We already knew Google was planning to launch its Stadia cloud gaming service in November, and now we have an exact release date—mark your calendars for November 19. That is when the Stadia Founder's Edition packages will arrive on doorsteps, with servers set to open up to the public at 12:00 pm EST (9:00 am PST).
Stadia is not a game console, but there is some hardware involved. The Founder's Edition package, which is still available to preorder for $129.99, contains a Chormecast Ultra streaming dongle, limited edition Night Blue controller, a pair of 3-month Stadia Pro subscriptions—one for yourself and one of the form of a "Buddy Pass" to hand out to a friend.
Though Stadia is a streaming service, it's not exactly a Netflix for games. The allure of Stadia is being able to play AAA games (and other titles) like Red Dead Redemption II, Metro Exodus, Mortal Kombat 11, and others without a powerful PC or dedicated game console.
Google's remote servers take the place of a local PC or console and render games in the cloud, which get streamed to your Chromecast Ultra. A Stadia Pro subscription runs $9.99 per month and offers gaming at up to a 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, 5.1 surround sound, and the promise of free games released on a regular basis. Outside of those free games, players need to purchase titles to play on Stadia. There will be exclusive discounts available to Pro subscribers.
There is a also a free Base tier available. It limits the resolution to 1080p while maintaining 60 fps, downgrades the audio to stereo, and does not come with any free games or discounts.
One of the big questions facing Stadia is latency. Cloud gaming services abound, but Google appears to be taking a more ambitious approach in hopes of transforming the landscape. Latency can make or break the experience, depending on low or high it is.
In an interview with Edge Magazine, Google's VP of engineering Madj Bakar offered up some optimism on the subject. He also talked about employing the concept of "negative latency," by way of predicting user input.
"Ultimately, we think in a year or two we'll have games that are running faster and more responsive in the cloud than they do locally, regardless of how powerful the machine is," Bakar said.
We'll get our first real glimpse of where things currently stand in just over a month from now, when the Stadia servers go live.