If you’re looking to be one of the first to get your hands on Stadia (the game streaming platform by Google) then prepare to fork out £119 to purchase the founders pack which includes a controller, Chromecast Ultra and a 3 month subscription to Stadia Pro (more on that below). This still works out cheaper than purchasing a console, but is it worth it? According to what Google have said during today’s event, it may well be.
The biggest worry for gamers was latency and the need for a decent internet connection. However, according to Google you’ll be able to stream games in 4k HDR at 60fps with just a 35Mbps connection which a lot of people already have, and if you’re not fortunate enough to have internet speeds that fast yet hopefully you won’t have to wait too long. You can, of course, play at 1080p which only requires a 20Mbps connection, and if you can’t reach those speeds you can drop the quality again down to 720p which requires a connection speed of 10Mbps, which should be in reach of most people. Luckily for me I have a 70Mbps connection, so I’ll be playing at 4k.
As well as revealing the optimal internet speeds to play on Stadia, Google also announced the pricing structure. As mentioned previously, the Founders edition will set you back £119 and will come with a Chromecast Ultra, 2 months of Stadia pro and a controller. Once you have used the three free months of Stadia Pro it will cost you £8.99 ($9.99) a month, and for that you will benefit from 5.1 surround sound, 4k regular free games, and discounts on games. If you don’t want to pay for Pro you’ll have to wait until next year to play on Stadia and you will be capped at 1080p, stereo sound, and you won’t have any free games to play.
Of course, you’ll still have to purchase the games you want to play on Stadia via the Stadia store, but once you have purchased them you can continue to play them on Stadia without having a Pro subscription and you’ll be able to play on most Google devices, such as the Chromecast, Pixel 3 (including 3a) or on a Chrome browser, no matter what OS you’re running (Mac/Windows). Google says they will be adding more devices over time (and hopefully tablets are first in line).
At launch, Stadia will have over 30 games on the platform ready to purchase and play, with more expected to be revealed over the next few months and every month after launch. Ever since we first heard of Stadia we knew Google were working with Ubisoft (Odyssey was the first game showcased on the platform), so it’s no surprise to see a bunch of their games in the initial line-up, including Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Just Dance, The Division 2, and more. There are still plenty of games from other developers too, such as THQ Nordic (Darksiders Genesis) and the studio behind Baldur’s Gate 3, Larian Studios, as well as others (a full list of launch games can be found on the Stadia website).
One of the most impressive reveals for me was the controller. They’re not cheap ($69) but they will provide you with the best possible Stadia experience, as instead of connecting to your device it cuts out the middle man and connects directly to your Stadia box in the cloud via Wi-Fi, which is built directly into the controller. Connecting this way rather than, say, using a Bluetooth controller or a mouse and keyboard should help reduce input lag significantly. Other than that they’re really just your standard controller with a few quality of life features, such as a 3.5mm headphone jack, a quick image capture button, and Google Assistant. You can view the full controller specs here.
The only worrying thing from my point of view is that Google hasn’t mentioned Latency, which is the key metric that will make or break the game streaming service. With a low latency you’ll be able to play almost any game without issue, you won’t even know you’re streaming it. However, if your latency starts creeping up to the 100ms+ you’ll soon notice input lag, which as we all know from other streaming services doesn’t make for a good experience. The Wi-Fi connected controller should help with this but it’s almost certainly going to come down to your personal ping and upload speed, which could be why Google hasn’t mentioned it since it’s out of their hands, but it still would have been nice to see the latency they were managing to achieve during their tests.
The Stadia Founder’s Edition will be available in 14 countries at launch including (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland), with more countries being added at some point next year. If all of this has got you excited then you can pre-order your Stadia founders edition right now via the Google store. Personally, I would wait for us to get it first (on release) so you can hear our thoughts on the latency and overall gameplay experience rather than throwing £119 at a new and essentially untested technology (at least untested on the scale it will launch at).