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Stadia controller (Google Image)

Google announced several new details of its Stadia game streaming service today, including initial price plans, planned launch titles including the long-awaited Baldur’s Gate III and Destiny 2, and new information about how Stadia interacts with your connection.

Google exec Phil Harrison was the initial host for a short presentation that touched upon several of the big questions that remained after the initial Stadia announcement, with the promise that this was just the first installment of many “Stadia Direct” presentations to come.

This past March, Google unveiled Stadia, which leverages its experience in cloud technology by allowing gamers to play without a console or computer. It poses a new threat to competitors that operate the dominant gaming platforms such as Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony, and promises to accelerate the industry’s evolution away from high-end hardware in the living room and toward streaming technology in the cloud.

Stadia will launch this November in 14 countries.

“Our goal is to make gaming more accessible to everyone — just grab your controller and you’re in,” Harrison said. Stadia services will be available at launch for TVs, desktops, laptops, tablets, and Pixel smartphones, including the new Pixel 3A model. Streaming to your TV requires a Chromecast Ultra, which plugs into your HDMI port and reportedly allows for image quality up to 4K Ultra HD.

John Justice, Google vice president of product, introduced Stadia’s pricing plans. Stadia Pro is a subscription service, like Microsoft’s Game Pass, which costs $9.99 per month, with “regular content” added to the user’s gaming library at 4K quality with 5.1 surround sound. All Stadia products are exclusively sold online, via Google’s store.

Players who simply want to buy their games directly and individually can do so via what Justice called “Stadia Base,” where “any games you purchase are yours, whenever you want.” However, according to Google’s website, Stadia Base customers are capped at 1080p visuals with plain old stereo sound, with no access to other perks from Pro such as flash sales.

Players looking to buy into the Stadia experience early can put down $129 to get the Stadia Founder’s Edition. This comes with a special night-blue Stadia controller, three months of Stadia Pro, a Chromecast Ultra, and a buddy pass, so you can give a friend three free months of a Stadia Pro subscription. Founders also receive exclusive first-pick rights to the handle of their choice.

According to Harrison, Stadia is built so anyone who has a 35 megabyte per second connection can enjoy up to 4K visuals and 60 frames per second on a Stadia game. If that connection’s quality drops to 10 mb/s, Stadia will downgrade itself to a 720p stream.

The Stadia controller comes with buttons specifically for both game capture, so you can save screenshots and footage, and a Google Assistant feature. The controller will initially come in black, white, and “wasabi” colors, and retails for $69. Players who prefer a mouse and keyboard can reportedly also use those in conjunction with Stadia, though details were sketchier there.

One big surprise from today’s announcement was the sudden announcement of Baldur’s Gate III, the long-awaited sequel to one of the seminal titles in PC gaming, a wildly popular CRPG based upon the Dungeons & Dragons license and set in the Forgotten Realms.

BGIII is under development at Larian Studios, the Belgium-based developers behind the recent hit CRPGs Divinity: Original Sin and Original Sin II. According to the company’s CEO, Swen Vincke, he’d pitched Wizards of the Coast to get to be the studio that made BGIII years ago, but had only been able to get the job thanks to the success of Original Sin. Larian has tripled the size of its studio for the production.

A final perk of the Founder’s Edition is a collected edition of Bungie’s Destiny 2. The newly independently-published online shooter announced its next big expansion, Shadowkeep, during Stadia’s stream, which pits the players against ancient horrors that stalk the surface of Earth’s moon.

Stadia Founders receive the full Destiny 2 collection, including all the content and expansions released to date, as well as the ability to transfer your existing Destiny 2 character to Stadia’s services. All told, Justice emphasized, the $129 for the Founder’s Edition is “almost $300 of value.”

Other big launch titles for Stadia include:

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon – Breakpoint, a military tactical shooter that sends small fireteams of players into combat on an isolated, free-roaming island. The trailer was narrated by Jon Bernthal (“The Punisher,” “The Walking Dead”), who appears in the game as, presumably, your primary antagonist.
  • Tequila Works’ Gylt, a cartoony horror game. In the short cinematic trailer, a little girl was pursued through a wrecked school full of graffiti and unseen monsters.
  • Get Packed, a Stadia exclusive from UK-based indie developer Coatsink (Shadow Point, Augmented Empire), about a hapless moving crew. Up to four players can cooperate locally or online to try and move people’s possessions out of their homes and into their truck, despite what appeared to be heavy opposition from a world that was out to destroy them.
  • Another Tom Clancy game, Ubisoft’s The Division 2, will be coming to Stadia, with Google cooperating with Ubisoft to help build out the infrastructure required.
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