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Stadia: Everything you need to know about Google’s cloud gaming service

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Stadia and Verizon

Source: Android Central

The world of gaming is changing, thanks in part to new cloud gaming platforms like Google Stadia. Rather than coming to market with another console or PC competitor, Stadia’s a new service that allows you to play games across a growing number of devices using Google’s powerful cloud-streaming technology.

Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in.

Everything you need

Stadia: Premiere Edition

A good way to start

This bundle includes everything you need to get started with Stadia. It includes the controller, a Stadia Controller Power Adapter, Google Chromecast Ultra, and a Google Chromecast Ultra Power Adapter with an Ethernet port.

Stadia How it works

A presentation of the devices Stadia can run on

Source: Android Central

Stadia is the name of Google’s game streaming service. Similar to NVIDIA GeForce Now and Amazon Luna, it’s a platform that allows you to play video games on virtually any device by streaming games that are hosted on cloud servers.

The benefit of Stadia is that you don’t need an expensive PC or powerful next-gen console like the PS5 to play new games with beautiful graphics and high framerates. You can play on the devices you own already, including Stadia-compatible phones, tablets and computers, without needing to buy any equipment except a compatible Stadia controller. If you want to play on your television, you’ll need to buy a Chromecast Ultra for now, but some future televisions with Google TV will support Stadia by default.

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Unlike GeForce Now, which lets you stream games you purchased on Steam, you’ll need to purchase Stadia ports in order to play them. But you get access to a growing library of games by subscribing to Stadia Pro.

Stadia Plans and global availability

Screenshot of available Stadia Pro games

Source: Android Central

One of the most common questions about Stadia is whether or not you need to subscribe to it in order to use it. The answer is no. Like any other gaming library, you can buy and play any game you’d like without a membership. However, a Stadia Pro membership gives you certain perks that are worth seriously considering if you plan on using Stadia on a regular basis.

The first difference when comparing Stadia versus Stadia Pro is the quality of the game stream. The free Stadia tier only lets you stream at 1080p with stereo sound, though you can at least hit 60 FPS. Stadia Pro unlocks the option to stream games in up to 4K quality and 60 frames per second (FPS), plus generate 5.1 surround sound audio. Google also stated that it would eventually bring 8K gaming at up to 120 FPS to Pro members.

The second difference is that Stadia Pro members get access to a Stadia Pro library of games that can be added to your library for free — though they’ll be removed if you unsubscribe. Unlike other gaming memberships that limit free games to a two-week or one-month window, Pro games can all be downloaded at once; however, Stadia can also remove them from your library once their Pro period ends.

Finally, Stadia Pro gives you access to exclusive discounts on select game purchases.

Whether you choose the free or paid tier, you can only stream Stadia games in countries where the service is available. Below are the 22 countries where Google offers the service (so far):

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

While Stadia is available in Puerto Rico and Alaska, it’s worth noting that it is not available to residents of Hawaii or Guam. Also, the Stadia Controller currently can’t be bought in The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, or Slovakia.

Stadia Reviews

Stadia controller and monitor

Source: Android Central

We’ve been following the development of Stadia for a long time (since its beta-testing days when it was known as Project Stream), and at GDC 2019, we were able to go hands-on with Stadia for the first time. While that experience was limited to just one game (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey), we came away cautiously optimistic. Then, at Google I/O 2019, we were allowed to use the official Stadia Controller, which we loved.

Google shipped the first Stadia Founder’s Edition bundles out in November 2019, and our own Russell Holly wrote our first Stadia review. During his time with Stadia, Russell loved the controller. He opined that the service itself worked like magic — not having to wait for games to download and update is an exciting proposition for the future for gaming. Unfortunately, the overall Stadia experience felt incomplete with missing features and lacking compatibility for non-Google devices. We then reviewed Google Stadia three months later, and found that not enough had changed to make Stadia grow as a service. It still felt like an expensive beta.

Stadia has seriously evolved since then. It now has a much larger library of games, with more AAA launch titles and regular sales so you don’t feel like you’re always paying extra for old games. There are still some issues, but in many ways, those aren’t specific to Stadia, but rather are emblematic of cloud gaming’s overall deficiencies in 2020. In fact, we argued that Stadia was the best way to play Cyberpunk 2077, a game that was broken on most consoles.

Stadia Supported Devices

Chromecast Ultra lying on a wood table

Source: Android Central

Stadia has grown significantly since launch, expanding to a wider range of phones, tablets, Chromebooks, and televisions. Even if your device isn’t on the official list of supported Stadia devices, there are several ways to get around that and still use the service. Let’s dive into your options.

How to play Stadia on a TV

Right now, you need a Chromecast Ultra and Stadia controller to play on a television. Since the Ultra is largely out of stock as a standalone, that means buying the Stadia Premiere Edition. You’ll need to set up your Chromecast on your TV, which requires you to download and use the Google Home app. Then, you’ll need to download the Stadia app on your phone and sign in with a Google account (not a G Suite or Google for Education account). The app — available for Android and iOS) — allows you to pair the Stadia controller to the Chromecast Ultra and launch games on your TV.

