Google's eagerly-anticipated cloud gaming platform is now available across 14 countries, including the UK and US.

Called Stadia, it is effectively the company's "Netflix of games", with games hosted on remote servers and video streamed to connected devices, including smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs.

But what does Stadia offer? And how is it different to other cloud gaming services?

What is Google Stadia and how does it work?

Having previously been called Project Yeti, 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.

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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.

A year or so after launch, Stadia could adopt other technologies to reduce or eliminate latency altogether. Its vice president of streaming, Madj Baker, told Edge magazine in October that development is in progress: "Ultimately, we think in a year or two we’ll have games that are running faster and feel more responsive in the cloud than they do locally, regardless of how powerful the local machine is," he said.

The only spanner in the works - latency wise - is that when playing on a mobile device, such as an Android phone or iPhone, 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 latter option is the only one on the table until "early 2020" when wireless mobile connectivity will be switched on.

What devices is Stadia available for?

Previous rumours suggested that Google would launch its service with its own Made by Google games console. However, while that could still be the case one day, it doesn't actually need one as it uses existing connected devices.

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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, Android phones and tablets, plus iPhone and iPad. However, at launch, you can only play it on a TV using a Chromecast Ultra.

While there are Android and iOS apps available now, they can only manage your Stadia account, not play games.

Only Google's Pixel 3 range of smartphones will be able to access a Stadia application and be compatible from day one. That includes the Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL.

We suspect that will also include the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL too, although Google hasn't named them specifically.

As well as the dedicated Stadia controller, Pixel phone users can link an Xbox One or DualShock 4 controller to their device via Bluetooth to play Stadia games.

How much does Stadia cost?

Google 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. However, contrary to previous reports, it doesn't give access to a library of games.

Instead, Stadia Pro membership entitles users to play "roughly one free game per month". It is similar, therefore, to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold, rather than an all-you-can-eat subscription.

For early adopters, a Stadia Premiere Edition bundle is available (which replaces the sold out Founder's Edition). 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.

A final option for Stadia access is to pay as you go. Like Pro, Stadia Base membership means you have to buy games individually but don't get any free games included. Stadia Base is also restricted to a maximum of 1080p. However, it doesn't require any monthly fees.

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 will be determined by developers and publishers. As Stadia boss Phil Harrison told Eurogamer in June, they will be of equivalent cost to PS4 and Xbox One games: "I don't know why it would be cheaper," he said.

Separate Stadia controllers are available in Just Black, Clearly White and Wasabi colourways at £59 ($69) each.

What games will be on Stadia?

There will be 22 games available at launch and a further 4 before the end of 2019.

Here is the confirmed game list so far:

Launch titles (available from 19 November 2019)

  • Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
  • Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle
  • Destiny 2: The Collection
  • Farming Simulator 19
  • Final Fantasy XV
  • Football Manager 2020
  • Grid
  • Gylt
  • Just Dance 2020
  • Kine
  • Metro Exodus
  • Mortal Kombat 11
  • NBA 2K20
  • Rage 2
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Samurai Shodown
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • Thumper
  • Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
  • Trials Rising
  • Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Before end of 2019

  • Borderlands 3
  • Darksiders Genesis
  • Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
  • Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Also announced (for 2020 and beyond)

  • Baldur's Gate III
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Destroy All Humans!
  • Doom
  • Doom Eternal
  • Get Packed
  • Gods & Monsters
  • Marvel's Avengers
  • Orcs Must Die! 3
  • Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid
  • Superhot
  • The Crew 2
  • The Division 2
  • The Elder Scrolls Online
  • Watch Dogs Legion
  • 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.

What quality can games run at and what broadband speeds do they require?

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. 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.

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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.

When and where will Stadia be available?

Stadia is available now 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 in 2020.

You can read our full, in-depth review of Stadia here: Google Stadia review: The cloud gaming platform we always hoped for.