Ahead of Stadia’s launch next week, Google’s representatives fielded questions during an AMA on Reddit about what exactly the video game streaming service will include in the beginning. The answer is, not much.
The whole thread was a good reminder that much of Stadia remains as theoretical as it seemed when it was originally pitched during its reveal at Google’s GDC 2019 press conference. Also, a lot of its features are slated to arrive sometime next year, rather than on November 19 when the service goes live. Here’s a quick rundown of everything that won’t be available initially:
- Stream Connect, State Share, and Crowd Play, the main features that allow players to join in one another’s games and make Stadia more than just glorified remote play. “I expect the first game with Stream Connect to launch by the end of the year,” said Andrey Doronichev, Stadia’s director of product. “The games that support State Share and Crowd Play will be released next year.”
- Stadia’s achievement system. The service will still record when you hit various milestones in games, but you won’t actually get notifications for them or see them displayed anywhere until “shortly after launch.”
- The ability to use existing Chromecast Ultras to play games. At launch, only the Chromecast Ultras that ship with Stadia controllers will have the updated firmware required to stream games. “We will be updating the existing CC Ultra’s over the air soon after launch,” Doronichev said.
- Family sharing. While parents will be able to control what their kids can access on their accounts, multiple people in the same house won’t be able to share games on the service until later on. “But it’s a high priority feature, we’re planning to launch early next year,” Doronichev said.
- Buddy Passes. Founders Editions of Stadia are supposed to come with “buddy passes” so that people can give a friend a three-month Stadia subscription to play games with them, but those passes won’t actually be sent out until weeks after launch. “You’ll get your Buddy Pass about two weeks after you receive your bundle, barring some unknown unknowns popping up (never happens ?),’ said Beri Lee who works on Stadia’s game publishing side.
- The Stadia controller, at least for some people. Everyone who pre-ordered Stadia will get their codes to sign onto the service starting November 19 and will be able to play on their phones or Chrome desktop browser with a keyboard and mouse. However, the packages containing the controllers and Chromecasts will have staggered shipping, sent out in the order pre-orders were received. “I ordered my Stadia Founder’s Edition in June and my delivery date says November 20-21,” Lee said, offering an example. Another person commenting on the AMA said they currently had an estimated ship date of late November, early December. “[M]oving atoms is a bit more complicated and less predictable than moving bits,’ Doronichev said. “So the actual delivery date will depend on the mail truck, traffic lights, etc.”
We also learned earlier this week that the service will only support 12 games at launch. Though they include some great ones, like Red Dead Redemption II and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, with 14 more expected by the end of the year including Borderlands 3, we still don’t know which games will come to the service after that, or when. And remember, all of these games need to be purchased separately, in addition to Stadia’s £9 monthly Stadia Pro subscription cost. (The free, stripped down version of Stadia won’t be available until next year.)
“Our approach to releasing features on Stadia is similar to how we run Google Search, YouTube and other Google services: gradual rollout and continuous improvement, based on your feedback,” Doronichev said. “We always start with nailing the key user-journey and then proceed with releasing extra features. YouTube started with ‘watch video.’ For Stadia it’s ‘Play the Game on your biggest screen.”