Following a rocky launch last fall, Google is making its Stadia game streaming service free for everyone with a Gmail address starting today. For those of you still unconvinced about cloud gaming, Google is also offering everyone two months of its premium Stadia Pro tier (including existing Stadia Pro subscribers), which unlocks 4K gameplay at 60FPS in HDR, as well as access to 9 free games including GRID, Destiny 2: The Collection, and Thumper
Until now, the $129 Google Stadia Premiere Edition was the only way to access Stadia. This bundle includes a Chromecast Ultra to access Stadia on your TV, three months of Stadia Pro subscription, as well as the official Stadia controller from Google. With the free Stadia tier, games will play at 1080p/60 FPS, which is pretty good, but keep in mind that games will need to be purchased separately once the two months Stadia Pro trial is over. Otherwise, Stadia Pro is $9.99/month and Google is offering subscribers two new games every month, which is a bit less than what Xbox gamers get with Xbox Live Gold.
If the best way to experience Stadia games is probably on a 4K TV with a Chromecast Ultra, the cloud gaming service is also available on PCs with Google Chrome, as well as select Android devices through a dedicated Stadia app. However, Google announced today their plans to adjust the 4K resolution currently restricted to the Stadia Pro tier to preserve bandwidth:
With increased demand due to more people at home during this time, we’re taking a responsible approach to internet traffic. For Stadia, we’ve always adjusted bandwidth use based on a variety of in-home and local internet factors. To reduce load on the internet further, we’re working toward a temporary feature that changes the default screen resolution from 4k to 1080p. The vast majority of people on a desktop or laptop won’t notice a significant drop in gameplay quality, but you can choose your data usage options in the Stadia app.
To get started with Google Stadia, you'll need to sign up and Stadia.com and claim your free 2 months Stadia Pro trial (don't forget to cancel afterwards if you don't want to pay $9.99 at the end of the free trial). Be aware that this new free access to Stadia is only available in 14 markets, and it will roll out gradually over the next 48 hours.
Stadia received quite a lot of criticism at launch due to a confusing business model and a small catalog of playable games, but Google seems to have nailed the technical challenges of game streaming. The same thing can be said about Microsoft's Project xCloud cloud gaming service, which already works great on iOS and Android devices. However, Project xCloud remains in limited preview in select markets, and Microsoft has yet to announce when it will be generally available.