Google Stadia Goes Free – But There’s an Itsy-Bitsy Catch

Nearly six months after launching, Google Stadia finally has a free tier, or at least a free tier open to anyone with a Gmail address. A small hoop to jump through for access to the cloud gaming service.

Google announced as much today in a blog post over on the official Stadia portal. The details: Stadia is free from today in 14 countries, and it’s bundled with a free two-month subscription to the premium Stadia Pro.

Pro includes access to no less than nine games, so you won’t be forking out the cash for full price games straight out of the starting gates, which is sure to lure in more than a few curious players.

After the two month trial, monthly pricing will revert to the standard $9.99, but anyone that signs up can easily cancel the subscription beforehand. It’s a perfect way to test out Stadia without the sense that you may be wasting your money.

Any purchased games remain yours and will be playable on the free tier. Alongside, Google is extending the two free months to existing Pro subscribers – the service won’t charge them for the next two billing cycles.

Finally, you can try Stadia without the nagging fear that you’re wasting your money.

So how do you sign up? Google says it’s simple: No need for a Stadia controller or a Chromecast ultra, and it works on the Chrome browser.

I attempted to sign up to see what the deal was in practice, but it seems Google hasn’t completed the back end work to make it available in the U.K. yet. The company says it’s “rolling out over the next 48 hours,” so some of us may have to sit tight for a little longer than others.

Google also notes that quality might take a hit as it tries to balance increased demand and “a responsible approach to internet traffic.” Consequently, the default screen resolution is shifting from 4K to 1080p.

As for the reasons for the sudden switch to a free tier, Google points – unsurprisingly – to the coronavirus pandemic: A last-ditch effort to prop up the flagging service or an altruistic gesture to entertain those on coronavirus lockdown? We’ll let you decide. Either way, there’s never been a better time to try out Stadia.

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