Google Stadia to offer free game streaming when you buy the game from them

The game-streaming service, coming in November, will also offer a subscription. You can preorder it now.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
3 min read

Google's upcoming Stadia instantly makes it a big competitor in gaming.


Google has an answer for any skeptics of its Stadia streaming game service: Buy the game from Google, and you can play through Stadia for free.

The internet giant laid out its launch plans Thursday, during a livestream in which it announced prices for its service, which includes an effectively free tier offering high-definition visuals for any game you buy from  Google . The company declined to say how much games will cost but said it would be competitive with the industry.

Google also said it'll have a $9.99-per-month subscription service, called Stadia Pro, which will offer high quality visuals, some free games, discounts on other games and a copy of Bungie's epic space adventure Destiny 2.

The company also announced a Stadia Founder's Edition incentive, which will cost $130 and include a "night blue" controller, a Chromecast Ultra streaming device, three months of Stadia Pro, first dibs on a username and a buddy pass that gives a friend three months to try Stadia Pro for free. Founder's Edition players will have access to Stadia starting in November. 

Stadia also unveiled partnerships with game developers, including Take 2 Interactive, known for Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, Square Enix, which makes Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider, Bethesda, which builds Fallout and Electronic Arts, which is behind FIFA, Madden NFL and NHL Hockey.


Google's Stadia controller.

James Martin/CNET

"This is the first collection of games. We'll have a lot more," said John Justice, Google Stadia's VP and head of product. He added that with companies like Bungie, Google struck a deal to allow players to bring existing characters they'd made while playing on a PC, Microsoft Xbox or Sony PlayStation, and bring it to Stadia. Justice said this is an example of how Google plans to offer "cross play and cross collaboration" with Stadia.

Google announced Stadia in March to offer a service that streams games like Netflix streams movies. Google promised that Stadia's quality would be competitive with a game console.

Many people see Google's entrance into the game industry as a sign that the industry itself is starting to shift from specialized hardware like the Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch , to screens that connect to game services over the web.

Google isn't the only company doing this. Microsoft has announced its intention to create a game streaming service, called Project xCloud, to complement a next-generation video game console expected to launch next year.

Sony as well has said it's going to partner with Microsoft for game streaming. The Japanese tech giant has offered its own streaming service, PlayStation Now, since 2014. EA has also announced plans to launch a streaming service, demoing it last year during the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 as it's known.

At launch, Google said Stadia will be available in 14 countries for people who preorder the Founder's Edition, including the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. More countries will follow over the next year.

Watch this: Google Stadia is a play-anywhere streaming game platform of the future

As part of its partnerships, Stadia will have many popular games available at launch. They include Bethesda's upcoming demon shooter Doom Eternal and its alternative history series Wolfenstein: Young Blood. 2K games will offer the highly anticipated Borderlands 3, Warner Bros. will offer its bloody fighting game Mortal Kombat 11 and Ubisoft will offer adventure games including Assassin's Creed Odyssey, the party game Just Dance and the military shooter Tom Clancy's The Division 2.

"Ubisoft is bringing several fantastic gaming worlds to Stadia at launch and we cannot wait to see players experience them on this game-changing cloud technology.," Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft's CEO, said in a statement.

Google also said its Stadia controller, an optional accessory that will connect wirelessly to the internet in order to play games, will come in three colors: black, Clearly White and Wasabi aka green.

The device itself will eventually work on a variety of phones and TVs, but initially the company said it'll be restricted to laptops and desktops, Chromecast Ultra TV streaming sticks and the Google Pixel 3 phone.

"Eventually, we'll work across a wide variety of phones, including iPhones," Google's Justice said.

Google said it will only need an internet connection as slow as 10 megabits per second to operate, which is what most base broadband plans offer. For ultra-high definition visuals offered with a Stadia Pro account, you'd need a 35 megabit connection, the company said. The company said you'll be able to assess your own connection through a tester app on its website when you sign up.

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