Don’t call Stadia Pro “Netflix for games”, Google has insisted. Instead, it’s more like Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus.
In a reddit AMA, Andrey Doronichev, director of product for Stadia at Google responded to a question about the free game situation with the upcoming paid subscription streaming service, “as it is confusing due to mixed messages”.
“To be clear, Stadia Pro is not ‘Netflix for Games’ like some people have mentioned,” Doronichev replied.
“A closer comparison would be like Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus. The Pro subscribers get 4K/HDR streaming, 5.1 sound, exclusive discounts and access to some free games. Roughly one free game per month give or take. Starting with Destiny 2 (yay!).”
You can see why some would be confused by Stadia’s messaging. The Pro is a subscription service that costs £8.99-a-month (the same as the standard Netflix tariff in the UK), but you also have to pay for new games – full price, according to Stadia chief Phil Harrison – on top. And Stadia’s website talks about the Pro sub “unlocking access to an ever-expanding library of games at no extra cost”. That sounds a bit like Netflix, doesn’t it?
It turns out this “ever-expanding library of games at no extra cost” isn’t a Netflix-style library of content at all. Instead, expect “roughly one free game per month give or take”. This means no free games on Stadia Base, the free version of Stadia due out in 2020. “But hey,” Doronichev continued. “Stadia Base gives you free access to the state-of-the-art gaming hardware in our datacenter 😉 You spend your money to buy games you want.”
At least the “growing pool” of games is in fact a growing pool of games, not a single rotating free to play game per month. It’s worth noting, however, that if you unsubscribe and then subscribe again in the future, while you regain access to the Pro games you claimed in the past while you were a subscriber, you don’t get access to the games offered to Pro subscribers while you were unsubscribed.
Stadia launches in just a few months but there remains a degree of scepticism from the gaming community about its potential impact. And of course there remains concern about what happens to games people have paid for if Google decides it’s had enough of Stadia and shuts the whole thing down.
Google insists it’s in the video game streaming business for the long haul, and points to the liberating features of Stadia. You don’t need to fork out for a console or a PC to play modern games with it, for example. There are no downloads, so there’s no waiting for updates. And developers don’t have to worry about packing their games onto a disc or a download.
But perhaps Google’s biggest challenge right now is in explaining who exactly Stadia is for, how the subscription works and why it’s a good deal for gamers.