Google’s cloud gaming service requires a $129 bundle to play at launch

Google’s cloud gaming service requires a $129 bundle to play at launch

Google today revealed more information about Stadia, its ambitious gaming service, in a special Connect show. We learned that Google was tossing away their one single advantage — namely, that you’re going to have to purchase a $129 not-console in order to play it at launch.

The first details we learned was the launch library of Stadia — and the first title we learned about was the previously-rumored Baldur’s Gate III and Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. The other titles in the lineup include DoomDestiny 2, The Division 2Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and the Tomb Raider reboot games. Google of course hyped its Stadia controller, but specified that it could be used with any controller or a mouse and keyboard.

According to Phil Harrison, Google‘s head of Stadia, the service will offer a quality experience cognate with the user’s connection speed. Harrison said a user with a 35 Mbps connection could run a 4K HDR stream at 60 FPS. They did specify that users with a connection as weak as 10 Mbps could use Stadia, but would only be able to stream in 720p.

Google revealed two different Stadia packages: Stadia Base and Stadia Pro. Stadia Base is free, and you can buy and play individual games at your leisure and use them with Stadia. However, according to the Google Stadia store page, Base won’t launch until 2020, and you won’t be able to stream games on it in 4K, only in 1080p.

A Stadia Pro subscription, which costs $9.99 a month, gets you access to 4K streams, free games, and discounts. The 4K access seems rather fruitless if you don’t already have 35 Mbps connection speed — according to Harrison’s words earlier in the stream you can’t make use of that feature with a less powerful connection. Neither Harrison nor co-host John Justice gave any details about just which games you’d get for free and which games would be merely discounted — I’m going to assume brand new AAA titles likely won’t be forked over with the monthly subscription.

But the most important new of all: Google’s somehow managed to come up with a special edition console without the console — in this case, the “Founder’s Edition,” which costs $129. This edition comes with 3 months of Pro, a special controller, a Chromecast Ultra, a buddy pass (so you can invite a friend to Stadia), and first access to choosing a username. Oh hold me, lest I swoon from such generosity. There’s also a complete copy of Destiny 2 thrown in to sweeten the pot, though that’ll only be available for a limited time.

What Google didn’t reveal during the show — it’s buried in the FAQ — is that “To access Stadia in 2019, you’ll need to purchase a bundle.” Currently, the only bundle available to buy on Stadia’s Google Store page is the Founder’s edition. Even scrolling down to the Pro option says it’s “Part of Founder’s Edition.” We’ve contacted Google to see if that means what it sounds like it means.

Stadia’s single greatest claim to disrupting the current trend in gaming is that it didn’t require users to pay an upfront hardware cost. Offering a “Founder’s Edition” hardware bundle as the only way of accessing the service at launch sure sounds a heckuva lot like an upfront hardware cost. Maybe it’s not as expensive as an Xbox One X or a PS4 Pro, but it’s still a pretty penny.

You can currently pre-order the Founder’s Edition from Google’s Store.

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