Google Stadia is just a few days away, and fans and critics alike whether the actual service will live up to Google's lofty promises. Will Stadia usher in a streaming revolution? Will it join the ash-heap of failed Google projects? Or will it be an odd-but-viable sidebar to mainstream gaming, like virtual reality?
We'll be able to answer some of those questions when our full review goes live. For the moment, all we can do is share what comes in the Google Stadia Founder's Edition: an interesting mix of hardware and subscription services. If you're one of the lucky few who preordered a Founder's Edition and is on track to receive it on launch day, here's what you can look forward to. Otherwise, consider what you get in the pack, and whether it's worth your hard-earned $129.
What's in the Google Stadia Founder's Edition?
While you don't technically need to buy any new hardware to use Google Stadia, the Google Stadia Founder's Edition has everything you'll need if you're starting from scratch. The package includes a limited edition Night Blue Stadia controller, a Chromecast Ultra, and all the associated cables and adapters for both devices. There's also a few stickers, and a brief infographic on how to get Stadia up and running.
That's all the hardware. From a service perspective, the Founder's Pack includes three things: a three-month subscription to Stadia Pro, a copy of Destiny 2: The Collection and a Buddy Pass, which lets you give three months of Stadia Pro to a friend. You can also preregister your Stadia username.
For those who need a refresher: Stadia Pro is Stadia's optional subscription service. Without Stadia Pro, you can buy games and stream them at 1080p. With Stadia Pro, which costs $10 per month, gamers will get access to 4K/HDR streaming, 5.1 surround sound, game discounts and as one "free" game each month. (If you have to pay for a subscription service to access it, it's not really "free," but I digress.)
So, to recap: The Founder's Edition includes a Stadia controller, a Chromecast Ultra, a game and three months' worth of 4K gaming for both you and a friend.
Google Stadia Founder's Edition vs. Google Stadia Premiere Edition
If you didn't preorder the Google Stadia Founder's Edition, the bad news is that you no longer have the chance. Once Google sold through its initial stock, that was it. You can't get the Night Blue controller, the Buddy Pass or the ability to preregister your username.
The good news is that Google quickly replaced the Founder's Edition with the nearly identical Google Stadia Premiere Edition. This package still costs $129, and includes a white controller instead of a blue one. It doesn't have the Buddy Pass or the name registration rights, but everything else is the same. You'll still get a Chromecast Ultra, three months of Stadia Pro and a copy of Destiny 2.
What's missing in the Google Stadia Founder's Edition?
While the Founder's Edition has everything you'll need to play Stadia games on a TV, it doesn't include everything you'll need to play the game on a phone — at least at launch. For the moment, the Stadia Controller can connect to phones only via USB-C cable. As such, you'll have to either get a cable yourself, or connect a different controller to your phone. Xbox and PS4 controllers should work fine, as should any Android controller. But it's still a pain that every third-party controller on the market does what Google's own proprietary peripheral can't.
That's all we can say for the moment, but come back soon for a full review of Stadia's software, hardware and games.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.