Stadia, Google's game streaming platform, is by most accounts not quite ready for mass adoption, or it may be that most of the world's internet infrastructure isn't ready for Stadia. Either way, Google is launching a free trial period for Stadia Pro, giving people in 14 countries the chance to try nine different games on the premium version of its service.
You might not be able to try out the two month trial just yet—Google's VP of Stadia Phil Harrison notes the trial is "rolling out over the next 48 hours"—but it'll be as simple as registering an account, downloading the Stadia app for iOS or Android, and picking a compatible device to play on.
Harrison's announcement lists Destiny 2: The Collection, Thumper, and Grid as three of the nine games that will be playable during the Pro trial. Presumably, the selection of games will also be available to current Stadia Pro subscribers, who won't be charged for the next two months of service. For new users, this is one of those trials that you'll need to sign up for and then opt out of renewal in order to avoid being charged $9.99 when the two months ends.
Since its launch in November, the way most people have started their Stadia experiences has been by purchasing the $129.99 Stadia bundle, which comes with three months of Pro, Google's wireless controller, and a Chromecast. With this trial period, it appears Google's ready to move into the streaming service's next phase, where it's open to more players regardless of whether they've purchased Google's Stadia-specific devices.
Of course, launching this trial during the COVID-19 pandemic is not ideal given the strain already put on the world's internet infrastructure. "With increased demand due to more people at home during this time, we're taking a responsible approach to internet traffic," Harrison says. "For Stadia, we've always adjusted bandwidth use based on a variety of in-home and local internet factors. To reduce load on the internet further, we're working toward a temporary feature that changes the default screen resolution from 4K to 1080P."
This resolution change won't impact most players on a desktop or laptop, Harrison says, and users will still be able to set their data usage options. It's likely that few players will notice changes on a sub-4K resolution screen, especially on Stadia titles that aren't natively rendering at 4K before being streamed out.
For folks stuck at home who have decent access but few options for playing games, this Stadia trial could turn out to be a welcome arrival. Still, pandemic aside, it remains to be seen whether Stadia will gain traction with enough players, new or old, to prove its long-term viability, especially relative to competitors like Microsoft's xCloud.