Hot on the heels of Google’s Stadia presentation, here’s the breakdown.
Stadia Pro – $9.99/month
If you want 4K, HDR, and 5.1 surround sound, you’ll need to pay for their monthly subscription. This price also includes a vague promise of “free games”, starting with Destiny 2 and all the fixin’s, including all DLC up to this point as well as the season pass. You will also get discounts on games you purchase on the Stadia platform, but no word on how much of a discount (expect 10% I’d assume).
Stadia Base – Free
The free, base option only allows for streams up to 1080p, 60FPS, and stereo sound. You don’t get any free games, nor do you get a discount on games you buy on the platform.
Stadia Founders – $120
The Founders Edition is a pre-order package which includes a Chromecast Ultra, a nice blue Stadia controller, 3 months of Pro (and all that entails including Destiny 2), a code to give a friend 3 free months of Pro, a Founder’s Badge, the right to reserve your name ahead of everyone else, and the first crack at the service when they are ready to go live. To break this down, though, a Chromecast Ultra is $70, the presentation video alluded to a Stadia controller being about the same price, and 3 months of Pro is about $30 ($60 if you want to factor in the friend code). Street value is about $200 if you buy the parts individually.
I have experienced Stadia. I have also experienced OnLive, and have tried many in-home point-to-point streaming services, and Stadia was almost a magical experience compared to all of these other options. I have pretty good Internet service which is somewhere between what you’d get from more rural areas and what you get in places where fiber is the norm, so a middling connection is apparently pretty suitable for this service. We only got to play Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey which isn’t super demanding in terms of input, but I never had any problem bashing skulls on account of lag.
I really want to pull the trigger on a Founder’s Edition, but there’s a few things standing in my way.
First is that I’ve been here before in more than one dimension. I bought into OnLive and that tanked. I was also a heavy user of several Google services that got closed down, like Wave, Reader, Messenger, and Plus. On the other hand, I am using their cell phone service, so I’m really caught between a rock and a hot-plate on this. If the service stays above water, it’ll continue on, but it seems like Google is prone to rapid decommissioning whenever they see their shadow.
Second and more importantly is that Stadia games are locked to Stadia’s platform. If the service tanks, those games are gone for good. In the best case scenario Google would partner with a fallout-platform to transfer rights somewhere else (we did get a free copy of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey for the earlier test that we could “keep”), but that would be an unprecedented act of goodwill on everyone’s part that I just don’t think humanity is ready to enact. Stadia would never be Google’s bread and butter, so they will only operate this service until they decided it’s no longer in their best interest to do so, and with the closure goes all of the money thrown into the service (as well as access to the games we might be playing at the time).
Third is that in order for Stadia to succeed, people have to believe in it, and judging by the reactions to the naming ceremony earlier in the year, and the reactions I’m seeing on Twitter today, that outcome is completely up in the air. The promise of low-to-no-latency streaming is a heady one, and as mentioned, those who have tried have failed. Google does have everything OnLive doesn’t, especially the smartest people and the largest infrastructure, so aside from Microsoft and Sony, Google would be the one company I’d name who might be able to make it work. Considering my personal experience, it does work, but you can’t convince an angry Internet mob who’s content with their own self-satisfaction that because it never has been done it never will be done. To prevent Google from killing Stadia a few years down the road, it needs to convince people that it works and that it works well. That means, obviously, that it has to work well for everyone, or the bulk of users who try it across different speeds and configurations. That there’s a free tier is good, but that free tier needs something to allow potential users to kick the tires. We all know there’s a contingent of YouTubers out there who are already editing their “Here’s why Stadia will fail” videos which will only steel an already skeptical population against the service before they can even be persuaded to try it themselves. People need a no-risk option to take the service for a spin so they can see for themselves, and that’s the only way Stadia is going to convince gamers that the service is a viable player in the space.
I’ve typed this up several times now and to be honest, each one has been in an attempt to give myself wiggle room should I cave and buy the Founder’s Edition, but I’ve reached the last paragraph and the song remains the same: I’ll try Stadia when it launches, but I’ve been burned before by services like this. I need to see that Stadia has a chance in the court of public opinion so I know that its safe to actually buy games on that platform.