Formerly known as Project Stream, Google Stadia hopes to revolutionise the way we access, play and share games when it comes to market later in 2019. Utilising the power of the cloud, Google’s gaming service is said to provide a high-end PC experience on anything from a Chromecast-connected TV to a tablet to a smartphone, with seamless switching between devices.
It’s not a new concept - we’ve had PlayStation Now for years, and Nvidia’s GeForce Now provides a similar experience to what Google wants to achieve – but with the grunt of Google behind the project, we’re expecting something great.
Here’s all you need to know about Google Stadia, from the release date to controller details, tech specs and key features of the streaming service - including how much it'll cost you.
What is Google Stadia?
Google Stadia is Google’s vision of the future of gaming; a cloud-based service available on a range of devices, not just high-end gaming PCs and consoles. It’s a streaming service with data centres dotted across the globe, so as long as you have a fast enough internet connection, you could theoretically play your favourite games in any supported region in the world.
It’s more than just a streaming service though; Stadia is set to be a platform of its own, with high-end specs that could eventually provide an 8K, 120fps gaming experience according to Google. There isn’t a physical Stadia console though; as Google’s Phil Harrison revealed, it will run “wherever YouTube is”, be it on a smart TV, laptop, tablet, smartphone, desktop or Chromecast-connected display. You can even seamlessly switch between devices in seconds, ideal for when you get kicked off the TV when flatmates are around!
Despite that promise, at launch Stadia will only work with a Chromecast and the official Stadia controller (bundled together in a Founder's Edition), but the promise to run on basically any device will come later. In 2020 it should work on any computer with Google Chrome installed, along with Pixel phones and tablets, with more devices to be added down the line.
The system is designed to reduce the friction of modern-day gaming. According to Google, Stadia loads games in five seconds or less, allowing you to purchase a digital game and be playing it seconds, not hours, later. It’s tied heavily with YouTube, with the idea that you’ll be able to go from watching to gaming (and vice-versa) seamlessly. You’ll be able to click the ‘Play on Stadia’ button when watching any game trailers or gameplay videos on YouTube, but it goes further than that too.
As well as being able to play games at up to [email protected], you’ll be able to stream to YouTube at the same time. This should not only generate more content for YouTube, but should also encourage engagement thanks to something called Crowd Play. It’s a feature of Stadia that allows you to invite friends or viewers to join you when streaming on YouTube.
Google claims this can become quite granular, allowing streamers to set specific challenges for fans to complete, or allow people to watch a walkthrough and go straight to that point in the game. It’s certainly an interesting concept if Google can pull it off.
When will Google Stadia be released?
Google has confirmed that Google Stadia will be available from November 2019 in 14 countries, including the US, UK, and Canada. There’s no confirmation yet about when other areas and territories might be added to the roster, but it’s clear that the intention is for this to go worldwide sooner or later.
How much will Google Stadia cost?
The key factor is pricing: how much will the Google Stadia controller cost?
Annoyingly, the pricing structure is actually a little complicated. At launch, the only way to get Stadia will be through the 'Founder's Edition', a £119/$129 bundle that includes a limited edition Night Blue Stadia controller, a Chromecast Ultra, a copy of Destiny 2, and a three-month subscription to Stadia Pro.
The Stadia Pro subscription will normally cost £8.99/$9.99 per month, which includes a selection of 'free' games included in the subscription, though more recent titles will still need to be bought in their own right. However you will still get to keep these bought games even if you let your Stadia Pro subscription lapse. The Pro subscription is the only way to stream Stadia games in [email protected] with 5.1 surround sound.
There will also be a free tier that launches in 2020. Stadia Basic won't include the 'free' games, so you'll have to separately buy anything you want to play, and it caps out at 1080p, rather than 4K, though you still get 60fps.
How does all that compare to other streaming services?
Shadow is a cloud-based streaming service that provides a full Windows 10 experience on a range of devices, from PCs to laptops and mobile devices. It’s focused around gaming with access to the equivalent of a GTX 1080 alongside 12GB of RAM, and depending on your internet connection, you can get up to [email protected] playback. It’s a slightly different approach to Stadia, as Google’s offering looks to be a curated collection of games rather than a cloud-based Windows desktop, but we can look at the pricing as an indicator.
At £26.95 per month, it’s not cheap, but it’s certainly cheaper than paying out for a high-end gaming PC with similar specs to what is offered by Shadow. We imagine Google Stadia will cost slightly less than this, but it depends on title availability and whether we’ll have to buy individual games from the Stadia ecosystem before being able to play them.
What games will be included?
No doubt the game list will change over time, but at launch there will be over 30 games available for purchase on the service - though it's not clear which games will be included in the Pro subscription.
Launch games will include Destiny 2, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, The Division 2, DOOM, along with newly revealed games including Darksiders Genesis and Baldur's Gate 3. Here's the full launch list so far:
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey
- Baldur's Gate 3
- Borderlands 3
- The Crew 2
- Darksiders Genesis
- Destiny 2
- Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
- Doom 2016
- Doom Eternal
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- Farming Simulator 19
- Final Fantasy XV
- Football Manager
- Get Packed
- Just Dance
- Metro Exodus
- Mortal Kombat 11
- NBA 2K
- Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid
- Rage 2
- Samurai Shodown
- Tom Clancy's The Division 2
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint
- Tomb Raider Definitive Edition
- Trials Rising
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Wolfenstein: Youngblood
Google Stadia Controller details
While there’s no Stadia console, there is an official Stadia controller. The idea is that you’d access Stadia like Netflix or YouTube, pick up the controller and start playing. The key is that the Stadia controller connects directly to the Stadia service via Wi-Fi and not via the device you’re playing on, allowing for a more seamless transition between devices and, crucially, reduced input lag.
The controller itself looks like a cross between the Xbox One and DualShock 4 controllers with the usual controller functions (including USB-C charging), plus two new features; a Share button that allows you to stream gameplay, and a voice command button that allows you to interact with Google Assistant. The latter allows you to say things like “I want to play Destiny 2 with Alan and Luna” to set up a squad with specified players.
The good news is that the Stadia controller isn’t a requirement for most devices; you’ll be able to use any USB-enabled controller (Xbox One, DualShock 4, etc) alongside keyboard and mouse to play Google Stadia games on PC or a laptop, and you can use third-party controllers with mobile devices. The only time the Stadia controller will be required is when accessing Stadia via Chromecast on a TV, which is why it will be a requirement at launch, when the Chromecast is the only way to access the service.
Alongside the Midnight Blue variant in the Founder's Edition, Google has also announced controller variants in Just Black, Clearly White, and Wasabi, each costing £59/$69.
Google Stadia specs
While the complete list of specs is yet to be announced, Google has confirmed the following:
- CPU: Custom 2.7GHz hyper-threaded x86 CPU with AVX2 SIMD and 9.5MB L2+L3 cache
- GPU: Custom AMD GPU with HBM2 memory and 56 compute units, capable of 10.7 teraflops
- RAM: 16GB of RAM with up to 484GB/s of performance
- SSD cloud storage
- Minimum 10 Mbps download / 1 Mbps upload
- 35 Mbps download for 'optimal' 4K streaming