In 2018, Google announced Project Stream, a limited streaming test built around Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. After a short test period in January 2019, the project ended and Google kept pretty quiet about its future game streaming plans. At GDC 2019, Google finally broke the silence with the announcement of Stadia.

The idea of a streaming gaming service is nothing new (remember Onlive?), but Google’s service is one of the most ambitious attempts yet.

What is Google Stadia?

Presentation of specifications at GDC 2019

Simply put, Google Stadia is a game-streaming service that works on all the screens you own. Whether you’re playing on your television, your phone, your laptop, or your tablet, you can enjoy AAA game titles on all of them.

How is this possible? Google servers handle the actual rendering of the game and then it streams the gameplay to your device. In other words, you can play any Stadia title on any system you like because your system isn’t actually running the game: Google is. This opens up high-quality gaming to anyone, including people who can’t afford an expensive gaming PC or aren’t interested in buying the latest console.

Related: Google Stadia review: This is the future of gaming if you have the data for it

Supported platforms

The cloud-based service works seamlessly with Chromecast Ultra when connected to a TV. It also supports the Chrome Browser on desktops, laptops, and tablets (including Chrome OS). It also supports a limited number of smartphones, specifically Google’s Pixel 2, Pixel 3, Pixel 3a, and Pixel 4 devices. In February 2020, the company expanded that list to include many more Android phones.

In June 2020, Google announced that any Android phone would work with Stadia. Even those not on the list above can use the service by downloading the Stadia app, going to the Experiments tab, and clicking Play on this device.

With Stadia, you can also instantly switch devices any time you like — even if you’re in the middle of playing — making it possible to take your game experience anywhere. Until recently you needed a Wi-Fi connection in order to play. However, on July 28, Google Stadia started testing cellular connections on 4G and 5G networks and in October made that feature official. Users can download the Stadia app, tap on their avatar, then tap on Settings, and then tap on the Performance tab. Finally, users can tap on the Use Mobile Data option to begin trying out the new cellular support. Google does state that using cell data on Stadia will use up a ton of data, so if your phone has a limited high-speed data plan, you should use this feature sparingly.

The service is based on Linux and uses Vulkan, so it supports many of the most popular game development engines, including Unreal and Unity.

The app is now available to download by clicking the button below.

Also, Stadia now supports iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. It uses a mobile web browser solution, which means you will have to go to the official Stadia web site via the Safari web browser to play your games. You can also create a progressive web app via the browser to access Stadia on iOS.
Stadia support is slated to be added to Android TV devices in 2021, along with smart TVs made by LG in 2021 as well.

Hardware specs, system requirements, and features

Google Stadia Founders Edition controller in hand

As a cloud-based service, all the heavy lifting with Stadia is performed by a remote PC. That means it doesn’t really matter whether you’re using a phone, tablet, or computer — the experience will be pretty much the same. Google says that Stadia users will have access to the power of a custom AMD 2.7GHz x86 processor with 16GB RAM, up to 484GB/s transfer speed, and a GPU that has 10.7 teraflops of power.

Stadia gives you the same experience from any device, as long as you have the connection to handle it.

It also has the advantage of being easier to upgrade as hardware upgrades happen remotely at the server-side.

Of course, how good the game looks will depend both on your internet connection as well as the device you are using. If you are playing on a Chromecast Ultra, you can play in 4K with HDR support and 5.1 surround sound, assuming you have a television, sound system, and fast enough internet connection to support those features.

Speaking of internet connections, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 35Mbps — 4K with HDR and 5.1 surround
  • 20Mbps — 1080p and 5.1 surround
  • 10Mbps —  720p and stereo sound

Keep in mind that the only way to play in 4K is on a Chromecast Ultra.

In the future, Google will also offer 8K gaming support, though it doesn’t specify how far off that is or which systems it will work on.  

State Share

In July, Google Stadia launched Crayta, which allows groups of people to collaborate on not just playing games, but also creating new games. This is the first game that supports Stadia’s State Share feature. Basically, a player can send out a link to their Crayta game. Another gamer can click on that link, and they will be transported to the very moment in the game that the friend wants to show off. 

In January 2021, Stadia added State Share support to the new IO Interactive game, Hitman 3. The feature allows a play to share a section of the game with a friend, and even let the friend use in-game items they have yet to unlock on their own.

Google Assistant support

Imagine you’re stuck and need some help. Ask Assistant and it’ll give you the advice you need. It will even be possible to overlay a tutorial video on the screen that will walk you through. Currently, Assistant is only available when playing via your Chromecast-based TV.

Achievements 

Just like with many other gaming platforms, Stadia will chronicle and show you your in-game achievements. They can range from defeating a specific number of enemies, or just finishing the first level in a game. Not all Stadia games currently support achievements.

Family share

Stadia is now rolling out a new feature called Family Share.If you have created a Google family group, you can share your purchased games with anyone in the group that has a Stadia account, even if they have not purchased the game themselves. However, only one member of the group can played a shared game at one time.

This also works with any of your Stadia Pro games you have claimed. If you stop paying for the Pro subscription, both you and your family group members will lose access to those games. There are also parental controls that allow the users to keep certain games from being played by younger members of the family group.

Messaging

Google Stadia recently added support for messaging for players to other Stadia users. That included smart replies, which makes it easier and faster to respond to messages while using gamepads.

Capture and share screenshots and videos with others

While playing Stadia games on mobile devices on or on the PC via a web browser, you can now quickly capture screenshots or video clips of games you are playing. Video clips can also include your own audio chat voice while you are playing. These images and clips can also be shared with friends.

