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Google Stadia: The finer print of Google's game streaming service
Set to debut in November, Google Stadia appears to be one of the most ambitious attempts yet at a game streaming platform. That said, there are plenty of smaller questions with smaller answers that could sway your thoughts on Stadia. Let’s take a look at some of the finer print with Stadia and see what Google didn’t outright tell us.
“Free” games aren’t really free
For those who can’t always buy games, the Stadia Pro membership “regularly” offers free games to those willing to pay $9.99 each month. That said, you lose access to any free game you redeemed if you step down to the free Stadia Base tier. In that way, Stadia Pro works very similarly to Sony’s PlayStation Plus.
The same goes for any add-on content you purchased, as well as the “free” copy of Destiny 2 that you get with the Founder’s Edition.
Speaking of which, the Founder’s Edition includes the main Destiny 2 game, all previously-released content, and the upcoming Shadowkeep expansion for free. Bungie announced that Destiny 2 would go free-to-play anyway, but the Shadowkeep expansion will cost $35 on other platforms.
The good news is that purchased games are available on Pro and Base. Also, re-subscribing to Pro restores previously-claimed free games and purchased add-on content.
You’ll need the Founder’s Edition to play Stadia in 2019
Google wasn’t extremely clear about this during its Stadia Connect presentation, but you’ll need to buy the $129 Founder’s Edition to play on Stadia in 2019. You’ll have to wait until sometime in 2020 to become a Pro or Base subscriber. It’s a bit of a bummer, but at least the Base subscription won’t cost you a thing.
Device support and buying games
If you own the Google Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, or Pixel 3a XL, you’re good to go once Stadia launches later this year. Those with non-Pixel mobile devices will have to wait an undetermined amount of time to get support for Stadia.
However, Pixel and non-Pixel devices alike will be able to use the Stadia app from day one. The app, which works on any device running at least iOS 11 and Android Marshmallow, lets you purchase or manage Stadia games. It’s not the same thing as playing Stadia games, but at least you can look at what’s available.
Stadia might chew through your data cap
During its Stadia Connect presentation, Google also talked about the bandwidth requirements of the game streaming platform. On a 35Mbps connection, you get 4K resolution, 60fps, and HDR. Stepping down to 10Mbps gets you 720p resolution at 60fps, while 20Mbps gets you 1080p resolution and 60fps.
However, PC Gamer reported that you should be careful if you have a monthly data cap. According to the outlet’s analysis, Stadia uses 15.75GB per hour of 4K streaming, 9GB per hour of 1080p, and 4.5GB per hour on 720p. That means Stadia reportedly uses 1TB from 4K streaming if you played each day for around two hours and 10 minutes.
Whether you’re a hardcore or casual gamer, the numbers don’t paint a pretty picture for you. You’ll have to be judicious with how much you play during the week if you have a monthly data cap and have fast-enough data speeds to get 4K streaming.
Stadia won’t use cellular data. For now.
You’re more than welcome to play Stadia on any supported device, so long as you don’t use cellular data. Unfortunately for road warriors, Google director of product management Andrey Doronichev confirmed with The Verge that “you should not expect your existing cellular connection to work.”
That said, the door is open for 5G to change things. According to Doronichev, Google is bullish on 5G’s potential to change the inability to play Stadia over a cellular data connection. Based on early speed tests, 5G might deliver on its promise of significantly faster data speeds.
A lost connection doesn’t always mean lost game progress
Thanks to Stadia constantly sending data to the cloud, you won’t have to worry much about manually saving your game. However, there’s the concern of losing your game progress if you lose your internet connection.
The good news is that your game progress won’t go away if that happens, but only for a small amount of time. If you lose connection, Stadia will maintain the game where it got cut off for “several minutes.” The service will also adjust the streaming quality in the event that your bandwidth fluctuates.
Not every Google account will work
Because Stadia is a Google product, you’ll need a Google account to use it. However, only standard Google accounts will work with Stadia — those with Google for Work, Google for Education, and “certain other managed Google accounts” are out of luck.
Controller support is weird
You don’t have to use the Stadia Controller to play on Stadia — you’re free to use other controllers. However, controllers must be HID-compliant and connect via USB cable if you’re playing on Chrome or mobile.
Also, you must use the Stadia Controller if you want to play on your TV. Third-party accessory makers could theoretically release compatible controllers under the “Made for Google” program. However, they’d have to directly connect to the Chromecast Ultra, which is also required for playing on your TV. Until that happens, your only option on the TV is the Stadia Controller.
Not everyone in the U.S. will get Stadia
With Google based in the U.S., it makes sense for the company to make the country one of the launch destinations for Stadia later this year. However, Google quietly clarified that Stadia will not be available in Hawaii, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Those in Puerto Rico and Alaska are safe and will get Stadia.
Google didn’t explicitly state why, but the company insinuated that Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are too far from its data centers. Google also insinuated Stadia’s eventual launch in the three aforementioned regions, but nothing is yet set in stone.
Stadia is online-only
The most important distinction about Stadia is its complete reliance on an internet connection. Even when you purchase games on the platform, there’s no such thing as offline play on Stadia. As such, you can’t download titles onto your device to play while in an airplane, for example.
That’s already a problem for those who don’t have the best internet connections, but making matters worse is Google’s spotty reputation when it comes to privacy. The company, along with other large entities like Facebook, has received plenty of flak for their data-collection practices and approach to privacy.
If you think we’re missing anything, let us know in the comments below. While you’re there, tell us if the aforementioned information changed how you thought about Stadia.