Google Stadia has been available for several months and, despite some growing pains, has proved itself to be a very capable game streaming service. Now, Google has lowered the barrier of entry considerably by introducing Stadia’s free tier. Here’s what the service offers and how to sign up.

How to sign up for Google Stadia

To sign up for Google Stadia’s free tier — previously known as “Stadia Base” — you’ll first and foremost need a personal Google account. It’s important to note that this Google account can’t be attached to a G Suite account. So, for example, an approved account would have the email address “johndoe@gmail.com.”

To sign up, you’ll also need to use the Android or iOS app. As of April 8th, Google is rolling out Stadia’s free tier over the course of 48 hours in the following countries:

US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland

In the app, you can sign in with your Google account regardless of whether or not you have an invite code. To get your account going with Stadia, hit Get Started first, then pick your Google account. After that, Google will ask you to confirm you want to use your account. Next, Google will ask you for an invite code from a Premiere/Founder’s kit, but since we’re using the free tier, we can tap “Continue without a code.”

Next, you’ll need to access the Terms of Service, choose your Stadia avatar, and finally choose your Stadia name. After all of that, you’re signed up! When you sign up, you’ll also get two months of Stadia Pro for free, extra games included.

Google Stadia: Is the free tier really free?

Let’s first address the elephant in the room. Is anything free really free? In Stadia’s case, it technically is!

The service Google Stadia offers without cost gives users access to cloud gaming on almost any device with the hardware they already own. It supports Google Pixel smartphones as well as a growing list of Android devices. Further, you can play on almost any computer as long as it supports the Google Chrome browser. That includes Windows, macOS, Linux, and even Chromebooks!

Google Stadia all devices

How about input devices? If you’re using one of the devices listed above, you can use any USB-based HID-compliant controller or a simple keyboard/mouse to play most of Stadia’s games. If you want to play on the TV using a Chromecast Ultra, though, you’ll need Google’s Stadia controller which costs $69 from the Google Store.

What about games? Yes, you’ll have to pay up for games on Stadia if you’re using the free tier. Games are sometimes discounted, but they all have some sort of fee attached to get the game.

You can’t get away with free-to-play games either. Destiny 2, for example, is free on other platforms, but on Stadia you’ll need to purchase one of the DLC packs which range from $25 to $50 depending on which you buy. Other games will also be available at full price and they’ll stay attached to your account whether you’ve got a subscription or not.

Also, notably, Google apparently limits the number of accounts that can use Stadia for free. The only way around that limit is to buy a Stadia Premiere Edition kit, so that’s another way the service will charge some users.

What can you do on Stadia without a subscription?

Stadia is often thought of as the “Netflix of games,” requiring a monthly subscription in order to use the service at all. However, that isn’t totally true.

Now that Google Stadia’s free tier has been released for everyone, anyone can buy and play games on the platform without paying a dime for hardware. As mentioned previously, users can take advantage of their current hardware including computers and game controllers (or keyboard/mouse) to play games.

Every game on Stadia will require a purchase — prices vary by game, but, for the most part, line up with other gaming platforms — but the service itself is free. You’ll get access to all the same core benefits of Stadia such as effortless updates, no extra physical hardware, and no downloads for new games. Plus, the service itself is agnostic of your actual hardware, so as long as it’s a supported device, Stadia will work just the same.

To keep things as simple as possible, here’s what Stadia’s free tier lets you do:

  • Buy your games, play them on Google’s cloud hardware at 1080p, never pay a dime more.

google stadia free base tier comparison

Should you upgrade to Stadia Pro?

Google Stadia’s free tier is a great way to play your favorite games, but the service is capable of more with a Stadia Pro subscription. For $10/month, you’ll get:

  • Access to 4K streaming on compatible devices
  • 5.1 surround sound
  • Free games you can redeem
  • Exclusive discounts

Is that $10/month free worthwhile? That will depend on you. If you’re playing games all the time and wanting to try out new titles, Stadia Pro is a pretty excellent value! The subscription often gives users $60 games for free as long as their subscription keeps going. For example, check out all of the games Stadia Pro subscribers got for free between December and March.

On the other hand, if you just play games from time to time or only want Stadia for one or two games, Stadia Pro might not be worthwhile in the long run. Luckily, it’s very easy to find out! With all Stadia signups — including the free tier — Google offers a free 2-month subscription to Pro so you can see if it would be worthwhile.

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