Google Stadia: Your ultimate guide to the new streaming console

Prices, hardware and subscription tiers explained

Your guide to Google Stadia

Google’s gaming system has been revealed in full, and, well, it’s not really a “system” at all. Google Stadia is a cloud gaming platform that streams games from the internet to your TV, computer, tablet or smartphone.

The Netflix of gaming? Not quite. Stadia is somewhere between Netflix and a digital store: there will be a library of older games accessible through a monthly subscription, but you'll be able to purchase and download newer games as well.

Read this: How to use your Xbox One as a smart home hub

Stadia was built for a streaming world, and with a lower price to entry than its biggest rivals, it has the potential to give Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo and run for their money. However, there's still some confusion in the messaging around Stadia's streaming/buying model, some of which we'll do our best to unpack below, and while Stadia may have the power, it'll need a great library to back it up.

We'll get more into the games shortly. Here's everything we know about Stadia right now.

Google Stadia: Features and subscriptions

With Stadia, Google's servers handle all the processing, so unlike the PS4 or Xbox One, you're outsourcing all the system gruntpower - you just need a device to beam the game onto. Compatible Stadia devices include computers, tablets, Pixel smartphones - just the Pixel 3 and 3a for now - and TVs. If you want to stream to a TV, you'll need a Chromecast Ultra dongle.

Spec-to-spec on raw power, Google boasts that Stadia is more powerful than Sony’s and Microsoft’s boxes combined, and while that's true, the downside is that your experience is highly dependent on the strength of your internet connection. If you have a connection speed of at least 35Mbps, you can expect 4K streaming at 60 frames per second and 5.1 surround sound. The minimum speed Google recommends is 10Mbps, for which you'll get 720p streaming and stereo sound - but games will still run at 60 frames per second.

But users will also need to be cautious of data caps as Stadia could quickly gobble up your allowance if you don't have an unlimited plan. We hope Google says more about this, because it's not an insignificant concern right now.

What about the hardware then? We mentioned the Chromecast dongle required for the TV, but you may also have seen the Stadia controller. This will be sold separately, or as part of a launch bundle, and lets you control your Stadia games. However, you don't actually need it; you can also use an Xbox One controller if you prefer.

On top of that is the subscription service called Stadia Pro, which costs $9.99 per month and gives you access to a library of games - some free, some priced - and 4K gaming. Remember that scale of streaming quality we mentioned? You won't get access to the highest fidelity of picture and sound unless you're paying for Pro.

But here's the thing: you don't actually have to have a subscription. But in not doing so you'll only be able to purchase and play new games separately. The Pro subscription gives you access to that library of older games. In 2020 Google will launch a 'Base' tier of the subscription, which will be completely free, but only give you a maximum of 1080p resolution. You also only get stereo sound while the Pro tier supports 5.1 surround sound, and there are no regular free games or discounts.

Google Stadia: Your guide to

Google Stadia: The games

As we said, new games can be purchased individually, saved to your library and played at any time; these won't require a subscription to run. Google announced some heavyweights among the big new titles, including Destiny 2, The Division 2 and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

As for games included in the Pro subscription tier, Destiny 2 is the only one confirmed right now, but we expect more will be announced soon. Other games confirmed for Stadia include Final Fantasy XV, Tomb Raider Definitive Edition, The Crew 2, Borderlands 3, Baldur’s Gate 3, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Even Rockstar Games has pledged support to Stadia, but has yet to announce the game(s) it will bring.

Google Stadia: Your guide to

Google Stadia: Assistant and other smart features

Stadia has some other unique features like State Share and Crowd Play which will let viewers jump directly into game streams – but there are lots of questions around the mechanics of this. And of course, Google is also leveraging the Assistant with a button on the controller that will let you call up Google Assistant directly.

Google demonstrated in a demo how you can use the Assistant for help if you’re stuck on a particularly tricky part of the game, though it’s not yet clear if you’ll be able to use it to control all your other smart devices and do all the usual Assistant things. Considering Google has tried to keep the Assistant experience as even as possible across devices, we expect you will.

Google Stadia: Release date and price

Stadia will be released this November in 14 countries including the US and UK. Google says it will arrive with at least 31 games from 21 different publishers. This is also when you'll be able to purchase the 'Founder's Edition' Google Stadia starter kit.

The Founder's Edition hardware starter kit will cost $129 and includes a controller, a Chromecast Ultra, three months of Stadia Pro, a pass for a friend, and first dibs on a Stadia username. If you just want to pick up the controller on its own, you'll be able to do so for $69 at launch.

However, Google is hoping users will shell out for a monthly subscription on top of the price of hardware, and the previously mentioned Stadia Pro subscription will cost $9.99 per month. Remember, there's a free subscription tier coming, but not until next year.

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