Google's cloud gaming platform is available across 14 countries, including the UK and US, in its paid and free forms.
But what does Stadia offer? And how does it differ from other cloud gaming services?
How Google Stadia works
Google Stadia is a cloud gaming service whereby games can be purchased and played, but don't have to be downloaded to a console or PC.
That's because, through multiple connected devices, including phones, laptops and TVs, you play the game in real time, but it's actually run on a remote Stadia server somewhere else in the world. The video of the gameplay is transmitted to your device over the internet, while the control codes from a game controller are sent in the other direction.
The biggest hurdle other similar services have encountered over the years is latency - the time it takes from the moment you move the controller thumbstick or press a button to the action occurring on screen.
But, where Stadia differs from other platforms, such as Nvidia GeForce Now and PlayStation Now, is that its servers are placed in a vast number of locations around the globe. That shortens the distance between player and a server to stream from.
In addition, Google has developed a dedicated Stadia controller that connects to the internet directly via Wi-Fi, rather than your device (when you are playing at home, at least). That means it sends controller codes without having to submit them to your phone, tablet or other connected device first. That cuts down on milliseconds of latency and, in gaming, that really matters.
Usually on a cloud gaming platform, once you've pressed a button the signal has to be transmitted (most often through Bluetooth) to the receiving device, then sent over an internet connection. It is subsequently read by the source device, sent back to the receiving device, then transmitted to your TV (if not using a smartphone or tablet screen). Each of these actions take time and that can be vital to smooth gaming experiences as milliseconds can be the difference between avoiding a bullet or being shot in the face.
The only spanner in the works - latency wise - is that when playing on a mobile device, such as a Pixel phone, you will need to connect the controller via Bluetooth if you want to use it wirelessly, as Stadia will be using your mobile data to play. Alternatively, you can connect it via a cable, which will reduce that additional latency. Indeed, this is the only option available until "early 2020" when wireless mobile connectivity will be switched on.
Google Stadia compatible devices
Google Stadia doesn't need a dedicated device, save for a controller, as it is playable through existing connected devices.
For computer use, Stadia works through the Google Chrome internet browser. It is therefore available on PC and Mac without extra dedicated software or devices.
It will also work through other connected devices in time, including TVs, additional Android phones and tablets, plus iPhone and iPad. However, at launch, you can only play it on a TV using a Chromecast Ultra.
And, while there are Android and iOS apps available now, the vast majority of handsets can only manage your Stadia account, not play games.
At present, only Google's own Pixel smartphones and select devices from OnePlus, Samsung, Asus and Razer can currently play games through the Stadia mobile app.
Does your phone support Google Stadia?
- Asus ROG Phone
- Asus ROG Phone II
- Google Pixel 2
- Google Pixel 2 XL
- Google Pixel 3
- Google Pixel 3 XL
- Google Pixel 3A
- Google Pixel 3A XL
- Google Pixel 4
- OnePlus 8
- OnePlus 8 Pro
- Razer Phone
- Razer Phone 2
- Samsung Galaxy Note 8
- Samsung Galaxy Note 9
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
- Samsung Galaxy S8
- Samsung Galaxy S8+
- Samsung Galaxy S8 Active
- Samsung Galaxy S9
- Samsung Galaxy S9+
- Samsung Galaxy S10
- Samsung Galaxy S10E
- Samsung Galaxy S10+
- Samsung Galaxy S20
- Samsung Galaxy S20+
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
As well as the dedicated Stadia controller, compatible phone users can link an Xbox One or DualShock 4 controller to their device via Bluetooth to play Stadia games.
How much does Google Stadia cost?
There are two levels of membership: Stadia Pro, which is paid for, and plain Stadia, a free access plan.
Stadia Pro membership costs £8.99 per month in the UK, $9.99 per month in the US. That gives users up to 4K HDR gameplay and 5.1 surround sound. However, you still have to buy the majority of games on top.
That's because, while Stadia Pro membership entitles users to add a couple of free games per month to their libraries - a bit like PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold - it isn't an all-you-can-eat service.
A Stadia Premiere Edition bundle is available as a kind-of starter pack. Priced at £119 ($129) it includes a Clearly White Stadia controller, a Chromecast Ultra capable of streaming 4K HDR gameplay to your TV, and three-months of Stadia Pro.
