Google has shed some more clarity on its upcoming cloud-based video game service: an entry price, launch window and some of the games you will be able to play.
Google’s Stadia will become available in November with an entry price of $129.99 for the Founders Edition package (pre-order on Google’s Stadia site), which includes a game controller, Chromecast Ultra streaming device and a three-month subscription.
Cloud gaming promises to make it easier for consumers to play online games, as it sidesteps the need for pricey gaming PCs or console video game systems.
Google isn’t the only big player looking to deliver games in the cloud, stored on massive data centers and played via broadband. Microsoft, Amazon and Apple have all teased plans to deliver online games. The global cloud gaming market is expected to grow from $234 million in 2018 to $2.5 billion by 2023, according to estimates from data and information provider IHS Markit.
Like Netflix, Stadia has a higher quality tier: the Stadia Pro subscription, which is $9.99 monthly (after your initial three months pass). For that you can stream games in 4K video at 60 frames per second and with 5.1 surround sound on your TV, computer, tablet or Pixel 3 or 3a smartphone – eventually more phones and devices will be added, Google says.
A free Stadia Base level, coming in 2020, lets you play in high definition on your computer or Pixel smartphone – but not on your TV. Stadia Pro subscribers will regularly get free games to play and discounts on games they purchase. (Google has not announced prices for games on Stadia.)
Since you will pay for some games, Stadia is not an “all you can eat” service like Netflix. You don’t need a Stadia subscription to play on the service, but in addition to not being able to play in 4K, Stadia Base players will not get discounts on the games for purchase.
Google Stadia’s launch video games
When Stadia launches in November, the service will have at least 31 games from 21 different publishers including Bethesda Softworks (“Doom Eternal,” “Rage 2”), Bungie (“Destiny 2”), Ubisoft (“Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,” “Tom Clancy’s The Division 2”), Warner Bros. (“Mortal Kombat 11”) and 2K (“Borderlands 3” and “NBA 2K”).
Electronic Arts and Rockstar Games also will have titles on Stadia but have not yet announced them. Also on board are exclusives from smaller independent game makers Codesink (“Get Packed”) and Tequila Works (“Gylt”).
“The strategy was to show that Stadia was a great platform for very large triple-A game developers as well as smaller indie developers, all over the world,” said Jack Buser, head of business development for games at Stadia. “We wanted to show that Stadia was capable of any type of game, no matter fast paced, how high definition, Stadia could handle that game, no problem.”
To stream in 4K – in High Dynamic Range (HDR) quality with improved contrast, richer colors and increased details – Google is recommending a broadband connection of 35 Megabits per second.
Stadia is “game-changing cloud technology,” said Yves Guillemot, co-founder and CEO of Ubisoft, which is also bringing “Just Dance” and “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint” to the service. “Starting later this year, Stadia will bring players the possibility to share and enjoy even more memorable gaming moments wherever they choose to play,” Guillemot said in a statement sent to USA TODAY.
For a limited time, Stadia Pro subscribers also get the “Destiny 2” video game with all its past add-ons and the upcoming Shadowkeep expansion, as well as an annual pass to play the Bungie game. You can also transfer your Guardian character from your current PC or Xbox One game into Stadia.
The online response to the latest Stadia news was mixed. Many excited gamers on Twitter tweeted out their pre-order reservations. But others voiced concern about a lack of pricing for games that would be purchased. “I think the pricing for new games will be comparable with other platforms,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games research at IHS Markit in an email exchange. “If it is noticeably better graphical quality on Stadia there could perhaps be a premium.”
Streaming games: The looming battle
In an analysis shared with USA TODAY, he said it was “inevitable that Google would have to enable paid transactions for third-party games to secure support from major games publishers.”
The Stadia Pro subscription has “significant benefits … even for gamers buying new content to play on the platform,” Harding-Rolls said. Meanwhile, the free tier will serve as “a user acquisition channel for those trying out demos,” he said. “It is not a surprise that Google is delaying launch of this free tier until 2020 as it gives the company the best shot of maintaining service quality as it scales its users.”
Microsoft and others are expected to update their plans at the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, which has events beginning Saturday.
Exclusive games will be paramount to success, Harding-Rolls said. “As such, with the selection of content on offer, Google has not yet demonstrated that it will be better placed to engage gamers than the established console and PC storefronts and that is likely to somewhat hinder its ability to attract subscribers,” he said.
Google’s entrance into online gaming – and that of other competitors – will escalate the bidding war for exclusives because currently Sony and Microsoft seek to have games played on their online systems first, says Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. That means “negotiating leverage for the publishers” like Activision and Electronic Arts, he says, because currently game publishers may give a 30% “take rate,” or cut of the digital transaction, to networks.
With more online game hosts in operation, publishers may demand or seek lower rates in return for networks’ early access to games, Pachter said.
Stadia will launch in 13 countries beyond the U.S. including Canada, the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany and Spain.
The complete list of Stadia games
•Bandai Namco – “Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2”
•Bethesda – “DOOM Eternal,” “DOOM 2016,” “Rage 2,” “The Elder Scrolls Online,” “Wolfenstein: Youngblood”
•Bungie – “Destiny 2”
•Coatsink – “Get Packed”
•Codemasters – “GRID”
•Deep Silver – “Metro Exodus”
•Drool – “Thumper”
•Giants Software – “Farming Simulator 19”
•Larian Studios – “Baldur’s Gate 3”
•nWay Games – “Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid”
•Sega – “Football Manager”
•SNK – “Samurai Shodown”
•Square Enix – “Final Fantasy XV,” “Tomb Raider Definitive Edition,” “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” “Shadow of the Tomb Raider”
•2K – “NBA 2K,” “Borderlands 3”
•Tequila Works – “Gylt”
•Warner Bros – Mortal Kombat 11
•THQ – “Darksiders Genesis”
•Ubisoft – “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,” “Just Dance,” “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint,” “Tom Clancy’s The Division 2,” “Trials Rising,” “The Crew 2”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.