Google has launched the long-awaited free tier of its Stadia game streaming service in all of its 14 available countries, including Canada.
The tech giant has been promising a free Stadia option since before its November 2019 launch, although this marks the first time it’s officially become available to users.
Now, anyone with a Gmail account can sign up for Stadia for free on stadia.google.com. Stadia games can be streamed over Wi-Fi on on Pixel phones (or other supported Android phones), on TVs via Chromecast Ultra or in a Chrome browser via the above Stadia website.
Users will still have to buy games á la carte from the digital Stadia Store, but this eliminates a major barrier to entry into the service. Previously, the only way to get into Stadia was through the Google Store-exclusive, $169 CAD Premiere Edition, which includes a Stadia controller, 4K-capable Chromecast Ultra and three months of Stadia Pro.
Further, a consistent Pro subscription was needed in order to continue to access Stadia. Regularly priced at $11.99 CAD/month, Stadia Pro is required for 4K streaming and includes access to a catalogue of free games, such as Destiny 2: The Collection, GRID and Thumper.
What’s more, Google is throwing in two months of Pro to anyone who registers for the free Stadia option. As part of this offer, Google says anyone who’s already paying for Pro won’t be charged for two months. Stadia subscriptions can be managed at any time through the Stadia app on Android and iOS or Stadia on the web.
Notably, this is the first time Google has offered Pro for free to anyone. In the past, bonus Pro subscriptions have only been given to those who had purchased a Chromecast Ultra, subscribed to YouTube Premium or gifted their ‘Buddy Pass’ (which came in the limited quantity Founders Edition launch bundle) containing three months of Pro to a friend.
Google says the free tier is rolling out over the course of two days, though, so keep that in mind if the option isn’t appearing to you right away.
As previously confirmed, you won’t be able to keep any games that you receive for free with Stadia Pro once your subscription lapses. However, free users may continue to access any games they’ve already purchased, including those bought with Stadia Pro-exclusive discounts.
In addition to the free option, Google has confirmed that it’s making a temporary bandwidth adjustment that will default Stadia to 1080p streaming for all users. However, you’ll be able to change resolution at will in the Stadia app.
Presumably, this is in response to network strain caused by the increased number of people remaining at home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Google has already taken similar steps with YouTube around the world, as have services like Netflix Canada and Crave.