Google Stadia: Exec Drops Two Big Clues About Future Cloud Gaming Service
Google wants to free gamers from the expensive hardware and long download times gaming often requires with its upcoming Stadia cloud streaming service.
Soon, the company says, video game fans will be able to play AAA titles on any of their devices using just a Chrome browser and the Stadia controller. But while the community has quickly embraced this vision, there have also been few specifics, for example, when will this gaming revolution kick off and how much Google’s console-free gaming will cost.
Two big hints recently came to light, thanks to some remarks by Stadia chief Phil Harrison at GamesBeat Summit 2019 in Los Angeles California on April 23. These hints shed light on Google’s likely approach to pricing and when broadband networks will be ready to support lossless game streaming for the masses.
Stadia will be powered by Google’s global network of data centers that are in 200 countries. Users will pay to rent those servers’ computational and graphical power to run games instead of relying on their own hardware. This presents Google with a big opportunity to redefine what it’s like to buy and play video games. But of course, nailing pricing and connectivity will be pivotal to its success.
The cloud service needs a price that will appeal to both avid gamers and casual players. Most of all, it needs to ensure customers will be able to play games lag-free with their internet package.
Harrison teased plans to accomplish both of those things.
Google Stadia Pricing
Currently available cloud gaming services, like Sony’s PlayStation Now and Shadow, use a monthly-fee model similar to Netflix and Hulu. PS Now costs $20 per month and Shadow costs $34.95 every month for a yearly plan. For a full year, Sony’s service costs $240 and Shadow nearly doubles that to $408.
A monthly subscription model might be ideal for ardent gamers who play multiple times a week. But Harrison said Stadia plans to explore multiple pricing models, not simply the subscription fees used by all of its major competitors.
“There is no technical limitation on how we have architected the platform to support a variety of business models,” he said.
His comments support a statement made by Ubisoft’s CEO Yves Guillemot on April 9. At the time, the Stadia partner said customers will be able to “buy full price and you play; or you will be able to also register, possibly, to play either one hour or two hours a day.”
People that can only game for a couple of hours on the weekend might find that a “pay-by-the-hour” model fits their habits perfectly. The option to go with an an hourly on-demand rate also makes it easier for cloud gaming skeptics to test out the service before they shell out $40 for an entire month.
Stadia is being positioned as a platform to suit gamers with increasingly flexible hardware arrays. It increasingly looks like it will follow a similar model for pricing.
Google Stadia Internet Connection
Harrison also took the opportunity to make it clear that customers won’t need 5G broadband to run Stadia. The Google VP said that the internet net plans available today are more than enough to run the services without any hiccups.
“Broadband connectivity is more than sufficient to satisfy the most ambitious aspects of our plan,” he said. “The bandwidth we require to enjoy Google Stadia at the highest level is only 30 to 35 megabits per second, and that’s to play at 4K. 20 to 25 megabits per second is enough for less than that, so it’s not a massive bandwidth that we require.”
There may be some bluster at play here. People who got the chance to test an early version of Stadia after its March 19 announcement noted lag issues that were even apparent during some of Stadia’s on-stage demo. Since all of Stadia’s games would be streamed over the internet, there’s a possibility that titles that wouldn’t stutter on consoles will lag on the service. Many of Harrison’s public statements about Stadia seem to be aimed at allaying these concerns.
For example at launch, the executive explained that Stadia will offer tutorials aimed at consumers to help them up their internet speeds using a mix of software fixes and hardware.
Harrison wouldn’t say exactly how this tutorial would look on Stadia, and it could even be a subtle push to sell gamers on Google’s Wifi hardware. The tech company began selling mesh-capable wireless routers in 2016 and now offers them at $99 a pop (or a three-pack for $259). These devices work in tandem to amplify Wifi signals inside of a home that might be suffering from dead zones.
Stadia has made sure to preemptively address many sources of skepticism. As for more tangible details like its release date and starting roster, fans will likely have to wait until its formal announcement. Fortunately, Harrison has already indicated that there will be another Stadia announcement in the summer, possible at the E3 conference in June.
Google will probably take this opportunity to tout the available games, but it may also introduce some more details about its plans for pricing Stadia and how it’ll help customers ensure they can play it seamlessly.