(Pocket-lint) - 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.
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 Smart TVs, iPhone and iPad. At present, you can only play it on a TV using a Chromecast Ultra, at least officially speaking. It is possible to play it on an Android TV device by sideloading the Stadia APK - but that method is somewhat clumsy. More conventional Android TV supported is expected soon.
And, while there are Android and iOS apps available now, only the former can play games on Stadia. The iOS app currently only works as a library and storefront.
All Android phones have recently been added to the available devices list, although the majority only work in "Experiment" mode. That means they aren't officially supported unless they are on the optimised phone list below.
However, you can still run Stadia on other Android handsets by navigating to the "Experiments" tab in Settings and tap "Play on this device". There might be some bugs or issues.
The following phones, however, are guaranteed to run Stadia without any errors:
Google Stadia supported phone list
- 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 5
- OnePlus 5T
- OnePlus 6
- OnePlus 6T
- OnePlus 7
- OnePlus 7 Pro
- OnePlus 7 Pro 5G
- OnePlus 7T
- OnePlus 7T Pro
- OnePlus 7T Pro 5G
- 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 PlayStation DualShock 4 controller to their device via Bluetooth to play Stadia games.
Touch controls are also now available when playing games on mobile devices, although the more complicated games are hard to play using the screen.
We don't yet know when, or if, iOS devices will gain support.
Can you play Stadia games over mobile data?
In July 2020, Google added the ability to play Stadia games over a 4G or 5G connection on a mobile device.
It is in beta form for now and can be found in the Experiments section of the settings.
You can find out how to turn it on here: How to stream Google Stadia games on your Android phone over 4G and 5G.
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 £89.99 ($99.99) it includes a Clearly White Stadia controller and a Chromecast Ultra capable of streaming 4K HDR gameplay to your TV. To keep the cost down (it was a lot more expensive previously), you no longer get a voucher code for Stadia Pro membership, but all new users get a free trial anyway.
The alternative 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 7 September 2020):
- Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
- Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle
- Borderlands 3
- Darksiders Genesis
- Destiny 2
- Doom 64
- Doom Eternal
- Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
- Embr (Early Access)
- F1 2020
- Farming Simulator 19
- Final Fantasy XV
- Football Manager 2020
- Get Packed *
- Gylt *
- Hello Neighbour
- Hitman 2
- Jotun: Valhalla Edition
- Just Dance 2020
- Just Shapes & Boats
- Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
- Little Nightmares
- Lost Worlds: Beyond the Page *
- Marvel Avengers
- Metro 2033 Redux
- Metro Exodus
- Metro Last Light Redux
- Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
- Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 3
- Mortal Kombat 11
- MotoGP 20
- NBA 2K20
- NBA 2K21
- Octopath Traveler
- One Hand Clapping (Early Access)
- Orcs Must Die 3
- Panzer Dragoon: Remake
- PGA Tour 2K21
- PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG)
- Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid
- Rage 2
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break
- 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
- Strange Brigade
- Sundered: Eldritch Edition
- Super Bomberman R Online
- The Crew 2
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- The Turing Test
- Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint
- Tom Clancy's The Division 2
- Trials Rising
- Wave Break
- West of Loathing
- Wolfenstein: Youngblood
- Zombie Army 4: Dead War
Forthcoming Stadia games (for 2020 and beyond)
- Assassin's Creed Valhalla
- Baldur's Gate III
- Cris Tales
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Dead By Daylight
- Destroy All Humans!
- El Hijo - A Wild West Tale
- Far Cry 6
- Gods & Monsters
- Hitman 3
- Madden NFL
- Monster Jam Steel Titans
- Outriders: Journey into the Unknown
- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
- Serious Sam 4
- Sniper Elite 4
- Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
- 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.
* 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 (standard Stadia membership 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.