Stadia is not a game console, but there is some hardware involved. The Founder's Edition package, which is still available to preorder for $129.99, contains a Chormecast Ultra streaming dongle, limited edition Night Blue controller, a pair of 3-month Stadia Pro subscriptions—one for yourself and one of the form of a "Buddy Pass" to hand out to a friend.
Google's remote servers take the place of a local PC or console and render games in the cloud, which get streamed to your Chromecast Ultra. A Stadia Pro subscription runs $9.99 per month and offers gaming at up to a 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, 5.1 surround sound, and the promise of free games released on a regular basis. Outside of those free games, players need to purchase titles to play on Stadia. There will be exclusive discounts available to Pro subscribers.
There is a also a free Base tier available. It limits the resolution to 1080p while maintaining 60 fps, downgrades the audio to stereo, and does not come with any free games or discounts.
One of the big questions facing Stadia is latency. Cloud gaming services abound, but Google appears to be taking a more ambitious approach in hopes of transforming the landscape. Latency can make or break the experience, depending on low or high it is.
"Ultimately, we think in a year or two we'll have games that are running faster and more responsive in the cloud than they do locally, regardless of how powerful the machine is," Bakar said.
We'll get our first real glimpse of where things currently stand in just over a month from now, when the Stadia servers go live.