So Google Stadia is official, and Mountain View is ready to sell us on a dream: that of zero-latency, HQ game streaming available on tap for any device with a Chrome browser and seamlessly integrated into social media. It even works (ahem) under the demo conditions. What we don't yet know is how much it costs. What we ask today, however, is how much should it cost?
For the purpose of argument, let's assume that Google Stadia just works. Internet speed, latency and visual quality isn't an issue. Is the product good enough to stand up on its own merits? Let's also presume a Netflix-style subscription service (the most likely price model) rather than a Steam-like storefront. And thirdly in this rather generous scenario, Stadia is offering a wide library of games you actually want.
On the one hand, you would be able to immediately access a game you see on YouTube, play it, share it with your friends and seamless move it between devices, be it a smartphone, tablet, TV or potato laptop, without worrying about hardware investment. You could try out games early and find out if they're good without committing $60 a pop to pre-orders or hundreds of dollars for next-gen hardware.
On the other hand, there are some glaring disadvantages to the model even if it works well. You don't own the games yourself, they could be pulled by Google at any moment, and can't be modded, played offline or saved for posterity. Not ideal, but if the price is right, it could well work for many.
Writing about how Stadia could compete in the gaming market, I guessed about $15-$20 for a subscription service to take on rivals like PlayStation Now, Xbox Game Pass, and Shadow. But Google might go even cheaper than that. After all, the company makes its money from our data by offering a suite of free online services like Google Photos, Gmail, Google Docs and so on. It's Google Home range of smart speakers are very aggressively priced, and Mountain View may similar try to undercut the entrenched gaming giants as much as possible.
Are there any regular gamers ready to ditch their prized hardware? Anyone who'd like to game more but would prefer an on-demand streaming model to the traditional market?