The world of gaming is changing, thanks in part to new new cloud gaming platforms like Google Stadia. Rather than coming to market with another console or PC competitor, Stadia’s a new service that allows you to play games across a growing number of devices using Google’s powerful cloud-streaming technology.
Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in.
We’ve been following the development of Stadia for a long time (since its beta-testing days when it was known as Project Stream), and at GDC 2019, we were able to go hands-on with Stadia for the first time. While that experience was limited to just one game (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey), we came away cautiously optimistic. Then, at Google I/O 2019, we were allowed to use the official Stadia Controller, which we loved.
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Google shipped the first Stadia Founder’s Edition bundles out in November 2019, and our own Russell Holly wrote our first Stadia review. During his time with Stadia, Russell loved the controller. He opined that the service itself worked like magic — not having to wait for games to download and update is an exciting proposition for the future for gaming. Unfortunately, the overall Stadia experience felt incomplete with missing features and lacking compatibility for non-Google devices. In short, Stadia still felt like beta software that wasn’t quite ready for a full release.
With Stadia having been out for nearly a full year now, we’ve seen some Stadia steadily improve, with the Stadia team promising more games and features to be added throughout the rest of 2020 and onto the future.
What exactly is Stadia?
Stadia is the name of Google’s game streaming service. Similar to NVIDIA GeForce Now and Shadow, it’s a platform that allows you to play video games on virtually any device thanks to streaming technology.
Rather than launching a new physical console that accesses Stadia, you’ll just use it on the tech you already own. This includes phones, tablets, computers, and televisions using Chromecast Ultra.
Stadia is capable of streaming games in up to 4K quality and 60 frames per second (FPS) if you subscribe to Stadia’s Pro service, and in the future, Google says that it’ll allow for streaming in 8K at 120 FPS.
What games work with Stadia?
Stadia works with existing third-party games that you’d expect to find on any gaming console. While you’ll need to purchase any games you want to play through Stadia’s service, it will work with Stadia going forward once it’s owned. Here’s a list of all the current Stadia games that are confirmed to be on the platform as of Sept. 21, 2020:
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
- Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle
- Ary and the Secret of Seasons
- Baldur’s Gate III: The Black Hound (early access)
- Borderlands 3
- Cake Bash
- Cris Tales
- Darksiders Genesis
- Dead by Daylight
- Destiny 2
- Doom 64
- DOOM Eternal
- Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
- F1 2020
- Family Feud Decades
- Far Cry 5
- Far Cry New Dawn
- Farming Simulator 2019
- Final Fantasy XV
- Football Manager 2020
- Get Packed
- Ghost Recon Breakpoint
- Hello Neighbor
- Hello Neighbor: Hide & Seek
- Hitman 2
- Hotline Miami
- Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
- Human: Fall Flat
- Jotun: Valhalla Edition
- Just Dance 2020
- Just Dance 2021
- Just Shapes & Beats
- Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
- Little Nightmares
- Little Big Workshop
- Lost Words: Beyond the Page
- Marvel’s Avengers
- Metro 2033 Redux
- Metro Exodus
- Metro: Last Light Redux
- Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
- Monster Energy Supercross 3
- Mortal Kombat 11
- NBA 2K21
- Octopath Traveler
- One Hand Clapping
- Orcs Must Die! 3
- PGA Tour 2K21
- Panzer Dragoon: Remake
- PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
- Power Rangers: Battle For the Grid
- Rage 2
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Risk of Rain 2
- Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break
- Samurai Shodown
- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
- Serious Sam Collection
- Serious Sam 4
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Sniper Elite 4
- Stacks on Stacks (On Stacks)
- Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
- SteamWorld Dig
- SteamWorld Dig 2
- SteamWorld Heist
- SteamWorld Quest
- Strange Brigade
- Sundered: Eldritch Edition
- Superhot: Mind Control Delete
- Super Bomberman R Online
- The Crew 2
- The Gardens Between
- Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- The Turing Test
- Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
- Trials Rising
- Wave Break
- Watch Dogs: Legion
- West of Loathing
- Wolfenstein: Youngblood
- WWE 2K Battlegrounds
- Zombie Army 4
This list will continue to grow as Stadia continues to expand, with more games already slated to land on the platform in the coming months. Alongside the list of available games, Stadia also offers a service called Stadia Pro, which grants players various perks, including free games and the option to use the best visual and audio qualities that Stadia has to offer.
