Google Stadia Price: How the Streaming Service Could Beat xCloud and PS Now

The service faces tough competition.

Google is joining a tough market. The world’s largest search engine announced on Tuesday plans to enter video games with Stadia, a streaming platform designed to eliminate the need for expensive hardware. While Google has removed one payment from the gaming equation, details about any further payments were notably missing from the presentation.

Phil Harrison told the audience at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco that “our vision for Stadia is simple: One place for all the ways we play.” It uses a network of data centers over 200 countries to deliver 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, with later support for 8K resolution at 120 frames per second when needed. A graphics processor designed in partnership with AMD offers 10.7 teraflops of performance for games, beating out even the Xbox One X with six teraflops. This is paired with a 2.7 GHz processor and 16GB of RAM.

It sounds like the sort of specs worthy of a new generation of gaming. But where the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Scarlett will likely offer boxes costing hundreds of dollars, Google has been keen to stress that anyone can play with all manner of devices. That leaves a big question mark over how Google will pay for this high-end hardware when the service launches in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe later this year.

Google Stadia Price: Controller Costs

The one exception to the hardware rule is the Stadia controller. This is a specialized controller that connects directly to the game over wifi, aimed at reducing lag even further. It has a game sharing button, and Google Assistant support to ask for help in a game. Players can use other input methods, but it seems Google is pushing this as the best way to play on Stadia.

google stadia
The Google Assistant button is found on the center-right of the controller.

All the major video game vendors sell controllers with varying levels of complexity. Sony’s DualShock 4 costs $49.99, while an Xbox wireless controller can be priced around $39.99. Nintendo sells a Pro controller for its Switch hybrid console for $69.99 or a pair of Joy-Cons for $79.99 that can enable multiplayer gaming.

These controllers are all designed for interfacing with a console, though. Microsoft is rumored to be launching its own game streaming kit alongside its next-generation console at a price of $100 to $150. This differs slightly from Google’s proposal, though, as the box would house a processor for limited tasks like collision detection to reduce latency further.

Google Stadia Price: How the Competition Compares

The big competitor to Stadia right now is Sony’s PlayStation Now, which is priced at $19.99 per month or $99.99 per year after the end of the 30-day trial period. That gives access to over 600 games from the PS4, PS3, and PS2 through either a PS4 or a standard Windows PC. The service first launched in 2014, borne out of the company’s purchase of Gaikai for $380 million two years prior. The same technology also enables features like Remote Play, a free addition where users can stream and play their PS4 remotely. The service is improving: In September 2018, the company updated PlayStation Now so PS4 owners could download PS4 and PS2 games for offline play.

Microsoft is expected to join the streaming race with xCloud, its service in development unveiled in October 2018. The company aims for the service to run on a connection under 10 megabits per second, enabling gameplay over 4G cellular. The goal is to start public trials in 2019, but a full public launch was described with a vague reference to xCloud as a “multi-year journey.”

Microsoft xCloud in action.
Microsoft xCloud in action.

Microsoft has yet to detail any pricing models for the xCloud, but it currently offers the Xbox Game Pass that promises access to over 100 games for $9.99 per month. The subscription downloads the games to the system before use, but a future implementation could tweak this setup for a streaming-based future.

Another potential competitor in the space is Nvidia, with GeForce Now offering access to over 400 supported PC games for stores like Steam and Uplay. The beta is currently free with unannounced pricing, and all users have to pay is the cost of the games themselves.

These prices fare a lot better than previous attempts at streaming. OnLive, a service that launched in 2010 to a mixed reception, cost a staggering $4.99 per month without access to games. That meant users looking to play the then-latest Splinter Cell: Conviction had to fork up an eye-watering $59.99 on top of the monthly fees. OnLive eventually shut down in 2015, and its patents were sold to Sony.

Google may be able to take the edge over PlayStation Now and xCloud if it can keep prices down to similar levels and entice more users. With the service expected to launch later this year, hopefully it will provide more details further down the line.

Media via Google, Microsoft