GOOGLE STADIA promised to let you play games anywhere, on any device, at the highest quality without shelling out for an expensive console.
The tech giant has now revealed that you’re going to be paying the same price for games on Stadia as on a normal console, even though you won’t actually get to keep them.
You’ll also have to shell out an £8.99 monthly fee to be able to play the games in the same quality you’ll get from a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X.
That means while you’ve got a lower initial cost, Stadia will end up costing you more in the long run even before you factor in the games.
Unlike normal consoles where you buy a copy of the game to run at home, on Google you just buy the right to stream the game from Google’s servers for as long as it’s there.
You also won’t be able to buy games in shops, taking advantage of special offers or price cuts in big sales.
Many had hoped these differences would mean Stadia game prices would be lower than you’d pay on Xbox One or PS4, but Google has shot this down.
Asked if this would be the case, Google’s Stadia chief Phil Harrison said “I don’t know why [buying games on Stadia] would be cheaper,” according to Eurogamer.
“The value you get from the game on Stadia means you can play it on any screen in your life – TV, PC, laptop, tablet, phone,” he told a gathering of UK games media. “I think that is going to be valuable to players.”
At launch, the only screens it will work on will be the Pixel 3, Pixel 3A, and ant others you can plug a Chromecast Ultra into.
How much do other gaming services cost?
MICROSOFT and Sony both offer services that are similar to what you can get with Google Stadia.
They are split up into different bits, but we’ve tied them all together so you can see what you’re getting.
Both Xbox and PlayStation charge you to play online, and also give out free games on a monthly basis to subscribers.
Unlike Stadia, though, those games aren’t added to a library – if you download them they’re yours to keep forever.
However, you don’t get access to past free games; you can only get the ones available from when you sign up.
There will soon be a free Xbox Console Streaming service that lets you play any game you’ve bought for your home console on your phone or tablet too, for free.
To get Xbox Live Gold and play online – a service Stadia bundles for free – you’ll need to pay between £2.50 and £6.99 a month to play games online. The price varies because you can either pay the fee monthly, or get a discount if you buy it for a longer period.
Sometimes that price drops even further because of retailer special offers like Amazon Prime Day.
That includes free games for you to download and keep every month as part of Games With Gold.
Sony’s free Remote Play feature lets you play games you’ve bought for your PS4 on any device that can run the Remote Play app, which includes most phones, tablets and PCs.
PlayStation Plus, which lets you play games online, costs between £2.33 and £6.99 a month, again depending on how long you sign up for and when you buy it.
That also includes free games to download and keep every month.
What does that all mean for you, though?
Upfront Stadia obviously costs less, but it’s going to cost you more month-to-month – and a console should last you a good few years.
We’ve compared how much it would cost you to get an Xbox One X or PS4 Pro, so you can play games in 4K with surround sound like on Stadia, and keep playing it online for five years.
We’ve also included the cost of a second controller so you can play with a mate.
And to make it fair given Stadia Pro gets you Destiny 2, both console prices are for bundles that come with one recent game.
PS4 Pro, second controller, 5 years online play: £534.78
Xbox One X, second controller, 5 years online play: £612.98
Google Stadia Founders Pack, second controller, 5 years subscription: £691.43
So as things stand, Stadia will end up costing you significantly more than both other consoles, before game prices are factored in.
When the PS5 and Xbox 2 arrive next year that maths will change as the new consoles may cost a bit more – but while the PS5 might be more expensive than the current PS4 Pro, we don’t expect Project Scarlett to be priced much higher than the Xbox One X.
He also suggested gamers would be willing to pay a premium because Stadia games would be “at the highest-possible quality of innovation and sophistication”.
If you want to play games at the highest quality, however, you need to pay for a Stadia Pro subscription.
That will set you back £8.99 a month, and let you play games in 4K and with surround sound.
If you assume you’ll play on a single console for five years, that means Stadia will end up costing you TWICE as much, even if you shell out to pay to play online.
At some point next year there will be a free tier called Stadia Base, but this will only let you play in HD and with stereo-quality sound – even if the game you paid full price for supports 4K and has surround sound built in.
It is also not clear how long-term support for games on Stadia will work, and if companies will be able to pull their games from the service as film companies do for movie-streaming services like Netflix, or as happens to games available via Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Now.
Google has promised that those shelling out for the £8.99-a-month package will also get access to “an ever-expanding library of games” to play, though only Destiny 2 has been confirmed so far.
Subscribers will get “exclusive discounts on select game purchases”, though it’s not clear how widely that discount will be applied.
Getting access to Stadia isn’t free either.
If you want to get in at the start you need to buy a £119 Founder’s Pack, which includes a Stadia controller and a Chromecast Ultra to plug into your telly.
That does include three months’ of Stadia Pro subscription too.
Harrison did say that individual pricing would be down to publishers, but “obviously going to be very aware of prevailing prices in the marketplace.”
What about game subscription services?
BOTH Sony and Microsoft have their own Netflix-style game libraries that you can pay to access.
Both also allow you to play some games on devices other than your console.
Microsoft’s new Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service works on PC as well as Xbox, and costs you £10.99 a month.
That includes Xbox Live Gold and gives you a library of over 100 games on Xbox to download and play for free.
You need to keep paying for the service to keep playing the games, but you never have to pay more, even for the newest blockbusters.
The PC side works the same way, but has a different catalogue of games.
With the upcoming Xbox Console Streaming service, you’ll be able to play any of those games on the go too – as well as any game you already own – without paying any extra.
We don’t know officially which phones or tablets it will run on yet, but a wide range has been promised.
Sony’s equivalent, PlayStation Now, costs £12.99 a month, and gives you access to a library of over 600 games.
Unlike Xbox, though, none of these are particularly recent games – even Sony exclusives like Uncharted or Spider-Man aren’t on the service.
The games also don’t work with Remote Play – you need to use the PlayStation Now app to play them off your PS4, and that’s only available on PC for now.
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Microsoft also have Project Xcloud in the works, which Brits will be able to try for themselves next month.
Technically that service is very similar to Stadia, and won’t require you to have your own console to play Xbox One titles.
Microsoft hasn’t revealed anything about pricing for that, though.
Streaming could mean that the PS5 and Xbox 2 are the last games consoles you ever need to buy, though not everyone is convinced they’re going to be worth it.
Meanwhile, Nintendo is just getting on with its own thing, with images having recently ‘leaked’ that seem to show a new model of the Switch due any minute.
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