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FAQ Gaming

Google Stadia vs. Apple Arcade streaming game services: Everything we know

Sign up now to play Google's streaming game service this fall. Apple's Arcade service is also due later this year.

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Google Stadia comes to your browser later this year.

Google

We got a few more spilled beans about Google Stadia on Thursday, the streaming game service that will run on the Chrome browser. We now know how much it will cost, how it will work and around the time it'll come out (this fall). We know less about Apple Arcade, the competing gaming service. Apple's far more vague, only confirming at this week's WWDC event that Arcade will be available "later this year."

Here's some of what we learned: Google Stadia players will be able to subscribe to the service for $10 a month or use the service for free by buying individual games. Google's service will work a bit like Netflix, where you stream games to your devices, with Google's data center handling all the processing. And Google will have a Stadia game controller that will connect via Wi-Fi to Google's services and offer dedicated buttons for sharing gameplay on YouTube and for seeking gaming help with a Google Assistant button.

For both Apple and Google, streaming games are a new frontier that takes the wild popularity of gaming apps a step further. High bandwidth fueled by faster Wi-Fi and the upcoming 5G networks have the potential to make streaming games possible with advanced graphics and very little lag. Tapping into the zeitgeist of gaming also opens up more revenue streams by giving Apple and Google ways to charge subscription fees.

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Sonic Racing from Sega on Arcade.

Apple

For Apple especially, the push into gaming is part of a larger effort to provide services tied to its hardware. Its games service, video-streaming platform and even Apple Music all are compelling reasons to remain loyal to Apple's world and use an Apple device. For Google, it's about the cloud, and its gaming platform plays to its strengths, letting players take part in cloud-based gaming and then share gameplay through YouTube.

Google -- much more than Apple -- is slowly filling in details on its gaming subscription service, and we have many more questions than answers about which one may be right for your gaming style and would give you more for your money. Here is what we do (and don't) know about the game platforms.

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When they're coming

Stadia: Google, in a pre-E3 announcement, said you'll be able to play Stadia in November by preording the Stadia Founder's Edition for $129. To play individual games without a subscription, you'll need to wait till 2020.

For what it's worth, Google had Stadia up and running in its booth at GDC in March for conventioneers to play with. In the short time I got to play a game via Stadia, the service seem solid, and I couldn't tell I was streaming a game instead of playing it locally.

We also caught a glimpse of the service late last year, when Google had a beta version of the service running under the name Project Stream.

Arcade: Apple confirmed at WWDC that Arcade is coming this year, though didn't narrow down a time frame. We expect Apple to launch the iPhone 11 at an event in September, which is one potential stage for the company to reveal more Arcade details.

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Google Stadia, in action.

Google

Stadia and Arcade: How much they'll cost

Arcade: Apple acknowledged that its service will be available through a subscription with no in-app purchases. But it didn't give a price.

Stadia: In a taped video prior to E3, Google revealed Stadia pricing, but we don't have a complete picture. At the starter level, you can play games on Stadia for free with the Stadia Base tier by just purchasing individual games to play in 1080p resolution. Google didn't reveal pricing for single games.

For $10 a month, you can subscribe to Stadia Pro, which gets you access to some games for free and others you purchase to play at up to 4K resolution and 60 frames per second. Stadia will offer discounts on select games, but we don't know what that pricing structure looks like.

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To prime the pump, you can preorder the Stadia Founder's Edition, a $130 limited-edition package that give you access to the service in November, a limited-edition controller, a Chromecast Ultra streaming device, three months of Stadia Pro, a three-month buddy pass so you'll have someone to play with, and first shot at claiming your Stadia name.

We don't know what happens to games you purchase on discount with a Stadia Pro account if you switch to a Stadia base account. And we don't know what happens if you own a game on another service and want to play it on Stadia.

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Projection: First Light from Blowfish Studios, coming to Apple Arcade.

Apple

Where they'll run

Stadia: Google's streaming game service will run in a Chrome browser, on a TV connected to a Chromecast Ultra streaming device and on Pixel 3 and Pixel 3A phones. Google said it will add support for more phones

Arcade: Apple's Arcade will run on iPhone ($1,000 at Best Buy), iPad ($249 at Walmart), Mac, and Apple TV ($169 at Walmart).

What about controllers?

StadiaGoogle said it will have its own $70 controller for Stadia, connecting to the service via Wi-Fi. If you sign up for the Founder's Edition package, you get a Night Blue Stadia controller with the $129 purchase. You'll be able to use your own controller, too.

Arcade: Apple CEO Tim Cook at WWDC 2019 said an upcoming version of Apple TV will support Microsoft Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4 controllers. The controllers -- which will work with Arcade on iOS and MacOS devices and as well as on Apple TV -- open up interesting possibilities for Arcade gameplay and give Apple an answer to Google's Stadia game controller.

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Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, from Ubisoft, coming to Stadia.

Google

Who will make the games?

Stadia: Google said it's working with a range of game developers -- including Ubisoft and ID Software -- to deliver games to Stadia. At its pre-E3 event, Google showed off a dozen games running on Stadia, including Baldar's Gate.

At GDC, Ubisoft showed off Assassin's Creed: Odyssey and ID demoed Doom Eternal on Stadia. Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Odyssey has been with Google since Stadia was still known as Project Stream. If you were part of the Project Stream beta, you played it last year.

Google is also opening its own game studio but didn't offer details on games it has in the works. Stadia will have exclusive games as well as ones available elsewhere.

Arcade: Apple said all Arcade games will be exclusive to the new program and won't be available on other mobile devices or part of other subscription services. 

Arcade will include games from Annapurna Interactive, Bossa Studios, Cartoon Network, Finji, Giant Squid, Klei Entertainment, Konami, Lego, Mistwalker, Sega, Snowman and Ustwo. Apple is also getting into the game design business and said it's contributing to the development costs of games coming to the service.

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Enter The Construct by Directive Games Limited, on Arcade.

Apple

Stadia or Arcade: Which service is for you?

It's way too early to dig into the pros and cons either way. Having said that, if you like console games and have a good internet connection, Stadia might be a good fit with its controller-driven service. If you're a casual gamer or attracted to indie games, Apple's approach might be a better choice. Arcade support for Microsoft Xbox One S ($283 at Amazon) and PlayStation DualShock 4 controllers certainly make the decision more interesting.

Apple Arcade vs. Google Stadia


Apple Arcade Google Stadia
Release date This year November, for Founder's Edition. 2020 for free play.
Price You'll subscribe, but no specifics about price yet Free to $9.99 a month, plus price of individual games
Devices Phone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV devices Anything with an internet connection and Chrome browser
Controller Yes Yes
Number of games 100 exclusive games to start Unknown, but a mix of exclusive and general
Mentioned Above
Apple iPad 2018 (space gray, 32GB)
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