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Stadia controller (Google)

Google’s new game platform, Stadia, promises to eliminate the need to buy a console by making games playable through streaming to any device, be it PC, TV, phone or tablet. But the competitive threat that Stadia poses to Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft will hinge on a key detail that Google is keeping secret, for now.

The search giant did not disclose the expected price of the Stadia service and games during the unveiling at the Game Developers Conference on Tuesday. While avoiding the cost of a console could be a big selling point for potential users, the savings could be diminished if they’re required to pay individually for games, plus a monthly subscription fee for the service.

An answer to the pricing question likely won’t come until later this year. In the meantime, Google is touting the quality of the Stadia gaming experience, saying it has made the technical advances required to play Triple-A games in high-definition via the cloud, effectively eliminating the need to run them on a local console or computer. Both Stadia and Microsoft’s upcoming streaming service Project xCloud, announced in 2018, make a lot of the same promises, but neither has announced its pricing yet.

Another key question is how games will be released. Microsoft has recently convinced some third parties to release their games on Xbox Game Pass, its new game subscription service, at the same time they debut in traditional form, known as a day-and-date release, but it’s not the norm. While Google announced a lot of third-party game support, it’s unclear if that means day-and-date releases, as well.

Even though Stadia doesn’t require a console, gamers will need to purchase a controller to take advantage of some of the service’s features. The cost of the controller also wasn’t revealed.

Cloud gaming service OnLive offered this option back in 2010. In order to use the service, players needed to purchase a special console in addition to paying a subscription fee for its service and an additional fee that varied by game. That was more than many gamers were willing to pay and OnLive went defunct in 2015.

The main difference Google is touting about Stadia is that there’s no need to purchase a console. That could end up being a big difference. While Microsoft hasn’t released all of the details surrounding Project xCloud, at the time it seems it will be limited to Xbox games, meaning the console purchase is necessary.

Google promises Stadia will be launching this year, giving them the first-to-market advantage, but Microsoft could potentially come out with a lower price for Project xCloud, which is scheduled for beta this year, but doesn’t have a final release date.

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