access to anything in the library, instantly.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Google is entering the video-game business later this year. But Stadia, the name for Google’s new game-streaming service coming in November, isn’t as irresistible as it could have been.

To be clear, Google Stadia has a lot going for it:

  • You don’t need to buy any additional hardware
  • Stadia runs on desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, and TV
  • Stadia games, and progress in those games, are saved in the cloud and accessible from any device
  • Games apply updates automatically so you don’t need to wait
  • Google promises “no cheating” and “no hacking” since the games run on servers, not on local consoles
  • Stadia supports cross-play, including cross-platform multiplayer
  • There’s a free tier coming in 2020, and a $10 per month “Pro” tier launching in November
  • Stadia Pro offers free monthly games, which you keep as long as you’re subscribed
  • Google made a Stadia gamepad that works over WiFi and with any device.

Read more: Google’s ambitious attempt to upend the video-game industry and take on Xbox and PlayStation is named ‘Stadia.’ Here’s everything we know so far.

There’s just one issue, but it’s a big one: You have to purchase any games you want to play on Stadia (unless it’s free, of course), even if you’ve already purchased them on other consoles like PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.

Here’s why that’s a deal-breaker, in my opinion.


Stadia customers must double-dip on games they already have if they want to actually play them on Google’s service. This is unfortunate. It means Stadia is an alternative to traditional gaming, but it’s not necessarily cheaper.

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“Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” is coming to Google Stadia.
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Google

Let’s say you want to buy Stadia Pro for $10 a month, which gives you free monthly games like “Destiny 2.” But you really want to play games your friends are playing right now, including “Borderlands 3” and “DOOM Eternal.” You’d need to buy each of those games; Google says games will cost anywhere from $1 to $60.

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“DOOM Eternal” is coming to Google Stadia.
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“Doom Eternal”/Bethesda

Read more: Google’s new gaming platform, Stadia, launches in November – here are the games that have been confirmed so far


Since two of those games are brand-new, let’s say you only have to pay $50 per title (maybe Google gives you a nice $10 discount on each one for having a Pro subscription). That’s still $100 for those two games, on top of your $10-a-month fee for Stadia Pro access.

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A man tries a demo of Google Stadia.
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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

If you want Stadia as soon as it’s available in November, though, you’ll have to buy Google’s “Founder’s Pack” bundle, which costs $130. It’s not cheap!

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The “Founder’s Pack” comes with a Stadia controller and a Chromecast Ultra.
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Google

Google’s “Founder’s Pack” includes a Stadia controller, a Chromecast Ultra, three months of Stadia Pro, early access to a username for Stadia Pro, and a free copy of “Destiny 2.” You’ll also get a three-month “Buddy Pass” to gift Stadia Pro for a friend.


Keep in mind, though, even if you buy the $130 Founder’s Pack, you’ll still have to make separate purchases for any other games you want to play. It’s easy to see how these costs add up quickly.

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“Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” is coming to Google Stadia.
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Google GDC 2019

Sure, you didn’t have to buy any separate hardware to play those games, but you’re spending way more than $10 a month to actually play the games you want to play.

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Google Stadia lets you play games on any device.
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Google

Compare this to Apple’s new $5-a-month “Arcade” service coming this year, which gives you access to a full library of exclusive games that have zero microtransactions and are playable offline. With Arcade, $5 is all you need to pay each month — you don’t have to buy the games individually.

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Apple Arcade lets you play on any Apple device.
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Apple

Read more: 35 video games coming to Apple’s new Arcade service, which will be like Netflix for games


Lots of people will probably buy, or at least try, Stadia, but I wish it worked more like Netflix. If I knew I had unlimited access to any games in the library, I’d be happy to pay a much higher monthly price in return. That’s because I’m saving a ton of money on not buying the games I want to play.

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Netflix lets you watch as many titles as you want for one flat monthly fee.
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Shutterstock

Even if I paid $40 or $50 a month for unlimited access to games in a streaming library, I’d still be saving money, assuming I’d otherwise buy an average of one new game every month (which usually costs $60 or more) on a traditional console.

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“Destiny 2” is coming to Google Stadia.
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Bungie

It will be interesting to see Stadia’s rollout later this year. But based on its current structure, it’s too rich for my blood.

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Google Stadia is a welcome newcomer to the gaming industry, but it’s not for everyone.
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Google

What do you think of Google Stadia?

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Google’s Stadia controllers.
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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

Do you plan on buying Google Stadia? What’s drawing you toward the service, or repelling you from it? I’d love to hear from you – shoot me an email at dsmith@businessinsider.com.