Showtime for Stadia cloud gaming service

It now launches only as a beta and users have to wait until February 2020 for the real thing

Google sets out to transform the video game world with its new Stadia service crafted to let people access console-quality games as easily as they do email. The promise of Stadia is that you can play your games anywhere. You could do it right now, on your work or school laptop, for instance.

The service lets you stream games over the internet like you might watch a YouTube video - no downloading required, no pesky updates. You don’t really need to buy anything, either. You just need a Stadia subscription and a compatible device. You can then play on a TV with a Google Chromecast Ultra attached, a Google Pixel phone, any computer with a Google Chrome browser. That means, essentially, that you decide how much you want to invest in the Stadia ecosystem.

Big spenders who want a console-like experience can buy the Stadia Premiere Edition, which includes a Chromecast Ultra, a Stadia controller, three months of Stadia Pro, and one additional game, for $129.

But as The Verge wrote on launch day, despite the charm and an improved slate of games, on 19 November Google’s cloud gaming service isn’t anywhere near what the company initially promised in March. It’s effectively a beta that Google is charging real money for, and you should wait until 2020 for that to change. Specifically, you should wait until February 2020, when it will have a tier with no subscription fee where users can buy games (currently they're about $60 apiece, but Pro subscribers often get discounts) and stream them at 1080p and 60 frames per second. In addition, some who ordered Stadia kits so they can start using the service on launch days were grumbling online that they had yet to receive the hardware they need to use the service since each kit must contain a Stadia controller and a pendant-shaped Chromecast Ultra wireless connection device that plugs into television sets. Some promised features such as integration with YouTube was also not in place at launch.

Still, Google appeared to be committed to making Stadia a success, according to Ubisoft Senior Vice President of Partnerships Chris Early. The French video game giant has been working with Google and its games are among titles coming to the service.

"From what I have seen, their plans are too deep; they are too good, and they are too invested," Early said. "They are not calling it quits any time soon."

He also noted he expects a long launch period during which Google will beef up Stadia.

"If there is a one-day problem at launch, it isn't the end of the world," he said, stressing the potential for Stadia to let people play without investing in consoles.

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