During the current global crisis, however, Stadia Pro membership is completely free for two-months. Both new subscribers and existing members will get full Stadia Pro membership at no cost. It will revert to £8.98/$9.99 after two-months, but you can opt out easily before then.
The other plan was originally known as Stadia Base, but is now just plain old Stadia. It is a pay as you go plan - you have to buy games individually, as with Pro, but don't get any free monthly games included. Standard Stadia is also restricted to a maximum of 1080p and stereo sound. The benefit, however, is that you don't have to pay any monthly subscription fees.
You can revert to the free Stadia membership after your free trial of Stadia Pro is over.
With both membership options, purchased games will forever be assigned to your Stadia account and you can play them as often as you like.
Pricing for new games is determined by developers and publishers. They are around the same price as console titles.
Separate Stadia controllers are available in Just Black, Clearly White and Wasabi colourways at £59 ($69) each.
Google Stadia game list
The Stadia games list is ever-expanding (after a reasonably meagre start), with more than 100 games planned for release before the end of 2020.
Here is the confirmed game list so far:
Available Stadia games (as of 1 May 2020):
- Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
- Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle
- Borderlands 3
- Darksiders Genesis
- Destiny 2: The Collection
- Doom Eternal
- Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
- Farming Simulator 19
- Final Fantasy XV
- Football Manager 2020
- Get Packed
- Ghost Recon: Breakpoint
- Gylt *
- Just Dance 2020
- Lost Worlds: Beyond the Page *
- Metro Exodus
- Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 3
- Mortal Kombat 11
- MotoGP 20
- NBA 2K20
- Octopath Traveler
- PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG)
- Rage 2
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Samurai Shodown
- Serious Sam Collection
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Spitlings *
- Stacks on Stacks (on Stacks) *
- SteamWorld Dig
- SteamWorld Dig 2
- SteamWorld Heist
- SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
- The Crew 2
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint
- Tom Clancy's The Division 2
- Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
- Trials Rising
- Wolfenstein: Youngblood
- Zombie Army 4: Dead War
Forthcoming Stadia games (for 2020 and beyond)
- Baldur's Gate III
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Destroy All Humans!
- F1 2020
- Gods & Monsters
- Just Shapes & Beats
- Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
- Madden NFL
- Marvel's Avengers
- Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
- Monster Jam Steel Titans
- Orcs Must Die! 3
- Panzer Dragoon: Remake
- Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid
- Rock of Ages 3
- Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- The Turing Test
- Watch Dogs Legion
- Wave Break
- West of Loathing
- Windjammers 2
The Stadia team announced that it will also be developing its own, first-party games but we don't expect to see any of them until late 2020 at the very least.
* These games are exclusive to Stadia, at least initially.
What broadband speeds do you need to run Google Stadia?
Google claims that Stadia is capable of running games in up to 4K HDR and at 60 frames-per-second.
It is also capable of up to 5.1 surround sound through Chromecast and the Chrome browser. However, all video performance and sound quality will be determined by your broadband connection and require a Stadia Pro subscription (Stadia Base maxes at 1080p).
For the best experience - 4K HDR at 60fps and with 5.1 sound - you really need a recommended speed of 35Mbps. However, games will still run from a recommended, absolute minimum speed of 10Mbps. You will likely be restricted to 720p and stereo, but should still get 60fps.
You can check your speed using a dedicated online test here.
Google makes a bold claim that, sometime in the future, Stadia will be capable of streaming in up to 8K and at 120fps. However, that is a long way off and will require far greater internet speeds than many national averages.
NOTE: The resolution of Stadia games is determined by the developers and publishers, not Google. So, while you may be a Pro member and have a Chromecast Ultra or compatible PC running the Chrome browser, a game might not be outputting native 4K HDR. And while you could be receiving 4K HDR video at your end, you might find that the game, such as Destiny 2, is locked to 1080p for performance.
Where is Stadia available?
Stadia is available in the following countries: UK, US, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden.
Google plans to expand the service to other countries and regions later in 2020.
You can read our full, in-depth review of Stadia here: Google Stadia review: The cloud gaming platform we deserve.