On June 6, Google held its first Stadia Connect. After initially announcing Stadia back in February during GDC, this is where we learned what games will be coming to Stadia, what kind of internet connection is required, and — most importantly — how much it costs.
When Stadia was first unveiled, a lot of speculation arose surrounding how Google would monetize the platform. It was unclear if games would need to be purchased individually or if Google would take the Netflix route and give customers access to a growing library with a recurring subscription.
Turns out, it's a little bit of both.
On paper, that doesn't sound appealing in the slightest. Paying a monthly fee on top of buying your games outright could get very expensive over the long term, but when you stop and think about it, Google's pricing for Stadia actually makes sense. Hear me out.
Stadia Base is essentially a free game console you can play anywhere.
At its core, Stadia's technology is free to use — or at least it will be when Stadia Base launches in 2020. With Stadia Base, you'll be able to play games in up to 1080p at 60 FPS with stereo sound. In other words, you're essentially getting a PS4 Slim or Xbox One S for free that you can use virtually anywhere. Google gives you access to the service; you just need to pay for the games you want to play.
Nothing else like that exists right now. NVIDIA GeForce Now enables you to stream games for free via your Mac, PC, or NVIDIA Shield, but that's only because it's in a beta state. Once NVIDIA is ready to launch GeForce Now officially, it'll likely come with a subscription.
The problem, however, is that no one's talking about Stadia Base. Instead, everyone's worked up over the $129 Founder's Edition and Stadia Pro that'll run users a recurring $9.99/month.
The best way to think about Stadia Pro is like PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold. You pay a monthly fee and get "regular" free games added to your library along with exclusive discounts on other games you can buy. Those other services are more affordable as you can pay for a full year upfront for about $5/month, but your $9.99/month Stadia Pro membership also gives you a massive boost to your gameplay quality — up to 4K resolution and 5.1 surround sound.
Nothing else really compares to Stadia from a price standpoint.
Even if Google always keeps Stadia Pro at $9.99/month with no option to buy a discounted annual plan, the value proposition is still great. When the next-gen Xbox and PlayStation are launched next year, you won't have to worry about plopping down $500 for a new system. Instead, you can keep on playing Stadia is crispy 4K. And, since Stadia is cloud-based, Google can improve its performance and quality all the time. Back in February, Google promised that Stadia will eventually support 8K gameplay at 120 FPS. In other words, your $9.99/month is essentially paying for a console that's getting better all the time.
Stadia Pro isn't required by any means, but if you want your games to look and sound as good as possible, you have that option. For comparison's sake, Shadow Cloud Gaming also offers 4K 60 FPS game streaming and costs $34.95/month (or $24.95/month if you pay annually). Just like Google Stadia, you gain access to a cloud gaming platform buy still have to purchase your games.
Cloud gaming is still very much in its infancy, but compared to the other platforms that are being offered, nothing else really compares to Stadia from a price standpoint. If you're okay playing games in 1080p, buy the titles you want and never worry about any other fees for buying a console, online multiplayer, etc. If you want to upgrade to 4K and get a few extra perks, you can do so for ten bucks a month. That's not to mention the insane flexibility of being able to play on your TV, desktop, tablet, or smartphone as long as you're connected to a decent Wi-Fi network.
There are plenty of other arguments to make about Stadia, specifically not physically owning any of the games you buy and the potentially massive amount of data usage it'll eat up, but the pricing model is pretty damn great.
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