Formerly known as Project Stream, Google Stadia has hopes of revolutionising the way we access, play and share games. Harnessing the power of the cloud, Google’s gaming service aims to provide a high-end PC experience on anything from a Chromecast-connected TV to a tablet or phone, 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 such a project, Stadia has the makings of something particularly impressive.
Here’s what you need to know about Google Stadia, from its game lineup to controller details, tech specs and key features of the streaming service - including how much it'll cost you.
Read our full Google Stadia review.
What is Google Stadia?
Stadia is Google’s vision for the future of gaming; a cloud-based service accessible across a range of devices, without the need for a high-end gaming PC or a console. It’s a streaming service with data centres across the globe and 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 an evolving platform all its own, with high-end specs that could eventually deliver an 8K, 120fps gaming environment, according to Google. There isn’t a physical Stadia console; as Google’s Phil Harrison first revealed, it will run “wherever YouTube is”, be it on a smart TV, laptop, tablet, smartphone, desktop or Chromecast-connected display.
Despite such promises, at launch Stadia hasn't arrived quite as fully-formed as Google first envisioned. It originally only worked with Google's Chromecast Ultra (specifically the one that came in-box with the pre-order Founder's Edition) and the official Stadia controller (now bundled in a Premiere Edition for £119/US$129). Stadia, as Google intended, is manifesting, but slowly.
Stadia streaming is also supported on (at the time of writing) a host of Android phones, included the latest Pixel 4 line and Samsung's new Galaxy S20 Ultra, as well as any Chrome OS-enabled tablet or any computer with an up-to-date version of Google's Chrome web browser. Other Android users (along with iOS users) are still left out in the cold for the time being.
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 play in 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] (on both the Chromecast Ultra and, more recently, compatible laptops) you’ll eventually be able to stream to YouTube simultaneously. 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 will allow 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 it ever gets implemented.
When and where is Google Stadia available?
Google Stadia launched on 19 November 2019 in 14 countries, including the US (excluding Hawaii), 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.
At launch, the firm said, "whether you ordered Stadia Founder’s Edition or Premiere Edition, you’ll have three months of Stadia Pro, with access to Destiny 2: The Collection. Using the included Chromecast Ultra and Stadia Controller, you’ll be gaming in up to 4K HDR with 5.1 surround sound when playing on your TV."
How much does Google Stadia cost?
It's important to note that the initial launch signifies the arrival of Stadia Pro, which costs £8.99/US$9.99 a month and includes access to select games from Stadia's library, for free. The company has also promised a free model, arriving sometime in 2020, called Stadia Base, which tops out at Full HD resolution, delivers stereo sound and doesn't include any free games.
|Stadia Pro||Stadia Base|
|Max resolution/frame rate||[email protected]||1080p @60fps|
|Audio||5.1 surround sound||Stereo sound|
|Availability||Available now||Coming 2020|
Right now, the pricing structure is actually a little complicated. Currently, the only way to get Stadia is through either the Founder's Edition (for those that pre-ordered) or the Premiere Edition. The Founders Edition was priced at £119/US$129 and included a limited edition Night Blue Stadia controller, a Chromecast Ultra, full access to Destiny 2 and a three-month subscription to Stadia Pro. The Premiere Edition that replaced it provides much of the same at £119/US$129, but you miss out on the Night Blue Stadia controller and the Buddy Pass, which grants three free months of Stadia Pro access to a friend.
If it's additional Stadia controllers that you're after, Google offers three colours (excluding the pre-exclusive Night Blue model); Clearly White, Just Black and Wasabi. Each costs £59/US$69.
How does Stadia 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 it allows you to install PC games that you already own - something not possible with Stadia.
Sony's PlayStation Now service costs the same as Stadia and grants gamers access to a curated list of PlayStation titles, however, streaming is only possible to a PC or PlayStation console right now.
Project xCloud is the beta cloud gaming experience that Microsoft is in the process of trialling. It's currently free to play and grants access to some 50+ Xbox titles but users need to be granted access to use the service in the first place. Project xCloud is accessible via compatible Android devices and requires a Bluetooth-enabled Xbox controller to function.
What games are available on Google Stadia?
At launch, there were 30 games available for purchase on the service. That total has since grown to 34 (as of March 2020) with a further 16 confirmed titles joining the roster throughout 2020 (listed below). A changing assortment of free games is made available for Stadia Pro player to claim each month too.
At Gamescom 2019, Google also revealed that Cyberpunk 2077 and Superhot would be coming to Stadia.
Here's the full games list so far:
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey
- Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle
- Baldur's Gate 3 (coming soon)
- Borderlands 3
- The Crew 2 (coming soon)
- Cyberpunk 2077 (coming soon)
- Darksiders Genesis
- Destiny 2
- Destroy All Humans (coming soon)
- Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
- Doom 2016 (coming soon)
- Doom Eternal
- The Elder Scrolls Online (coming soon)
- Farming Simulator 19
- Final Fantasy XV
- Football Manager 2020
- Get Packed (coming soon)
- Gods & Monsters (coming soon)
- Just Dance 2020
- Lost Words: Beyond the Page (coming soon)
- Marvel's Avengers (coming soon)
- Metro Exodus
- Monopoly (coming soon)
- Monster Energy Supercross
- Mortal Kombat 11
- NBA 2K20
- Orcs Must Die 3! (coming soon)
- Panzer Dragoon (coming soon)
- Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid (coming soon)
- Rage 2
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Relicta (coming soon)
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Samurai Shodown
- Serious Sam Collection
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Stacks on Stacks (on Stacks) (coming soon)
- SteamWorld Dig
- SteamWorld Dig 2
- Steamworld Heist
- Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
- Superhot: Mind Control Delete (coming soon)
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint
- Tom Clancy's The Division 2
- Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
- Trials Rising
- Watch Dogs Legion (coming soon)
- Windjammers 2 (coming soon)
- Wolfenstein: Youngblood
Google Stadia Controller details
While there’s no Stadia console, as mentioned briefly, there is an official Stadia controller. At launch, the idea was 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 gamepad, with the usual gamut of controller functions (including USB-C charging), plus two new features; a share button that allows you to capture stills, 30-second clips and will eventually let you stream gameplay, alongside a voice command button that will eventually let you interact with the Google Assistant. The latter will allow you to say things like “I want to play Destiny 2 with Alan and Luna” to set up a squad with specified players.
You'll find a 3.5mm headphone port on the controller, as is standard with Xbox One and PS4 controllers, although there's a caveat; you can't use Bluetooth headphones with Stadia and/or the controller - for the time being, anyway. In a Reddit AMA, Stadia Product Director, Andrey Doronichev revealed that those who want to listen to game audio in privacy have no choice but to use wired headphones. The controller's product page does state that it'll offer Bluetooth support at some point, but that's a pretty open-ended promise.
The good news is that the Stadia controller isn’t a requirement for most devices; you’re 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 is required is when accessing Stadia via Chromecast on a TV.
Google Stadia specs
Google has confirmed the following specifications for Stadia:
- 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