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By Sarah E. Needleman
Google plans to charge $10 a month to access mostly older videogames through its new cloud-streaming service, an offering that analysts said could make it difficult for the tech giant to stand out among seasoned rivals.
The service, called Stadia, will be available in 11 countries in November, including the U.S., Google said Thursday. The Alphabet Inc. unit didn't provide a specific launch date for the service, which it unveiled in March and said will include a lineup of roughly 30 games.
The key to success will rest on how many new blockbusters Google will ultimately sell through Stadia, analysts said, in addition to the quality of the nascent technology supporting it. Google said it plans to add more games down the line.
"At launch, it's not going to be an instant disruptive force," said Piers Harding-Rolls, an analyst at research firm IHS Markit. "There was no evidence of heavy-hitting exclusives, which would drive adoption over other platforms already on the market."
With cloud streaming, people can play games from an internet-connected device, avoiding the need for pricey dedicated hardware such as a game console like Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 4. It also means people can play games instantly, without having to buy a physical copy or download a file.
Google's Stadia is the first offering of its kind, but other tech giants including Microsoft Corp. and Electronic Arts Inc. are working on similar offerings. The technology is highly challenging to pull off because unlike movies and television shows, games are interactive. Even the slightest of delays can mean the difference between winning and losing in a competitive game such as Activision Blizzard Inc.'s "Call of Duty."
Stadia users who play the service on a TV will need a Google Chromecast Ultra streaming device. Google said it is offering an introductory package with that item and a game controller, plus three months of access to Stadia and the shooter game "Destiny 2" for $129. Users will also be able to buy games without subscribing to Stadia's monthly service, Google said. Players can also use a keyboard and mouse, rather than a controller.
"It's not a slam-dunk value proposition," said Cowen analyst Doug Creutz. Sony and Microsoft's current-generation consoles today are on sale for as little as $225, and users can purchase just about any significant game on the market for them. Online multiplayer support costs extra.
Google's announcement comes less than a week before the game industry's annual E3 trade show, scheduled to open Tuesday in Los Angeles. Microsoft is expected to share more details about its competing cloud-gaming initiative at a nearby event on Sunday.
Last month, Sony said it would consider using Microsoft's Azure cloud service for streaming game content as well. Sony currently offers a game-streaming service for its PlayStation system and personal computers called PlayStation Now, though it features only older games.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 06, 2019 17:19 ET (21:19 GMT)
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