In addition to standalone titles and Stadia Pro, Google Stadia also supports select game subscription services. While there’s no word if EA Access will ever make its way to the platform, Ubisoft’s Uplay+ will be available. It costs $14.99/month and grants you access to over 100 titles — including new and upcoming games along with all DLC packs and other post-launch content.
Google has been rotating in free games for Stadia Pro subscribers (more on that below), which is similar to what Sony and Microsoft offer with PlayStation Plus and Xbox Games with Gold. Google offers a rotating selection of four free games that Stadia Pro subscribers can claim through the Stadia app. Beyond the free Stadia Pro games, though, if you really want to build up your library, you’ll need to purchase titles as you do right now for existing consoles.
Perhaps even more exciting, Google has launched its own first-party game development studio where it’ll create new first-party games and work with other studios to get Google’s cloud technology into the hands of as many developers as possible.
The Stadia Controller offers the best gameplay experience
Stadia is designed to work with most game controllers, keyboards, and mice, but Google has also released a new Stadia-specific controller.
The controller has a pretty typical design, including two analog sticks, a directional pad, bumpers, etc. It’s available in three colors (Clearly White, Just Black, and Wasabi) and features two buttons specific for Stadia — a Share and Google Assistant button.
The Share button is designed to allow users to share gameplay straight to YouTube instantly. Users can control if they want to keep the shared video private, only send it to certain friends, or be publicly viewable. When the stream is shared, it’ll be available in up to 4K at 60 FPS.
As for the Google Assistant button, this works with the controller’s built-in microphone and allows you to issue voice commands as you would with any other Assistant-enabled device. Unique to the Stadia controller; eventually, you’ll be able to use Assistant to access special in-game features.
Currently, the Stadia controller only works wirelessly when paired to a Chromecast Ultra. You’ll need a wired connection to play on your Pixel phone or computer. Additional controllers can be purchased for $69 each or as part of the Stadia Premiere Edition bundle.
A Stadia controller is not required to enjoy Stadia on your phone or via the web. You can use other controllers that you may already own, pick up a brand new one, or use your keyboard and mouse when playing from a Chrome browser on your computer. You can wirelessly connect any Bluetooth controller other than the Stadia controller to your Pixel your phone, and we’ve got a quick how-to for getting that set up with an Xbox One controller. The steps are virtually the same for any Bluetooth controller.
What you need to play Stadia on your TV, phone, or computer
Currently, gaming on Stadia is limited to a select number of Google devices; however, Google has plans to expand the number of devices that support Stadia in the coming year.
To play Stadia on a TV
You will need a Google account (not compatible with G Suite or Google for Education accounts) and a Stadia Premiere Edition that includes a Google Chromecast Ultra and the Stadia controller. You also need to download the Stadia app on your phone (available for Android and iOS) to pair the Stadia controller to the Chromecast Ultra and launch games to your TV.
If you were invited to Stadia with a friend’s Stadia Buddy Pass, you still require your own Chromecast Ultra and Stadia controller to play on your home TV.
To play Stadia on a phone
Stadia is currently available on the following mobile devices:
- Pixel 2, 2XL, 3, 3XL, 3a, 3a XL, 4, 4XL
- Samsung S8, S8+, S8 Active, Note 8
- Samsung S9, S9+, Note 9
- Samsung S10, S10+, Note 10, Note 10+
- Samsung S20, S20+, S20 Ultra
- OnePlus 5, 6, 7, 7 Pro, 7 Pro 5G, 8, 8 Pro, Nord
- OnePlus 5T, 6T, 7T, 7T Pro, 7T Pro 5G
- Asus ROG Phone, ROG Phone II, ROG Phone III
- Razer Phone, Razer Phone II
You also need a Google account (not compatible with G Suite or Google for Education accounts) with an active Stadia account (activated when signing up for free or purchasing Premiere Edition, or through Buddy Pass invitation) and the Stadia app downloaded on your Pixel phone.
