Google's Stadia pricing is still a little opaque. Stadia Pro will launch with a $10 monthly subscription fee, supporting 4K at 60fps with 5.1 audio, if your pipe can support it; a free Stadia Base option, restricted to 1080p and stereo sound, is expected to go live in 2020. The subscription plan will also grant you access to a selection of free games, the base plan will not, and in both cases you'll also have the option to buy games outright. (For the base plan, obviously, you'll have to.)
Purchase prices for games on Stadia haven't been announced yet, but if you were thinking that they'd be less expensive than they are at your local Gamestop or online storefront, Stadia head Phil Harrison has some bad news. "I don't know why it would be cheaper," he told Eurogamer, when asked how pricing on Stadia would compare to purchasing games on the PS4 or Xbox One.
The reasoning is that buying a game on Stadia enables you to play it on pretty much anything, rather than being restricted to a particular platform or location. "TV, PC, laptop, tablet, phone," he said. "I think that is going to be valuable to players."
Also a plus for streaming games is that patches and updates can be applied immediately and seamlessly, so ensuring games are up-to-date will presumably become a thing of the past. "In theory, the Stadia version of a game is going to be at the highest-possible quality of innovation and sophistication on the game engine side," he said.
But Harrison also acknowledged that in the end, purchase prices on Stadia will be up to individual developers and publishers, just as they are on other storefronts, "so it's a bit difficult for me to say what the prices will be right now," he said. "But we're obviously going to be very aware of prevailing prices in the marketplace."
Regardless of the reason, the lack of a concrete pricing strategy opens the door to all kinds of confusion at this point, and a potential backlash. Stadia is sometimes equated to a videogame version of Netflix, but with Netflix you pay your money and you watch your stuff; having to pony up full retail for Destiny 3 or the next Call of Duty on top of your monthly Stadia bill runs completely contrary to that concept.
But Harrison apparently doesn't see that as an issue, saying that the industry as a whole is moving away from an "ownership consumption model."
"Not every developer and publisher is ready to move to subscription yet. Frankly, not every gamer is ready to move to subscription yet," Harrison said. "So we wanted to give gamers a choice so they could engage in the games they wanted in the way they wanted—and in all cases, without the very high upfront cost of buying a sophisticated device to put under their TV or on their desk."
Stadia Pro is expected to go live in November. A Founders Edition, which includes a Chromecast Ultra, a limited edition controller, and three months of Stadia Pro, is also available for preorder for $129.