Today, Google hosted a livestream revealing more information about Stadia, its upcoming game streaming service.
Stadia was first revealed earlier this year to a mixed reception. Needing nothing but a Chrome browser window and a decent internet connection to run, Stadia is promising access to a huge variety of games, freeing you from consoles, powerful machines or owning a physical product. Today’s stream was brief, but went into a little more detail about what you’ll need to use Stadia and some of the games that’ll be coming to the service.
Part of the stream was dedicated to unveiling the Stadia Founder’s Edition – a pack that includes everything you need to jump into Stadia right from day one. You’ll get a Google Stadia controller (in a limited edition colour, no less), a Google Chromecast Ultra to allow you to enjoy Stadia on a big screen TV, and three months’ subscription to Stadia Pro for you and a friend. Costing $129/£119, it’s not terribly overpriced, and if you’re already invested in what Stadia’s offering, then it seems like a good deal.
That Founder’s Edition is available to pre-order right now, but is it worth doing so? I’d wager not.
The Founder’s Edition will grant you early access to Stadia, sure. And with that, Google’s advertising the oh-so-premium feature of being able to choose your username before anyone else – and getting a “Founder” badge next to your name.
The hardware included in the Founder’s Edition – the Chromecast and the Stadia controller – make up the cost of the package. A Chromecast Ultra by itself is £69, and a controller will be available to buy separately for £59, although not in the same limited edition colour. So in terms of the hardware, you’re not losing out. BUT you don’t need either of these things to jump into Stadia, which is supposed to be the whole point of Google’s move into gaming.
While free access to Stadia won’t be available until early 2020 (as opposed to November 2019 for Founders), you need nothing but a device with a Chrome browser to engage with it. Any third party controller will be compatible, so you don’t even need the official controller.
With a free account, however, you’ll be limited to 1080p streaming, and you’ll get no games included – every title will need purchasing separately.
The tier up from a free account is Stadia Pro, which costs £8.99/$9.99 per month. This entitles you to up to 4k streams (providing your internet can handle it, of course), as well as access to a library of free games, and a discount on purchases. Exactly what games will be included in that library hasn’t been made clear. The only game announced so far is Destiny 2; Pro members will get access to the base game and all its current and upcoming expansions.
The thing is: Stadia is a completely new venture. It might be the future of gaming. It might also fail. Google’s a massive company, but it’s no guarantee of success: plenty of its past projects have fell by the wayside (Google Plus, anyone?). Is it worth buying into something early that we have no guarantee or promise of? I have 350mb broadband, but even the announcement livestream couldn’t maintain a 1080p image on YouTube. Am I expected to believe that Stadia’s going to be able to consistently stream my games at HD or 4K without faltering?
I’d like to be proved wrong. New technology is exciting, and it’s hard to deny that streaming probably is the future. I’m just not sure that the future is right now, and I’m not sure I want to put down £129 to find out, especially when there’s a free option available if I just wait a few months later. It seems the sensible option to wait this one out, and see how the first few months of Stadia go before taking the jump.
If you do already believe in Stadia and want to make the leap on day one, however, the Founder’s Edition is available to pre-order right now on Google’s store.