Using a Stadia controller requires a wired connection with a USB-C to USB-C cable; however, you can also pair PlayStation DualShock 4 or Xbox One via Bluetooth, or use any other Android-compatible Bluetooth controller.
To play Stadia on a computer
You will need a Google account (not compatible with G Suite or Google for Education accounts) with an active Stadia account (activated when signing up for free or purchasing Premiere Edition, or through Buddy Pass invitation). Log into your Google account in a Chrome browser and go to Stadia.com to launch the Stadia interface.
You will need a wired connection for the controller of your choice, or you can choose to game using your computer’s mouse and keyboard. There are no hardware requirements for playing Stadia on a computer, as long as you can install the Chrome browser. We’ve been able to play on an iMac and budget Chromebooks with no issues.
Stadia will tie in seamlessly with YouTube
Gameplay videos are huge on YouTube, and with Stadia, one of the main focuses is to make it easier than ever to capture and share your gaming moments.
On Stadia, Google is introducing a new feature called Crowd Play. If a YouTuber is livestreaming themselves playing a game, they can allow their audience to instantly jump in the game with them via Stadia by clicking a button on the video. Additionally, if you’re watching a trailer for a game like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, there will be a button that allows you to instantly jump in the game and start playing in as little as five seconds.
Furthermore, if a player finds themselves stuck on a level or can’t find a hidden collectible, they can use Google Assistant to find a tutorial video and be on their way.
And, as mentioned above, the Stadia controller has a physical button dedicated to sharing your gameplay on YouTube.
Here’s what kind of internet connection you’ll need
Since Stadia is entirely internet-based, you obviously need a good connection in order to play. The better your speed, the better your experience will be.
At the bare minimum, Google recommends you have speeds of 10 Mbps. This will enable you to play in 720p at 60 FPS with stereo audio. At 20 Mbps, things are amped up to 1080p, HDR, and 5.1 surround sound.
Lastly, if you want the best possible Stadia gameplay and need that crispy 4K goodness, Google recommends having a connection of at least 35 Mbps. Currently, 4K streaming is only available when gaming on the Chromecast Ultra and requires a Stadia Pro subscription. For best results, you’ll want a wired connection from your Chromecast Ultra to your router using the Ultra’s ethernet adapter.
Google plans to roll out 4K support for Stadia gaming on the web via a Chrome browser in early 2020.
There are two versions of Stadia
Google’s making Stadia available through two distinct plans — Stadia Pro and Stadia Base.
Stadia Pro will set you back $9.99/month and is the ultimate way to experience Google’s gaming vision. You’ll have access to up to 4K resolution, a 60 FPS frame rate, and 5.1 surround sound. You’ll also get access to the rotating list of free games along with “exclusive discounts on select game purchases.”
If you don’t want another subscription to deal with, Stadia Base might be for you. The service is free, although the gameplay quality is downgraded, only supporting up to 1080p resolution and stereo sound, but you’ll retain a frame rate of up to 60 FPS. You’ll also miss out on the free games and Stadia Pro discounts.
When and where will Stadia be available?
Since its launch, Google Stadia has been available in 14 countries, with expansion into new markets expected in 2020. Here are the countries where Stadia is available:
- United Kingdom
- United States
While Stadia is available in Puerto Rico and Alaska, it’s worth noting that it is not available to residents of Hawaii, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, this might change if and when Stadia expands into eastern Asia markets.
You can order the Premiere Edition now
For the best Stadia experience, you’ll want to order yourself the Stadia Premiere Edition bundle.
The Stadia Premiere Edition costs $100, is available exclusively through the Google Store, and comes with the following:
- The Clearly White Stadia Controller
- A Stadia Controller Power Adapter
- A Google Chromecast Ultra
- A Google Chromecast Ultra Power Adapter with an Ethernet port
- Access to Destiny 2: The Collection and the other free games included with Stadia Pro subscriptions