The Stadia Controller is the optimal way to play

Google Stadia Founders Edition everything sprawled out 1

This $69 proprietary controller connects via Wi-Fi directly to Google’s servers for a (mostly) lag-free experience. Some of its key features include built-in Google Assistant support and a Capture button for saving and capturing gaming experience to YouTube.

Currently, Google Assistant only works on the Stadia home screen for those using the Chromecast Ultra. That means there’s no in-game Google Assistant functionality yet.

At first, the Stadia controller would only connect wirelessly to a TV with a Chromecast Ultra plugged into it. However, in June 2020, Google finally added wireless support for Android devices to the Stadia controller.

If you’re using the official controller on your smartphone, Google has a fun accessory you can buy to help out: the Power Support Claw. The Claw snaps onto your controller and then you can clip your phone in to enjoy an all-in-one gaming experience.

Related: Here’s how Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo controllers work with Stadia

Of course, you don’t need to use the official controller to enjoy Stadia. While it’s arguably the best way to play because it goes straight to Google’s servers and reduces as much input lag as possible, any existing input scheme should work including third-party controllers, mice, and keyboards. That includes controllers from Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and more. Check the full list below as well as the limitations of each:

Peripheral typeTVVia Google Chrome (version 75 or greater)Pixel 2, 3, 3a, or 4 with Android 9.0 or greater
Stadia ControllerWiFi connectivityUSB connectivityUSB connectivity
Keyboard and mouseCurrently unavailableUSB & Bluetooth connectivityCurrently unavailable
DualShock 4 ControllerCurrently unavailableUSB & Bluetooth connectivityUSB & Bluetooth connectivity
Xbox One ControllerCurrently unavailableUSB & Bluetooth connectivityUSB & Bluetooth connectivity
Xbox One Elite ControllerCurrently unavailableUSB connectivityUSB connectivity
Xbox Adaptive ControllerCurrently unavailableUSB & Bluetooth connectivityUSB & Bluetooth connectivity
Xbox 360 ControllerCurrently unavailableUSB connectivityUSB connectivity
Switch Pro ControllerCurrently unavailableUSB & Bluetooth connectivityCurrently unavailable

Game support on Stadia

Google Stadia playing on TV

A gaming platform is nothing without a great selection of launch titles, and Google Stadia has a number of major games — even a few exclusive titles like Crayta, Orcs Must Die 3, and more.

Read more: Google Stadia games: The full list

You can also view the Google Stadia store from anywhere on the web. Users can view screenshots and trailers, as well as purchase Stadia titles. Some settings still require you to use the Stadia app, such as data usage and quality, display, and Google Assistant.

There is some confusion about how Stadia works when it comes to the games it offers. Stadia is not “the Netflix of games,” in that you don’t pay one flat monthly fee and then get access to every title. The majority of titles must be purchased individually. However, if you pay for a $9.99 a month Stadia Pro subscription, you can claim over 20 games on the list for free, and they will remain free as long as you have a Stadia Pro subscription.

Interestingly, Google has also announced its own first-party game studio dubbed Stadia Games and Entertainment. Not only will this studio work on its own experiences, but it will also help developers — both big and small — implement Stadia technology into their titles. Google recently opened its first in-house game development studio in Montreal in order to make titles exclusively for Stadia.

Ubisoft is now offering support for Stadia via its Ubisoft Plus subscription service (formerly called UPlay Plus). That service offers over 100 older and recent Ubisoft games for the PC at the price of $14.99 a month. When you sign up for UbiSoft Plus, you can now link that account to your Stadia or Stadia Pro account. That will allow you to access the following games via Stadia for the price of your Ubisoft Plus account. This is currently available just for US subscribers:

  • Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: Ultimate Edition
  • Assassin’s Creed Origins: Gold Edition
  • Assassin’s Creed Syndicate: Gold Edition
  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Ultimate Edition
  • The Crew: Ultimate Edition
  • The Division: Gold Edition
  • The Division 2: Ultimate Edition
  • Far Cry 4: Gold Edition
  • Far Cry 5: Gold Edition
  • Far Cry New Dawn: Deluxe Edition
  • Far Cry Primal: Digital Apex Edition
  • Ghost Recon Breakpoint: Ultimate Edition
  • Ghost Recon Wildlands: Ultimate
  • Monopoly Plus
  • Steep: Gold Edition
  • Trials Fusion: Awesome Edition
  • Trials Rising: Gold Edition
  • Uno: Ultimate Edition
  • Watch Dogs: Complete Edition
  • Watch Dogs Legion: Ultimate Edition

How much does Google Stadia cost and where can you play?

 Founders Edition box top down

Google Stadia launched on November 19, 2019 in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and 11 countries in Europe. In December 2020, the service expanded to eight more European countries.

Google now allows anyone to play Stadia games just by purchasing the titles on the Stadia store. However, in order to get more features, including support for 4K resolution and a selection of games you can play for free, you will need a Google Stadia Pro membership — which is $9.99 per month in the United States.

Pro subscriptions also earn you discounts on game purchases and a few other perks that free tier users won’t get.

If you want a controller to give Stadia a shot right now when playing on your big screen TV, Google is now selling a Premiere Edition of the controller in all launch countries for $99.99. It bundles a Clearly White controller and a Chromecast Ultra. If you buy a Premiere Edition, you can tack on an extra controller for $69. The Premiere Edition used to come with three months of Stadia Pro, but that has now been discontinued.

Can I try Stadia Pro for free?

Yes. Google has announced a one month free trial for Stadia Pro.  It will allow anyone who owns the supported devices to play several games on Stadia for free. They can also purchase additional games to stream and play on the service. After the trial ends, users can continue accessing the service for the normal fee of $9.99 a month. However, they can drop out before the free trial ends at any time.

That’s everything you need to know about Google Stadia. We will update this post when more features and updates are released.

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