The picture of exactly how Stadia, Google’s upcoming cloud-streaming game service, will function when it formally launches this November became a bit clearer last week. An official FAQ about the service went live at Google’s official support hub shortly before the Independence Day holiday. Arguably the biggest news in the update was one that spoke to Stadia’s fuzzy issue of game ownership—or lack thereof.
The July 3 FAQ proposes a question that may look familiar to anyone who uses digital download services on smartphones and game consoles: “What happens to a game I bought if the publisher stops supporting Stadia in the future? Can I still play the game?” Google emphatically answers that question with a “yes,” adding, “Once you purchase the game, you own the right to play it.” (That clearly differs from owning the game outright, since Stadia will likely sell licenses to access games on its Stadia servers.)
Google’s answer includes enough wiggle room to turn that “yes” into a future “no”: “Outside of unforeseen circumstances, Stadia will aim to keep any previously purchased title available for gameplay.” At the very least, this answer confirms that Stadia games may very well be delisted—meaning, they were once available for play or sale, then later yanked—but that by default, “existing players will still be able to play the [delisted] game.”
But this still leaves questions unanswered about games hosted on Google’s cloud service. What if the game relies on specific server-based features, from physics simulations to third-party authentication, that a game maker (or Google itself) shutters? Last week’s FAQ doesn’t say—but let’s not call those two examples “unforeseen,” please, Google.
Controllers, save files, cables
Some better news came for anyone who might let a paid Stadia Pro subscription (currently a $ 9.99/month service) lapse and is worried about save files in attached games. The FAQ confirms that certain “games and add-ons” may be gated behind that subscription service, which we already knew to some extent; for example, paying Stadia Pro users can expect access to “the full Destiny 2 experience” (meaning, all of the paid content on top of that game’s new free-to-play skeleton) when Stadia launches in November.
The FAQ goes one further by confirming that whatever progress you make in such gated games and add-ons will be saved indefinitely on Stadia’s servers. Should you wish to ignore the Stadia Pro service and simply buy previously played games’ licenses outright, Stadia will transfer your existing save files and progress accordingly, as well. (For a comparison, that’s better than Nintendo’s six months of support for cloud saves after a Switch Online subscription lapses.)
One thing missing from Stadia’s first batch of compatible games was any indication of local multiplayer support, but the new FAQ confirms that “up to four Stadia controllers” will work in any “local multiplayer” games. However, this leaves a massive question mark relating to whether local multiplayer will require a whopping four-pack of Google’s own Stadia controllers or whether you’ll be able to plug in other compatible controllers when friends come over. Google has previously announced that existing DualShock 4 and Xbox One controllers will work with Stadia.
Speaking of Google’s official Stadia controllers: while we knew that these connected directly to your router via Wi-Fi for latency’s sake—thus skipping the latency hop-and-skip as passed through a streaming device—the new FAQ confirms that they will also work as wired controllers. If you would prefer to connect them via a USB cable to “your phone, tablet, or computer,” go ahead. That phrasing appears to confirm that streaming boxes like the Chromecast won’t support wired Google Stadia controllers.
A sneaky option in the fine print
As for the rest: if you’re an American resident outside the contiguous United States, you can expect Google Stadia to work in Alaska and Puerto Rico when it launches in November, but not in Hawaii, Guam, or the US Virgin Islands.
Additionally, if you buy the $ 130 Google Stadia Founder’s Edition and then return its hardware for a refund, Google will deactivate nearly every cloud-based portion of your purchase. That includes the bundle’s three-month subscription to Stadia Pro, “all games claimed while a subscriber” (meaning: any timed Stadia Pro exclusives during your time of use), the included three-month “Buddy Pass” subscription that you may have sent to a friend, and the cosmetic “Founder” tags attached to your username.
Intriguingly, however, this cancellation does not void your username, nor does it punt users from accessing Stadia Base, the service’s free tier (which will not otherwise be available at launch to average users via signing up at a Google website). Thus, if you want to use Stadia Base at launch without spending $ 130, buying and returning a Stadia Founder’s Edition appears to be an official route to doing just that. Plus, buying a Founder’s Edition is currently the only way to reserve day-one access to Stadia usernames, so if you really want to snag “cooldude420” in the Stadia-verse without shelling out $ 130, Google may have just given you a sneaky way to do so.
Listing image by Google