Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Google Stadia is celebrating its second birthday with hardware for free or cheap

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On November 19th, 2019, Google launched its Stadia cloud gaming service as a work in progress, and it’s arguably still one today. But one thing that’s consistently improved is the price of entry, and Google’s bringing it down even further to celebrate Stadia’s second birthday.

You should now be able to purchase a Stadia Premiere Edition hardware kit with the Chromecast Ultra and Stadia Controller for just $22.22 or €22.22 in fourteen countries including the US and UK “while supplies last.” In the US, you’ll also be able to get one for free when you purchase any game in the Stadia store until November 29th. Google says it’s launching a wide variety of deals on games there today, too.

It’s not unusual for Google to practically give away Stadia hardware, mind you, and the Chromecast Ultra isn’t the company’s latest and greatest Stadia kit, but these still feel like the best deals yet. Previous get-free-hardware-with-your-game bundles required you to pay for a full-price $59.99 game. Besides, you can do more with a Chromecast than play games, and even Google’s most basic Chromecast still costs $20 on sale. For $22 or free with a moderately priced game, the Ultra is a pretty good deal, even if it doesn’t come with a TV remote like the newest model. It’s also the only Chromecast with a built-in ethernet port (in its power adapter).

Google says it now has more than 200 games in the Stadia store and has offered nearly half of them at one point or another in its paid Stadia Pro subscription over the past year. If you started subscribing to Pro in November 2020, and made sure to claim every game on offer, you’d likely have paid a little more than $100 for access to 91 different games. Google estimates it would have cost $2,000 to purchase that same game library.

It’s not clear how long or how well Google will continue to support Stadia, now that its ambitions have lessened. Both Microsoft and Nvidia have recently upgraded the hardware powering their cloud gaming services, but Google hasn’t issued any kind of signal that it might follow suit, and most game publishers don’t seem very committed to the platform. (Google reportedly paid tens of millions of dollars per port in the early days, not exactly a sustainable strategy.)

The company doesn’t have an updated roadmap for Stadia today, but it does say there’s more to come:

What’s next for Stadia? Well, we’re eager to continue working on bringing the best games and new features to our community of players so that we can help build a bright future for cloud gaming. That means:

Continuing feature experiments with the goal of making it easier for players to get into games and try Stadia for themselves. We’re still learning from input provided by our community and appreciate all the constructive feedback!

Expanding all categories of games content – not just more games overall, but new types of games that we’ve heard players ask for, including genres like online action games, open world titles, plus free games, trials and demos.

Bringing Stadia to more devices and making it easier to access, purchase, and play games by yourself or with friends.

Google’s most recent experiment has been free timed game trials. One of Stadia’s current strengths is that it’s extremely easy to try: all you really need is a Google account.

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