Google has launched a free version of its Stadia video game platform. Everyone who signs up also gets two months of free access to Stadia Pro, worth $20.
Stadia is a streaming video game platform, where instead of running games on a console plugged into the television, the processing is done on Google's server.
- Google Stadia review: Gaming in the cloud
- How to play video games for free during coronavirus isolation
- Google Stadia speed requirements: How fast your internet needs to be
The game's audio and video is then streamed to your TV via a Google Chromecast Ultra dongle, or to a wide range of smartphones and tablets, and through the Chrome web browser for Windows and Mac.
Everyone who signs up to the free tier of Stadia — which requires a Gmail address — gets two free months of access to Stadia Pro, which normally costs $10 a month. Existing Pro subscribers will not be charged for the next two months.
The main difference between regular and Pro tiers is how the former is limited to 1080p Full HD and stereo sound, while Pro subscribers can game in Ultra HD 4K with surround sound. Pro subscribers also get discounts on games and other downloadable content.
Anyone with a Gmail address can now sign up for Stadia and play a collection of nine games right away, including GRID, Destiny 2: The Collection, and Thumper, all for free. Further games have similar prices to their equivalent on consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One; these remain on your account and available to play forever, even if you do not pay for the Stadia Pro tier.
Essentially, free Stadia means everyone with a compatible phone, tablet, computer or Chromecast now has access to nine free video games to play wherever they like. That said, to play on a computer you will need a compatible gamepad (or mouse and keyboard), and to play on the TV you need a Chromecast Ultra dongle and Stadia gamepad.
Although a free version of Stadia was always in the works, Google Stadia boss Phil Harrison explained how the two-month free trial was put in place to help keep gamers entertained while isolated due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Video games can be a valuable way to socialize with friends and family when you're stuck at home, so we're giving gamers in 14 countries free access to Stadia Pro for two months," said Harrison in a statement.
While Stadia Pro can normally stream games in 4K, Google is temporarily lowering the default picture quality from 4K to 1080p, in a bid to keep the service (and the internet more generally) stable during the extra strain caused by coronavirus quarantine. Harrison noted that most people using a desktop or laptop won't notice a "significant drop," he said, but people can choose data usage options in the app if they choose.
Google Stadia is now available more broadly than before, and can be accessed in the following countries:
- United Kingdom
- United States
Google WiFi system, 3-Pack - Router Replacement for Whole Home Coverage (NLS-1304-25)