Google is about to take a big step into the video game market with a service that some have likened to a Netflix for games.
On Tuesday, Google will officially launch Stadia, a service for streaming and playing games without needing to own a hard copy or even a console. At launch, the service will support a growing lineup of games and a reasonable price tag.
Just days before its launch, Google announced that it would offer 22 games when the service launches this week, nearly double the number of titles it had previously said would be available.
Google will be competing with a daunting list of rivals in the industry who are betting the future of video games lies in the cloud rather than just physical hardware. Microsoft is currently testing its Project xCloud service and Amazon is rumored to be working on its own cloud gaming service. Sony recently slashed prices on its cloud gaming service, Playstation Now, ahead of Stadia’s launch.
“The technology is possible, but it requires a company like a Google to really make it a reality,” Google Stadia head Phil Harrison told CNN Business.
While Sony’s Playstation Now service, for example, only works on PC and console, Google’s supports a wider mix of platforms. Stadia works on TVs with a Chromecast Ultra dongle as well as on most computers with a Chrome browser and on newer Pixel phones. More devices are slated to be added in 2020.
People will have to buy a special subscription bundle if they want to play on Stadia this year. The $129.99 Premiere Edition will include a Stadia controller, a Chromecast dongle, three months of a Stadia streaming subscription and a free pass so a friend can also play for three months. The company is currently taking pre-orders for the Premiere Edition.
Next year, Google will release another streaming subscription option called Stadia Pro, which will cost $9.99 a month and include a rotating free game, as well as discounts for purchasing select individual titles. The company will also offer a free-to-play version of Stadia with a lower resolution.
The games available at launch include: “Red Dead Redemption 2,” “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,” “Just Dance 2020,” and three “Tomb Raider” games.
Analysts agree that content will make or break Stadia. “Google is not in the content business, so they’re going to have to learn that part,” said Joost van Dreunen, managing director at SuperData, a Nielsen company that analyzes the video game industry.
The titles available on launch may not be particularly compelling given that “Destiny 2” is already available for free elsewhere and “Tomb Raider” originally came out in 2013. But there’s hope for Stadia on the horizon. Unreleased games such as “Marvel’s Avengers,” “Watchdogs: Legion” and “Cyberpunk 2077” have already announced support for Stadia.
Google is also making its own games through its Stadia Games and Entertainment studio. It’s headed by Jade Raymond, a Google VP who previously worked at Sony, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. Harrison confirmed that original content could be available starting next year.
Stadia launches in 14 countries on Tuesday, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, France, and Italy. Google plans to expand it to more countries next year.