The big question: In the lead up to E3, Google revealed new details on its Stadia gaming platform. Pre-orders have begun, but at $130 for everything you will need to play, it seems like a blind gamble for a service that looks good on paper but has not been proven in the wild.
Stadia is a gaming platform that can stream content to practically anything capable of running a Chrome browser or beam to a TV through Chromecast Ultra. What we did not know is where or when it will be available.
On Thursday Google announced that Stadia would be available in 14 regions including the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. It will be launching sometime in November with at least 31 day-one titles.
The “Founder’s Edition” starter package will go for $130 contains three months of Stadia Pro service ($10 per month after), a “Buddy Pass” to give a friend three months free, Destiny 2, exclusive Night Blue Stadia Controller, Stadia Controller Power adapter, Google Chromecast Ultra dongle, Google Chromecast Ultra Power adapter with an Ethernet port, and a Founder's Stadia name and badge.
Google says that with Stadia Pro, users can play games in 4K at 60 frames per second with 5.1 surround sound. This is a bombastic claim, which it follows up with a disclaimer.
“Gameplay experience will vary depending on internet connection and device. 4K-capable HDTV and high-speed broadband internet connection required to play in 4K. Google Chromecast Ultra required to play on TV. 4K, 60 FPS, HDR, and 5.1 surround sound only available to Stadia Pro subscribers. Non-subscribers may experience up to 1080p and 60 FPS.”
So please don’t hold your breath for smooth 4K gaming. We wouldn’t want anyone passing out from lack of oxygen.
One common misconception of the Stadia service is that it will be like Netflix — a subscription service where you have a catalog of games you can play for free. This is not the case. Users should expect to have to purchase games just as they would on Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. “We will sell these games like any other digital storefront,” Google’s Director of Games Jack Buser told The Verge.
As for titles that are expected to be available — 21 publishers have signed on to provide content for Stadia, and each will have at least one title ready for launch. Most are currently available on other systems, with the exception of Larian Studios’ just announced Baldur’s Gate 3, 2K’s Borderlands 3 and a few others.
- Bandai Namco — Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
- Bethesda — DOOM Eternal, DOOM 2016, Rage 2, The Elder Scrolls Online, Wolfenstein: Youngblood
- Bungie — Destiny 2
- Capcom — TBD
- Coatsink — Get Packed (Stadia exclusive)
- Codemasters — GRID
- Deep Silver — Metro Exodus
- Drool — Thumper
- Electronic Arts — TBD
- Giants Software — Farming Simulator 19
- Larian Studios — Baldur’s Gate 3
- nWay Games — Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid
- Rockstar Games — TBD
- 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 Games — NBA 2K, Borderlands 3
- Tequila Works — Gylt (Stadia exclusive)
- 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
The current list of titles is not enough to sell the platform even with Baldur's Gate 3 on the list, especially not knowing how Stadia will perform for the average user. However, Google said that this is just a sampling of the games coming to Stadia and that it would be announcing more at E3 next week. It also has not mentioned the first-party games that it has in development.
Google has started taking pre-orders with the Founder’s edition. As mentioned, it goes for $130 and considering a controller and a Chromecast Ultra are going to run you $70 each, it would be a bargain were it not for the unknown — and that is a big unknown.
A Google graphic claims that if you have at least a 10Mbps internet connection, you should be able to use Stadia and get 60 fps, albeit at 720p and standard stereo sound. For 4K and 5.1 surround sound it says you need at least a 35Mbps connection. This I have a hard time swallowing.
As for streaming games to your phone, Google says:
"At launch, if you’re a Stadia user, you can play Stadia exclusively on Pixel 3 and 3a devices. However, you’ll be able to create your account and make subscription and game purchases from any Android M+ or iOS 11+ device that has access to the Stadia app."
I average 150Mbps and have had issues with Sony’s PlayStation Now streaming service. It works as long as you don’t mind missing textures and the occasional hiccup. Maybe Google has figured out a better way of streaming games, but we’ll see. Seeing is believing. I'm inclined to wait until Stadia goes live and then pay $10 for a month and try Destiny 2, which is going free-to-play in the fall, just see how it goes than to blindly lay down $130 and hope for the best.
Google's full Stadia Connect livestream is below.