Notably, although Google will be charging $10 per month for a Stadia Pro service that provides access to older games and discounts on other titles, consumers will still have to individually purchase most newer gaming titles. Thus while Google shared a solid list of Stadia games that will be available for purchase -- it includes titles such as Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Metro Exodus -- and promised more will arrive, it looks as if most of these titles won't be bundled with a Stadia Pro subscription.
Moreover, if a consumer doesn't want to pay for Stadia Pro but would like to buy a title or two to stream, he or she will have to use Google's Stadia Base service, which doesn't support 4K gameplay (its highest resolution is 1080p) or 5.1 surround sound.
In addition, while Stadia will run within Google's Chrome browser on PCs and certain mobile devices (Pixel phones will be the first mobile devices to be supported), those looking to play on a TV set will have to buy not only a Stadia game controller that retails for $70, but also a Chromecast Ultra dongle that also sells for $70. A $130 "Founders Edition" bundle, which Google will initially require to use Stadia Pro when it launches in November, provides both of these devices along with three months of Stadia Pro and a copy of Activision's (ATVI) - Get Report Destiny 2, but will only ship in limited quantities.
If all of this seems confusing to you, you're not the only one. Overall, given its feature set, hardware requirements and pricing, it's far from clear that Stadia Pro will be more popular than existing, subscription-based, gaming services that rely on downloads rather than streaming, such as Electronic Arts' (EA) - Get Report EA Access and Origin Access or Microsoft's (MSFT) - Get Report Xbox Game Pass.
And given its hardware requirements, its lack of 4K gaming support and its dependence on a quality Internet connection, it's not a given that many gamers will want to buy titles via Stadia Base as opposed to buying games that can be run on their PCs or consoles.
All things considered, Microsoft, which is prepping a cloud gaming service codenamed Project xCloud, has to be pleased with what it saw. Microsoft has already disclosed that xCloud, which will enter public trials later this year, has "the technical capability to stream more than 3,500 games, without any changes or modifications required by a developer," and that the same should hold for another 1,900 games in development. The company has also promised the service will work across PCs, Xboxes and mobile devices, and will run across a dozen-plus Azure data center regions.
Like Google, Microsoft has the engineering talent and data center infrastructure to deliver a successful cloud gaming service. Unlike Google, however, it also has close relationships with many console/PC game developers, a large in-house game studio unit, a giant console installed base and a successful history of selling subscription services to gamers.
Though more still needs to be learned about how xCloud will launch and be priced -- an additional detail or two might be shared at a Sunday press conference that Microsoft is holding at the E3 gaming conference -- what's known to date about Microsoft and Google's cloud gaming services suggests Microsoft has the inside track when it comes to creating a mass-market offering.