We say “right now” because in the future, certain televisions will be able to play Stadia games without a Chromecast. The 2021 LG TV lineup supports a Stadia app via webOS. The LG press release explains that Stadia will be a downloadable app on the LG Content Store in the second half of 2021, that 2020 LG TVs running webOS 5.0 will also get Stadia later in the year, and that you’ll only need a Stadia controller to play. Compared to the Premiere Edition, the standalone controller will save you half the price.

If you own a Chromecast with Google TV, you can technically play Stadia on Chromecast with Google TV right now, but the linked step-by-step is fairly arduous. Google promised it would bring Stadia support to its newest dongle sometime in 2021, but we don’t know when.

Razer Kishi

Source: Russell Holly / Android Central

Which Android phones support Stadia?

Stadia is currently available on the following mobile devices:

  • Pixel 2, 2XL, 3, 3XL, 3a, 3a XL, 4, 4XL, 4a, 4a (5G), 5
  • Samsung S8, S8+, S8 Active, Note 8
  • Samsung S9, S9+, Note 9
  • Samsung S10, S10+, Note 10, Note 10+
  • Samsung S20, S20+, S20 Ultra
  • OnePlus 5, 6, 7, 7 Pro, 7 Pro 5G, 8, 8 Pro
  • OnePlus 5T, 6T, 7T, 7T Pro, 7T Pro 5G, 8T
  • OnePlus Nord, N10 5G, N100
  • Asus ROG Phone, ROG Phone II, ROG Phone III
  • Razer Phone, Razer Phone II
  • LG V50 ThinQ, V50S ThinQ, V60 ThinQ, G7 ThinQ, G8 ThinQ, Wing

You also need a Google account (not compatible with G Suite or Google for Education accounts) with an active Stadia account (activated when signing up for free or purchasing Premiere Edition, or through Buddy Pass invitation) and the Stadia app downloaded on your smartphone.

If your Android phone isn’t on this list, you may still be able to use it. Download the Stadia app, go to the Settings, select “Experiments”, then turn on “Play on this device”. This will lift any device restrictions and let you use the service whenever you like. Keep in mind that your phone may have been kept off the list for a reason, and you should start by playing some free Stadia games first to see if it works before you subscribe or buy anything.

Does Stadia work on iOS?

While there is a Stadia iOS app, it is only there to help you access games you own on your television; you can’t play games on it, courtesy of Apple’s long-standing policy blocking gaming apps that could compete with its App Store or Apple Arcade. However, Google is using a legal workaround that lets iPhone and iPad users play Stadia games using their Safari web browser.

To play Stadia on iOS, you’ll need to update to iOS version 14.3 or later. Then, create a Stadia account and make sure you have at least one game in your library. From that point, go to stadia.com on your iPhone or iPad, and you should see a prompt saying you can play in your browser. Tap “Got it”, and you should be good to go! To make things easier, you can create a web app shortcut by tapping the share button and selecting “Add to Home Screen”. Both the Stadia controller and some Bluetooth controllers should be supported; unlike with Android phones, you can’t use a wired controller for Stadia on iOS.

To play Stadia on a computer

Stadia on a Mac or PC is the easiest method to getting started with Stadia. Go to Stadia.com in your Chrome browser, sign in using your Google account, and start buying games or downloading Stadia Pro games. You can connect a controller or use your keyboard and mouse, and there are no hardware requirements like you get with most PC games.

You can even play Stadia on a Chromebook with poor specs, and in fact Google may be planning to install Stadia as a default Chromebook app, though this is just speculation for now.

Stadia Best Stadia controllers

The controller used for Stadia

Source: Android Central

Unless you play Stadia on your computer and prefer keyboard and mouse controls, the majority of Stadia gamers will need to connect a Stadia-compatible controller to their device in order to play. Some Stadia games do actually support touch controls, which we called “equal parts amazing and terrible” after testing them.

Thankfully, there is a wide range of controllers that work with Stadia, including popular models like the Dualshock 4, Xbox One, and Switch Pro controllers. As for the best wireless controllers for Stadia, though, you’ll want to start with the actual Stadia Controller made by Google.

It has a pretty typical design, including two analog sticks, a directional pad, and bumpers. Here’s what makes it stand out: it’s available in three colors (Clearly White, Just Black, and Wasabi) and features two buttons specific for Stadia — a Share and Google Assistant button.

The Share button is designed to allow users to share gameplay straight to YouTube instantly. Users can control if they want to keep the shared video private, only send it to certain friends, or be publicly viewable. When the stream is shared, it’ll be available in up to 4K at 60 FPS. As for the Google Assistant button, this works with the controller’s built-in microphone and allows you to issue voice commands as you would with any other Assistant-enabled device. Keep in mind that this feature only works when the controller is connected to a Chromecast, not to other Stadia-compatible devices.

The Stadia Controller used to only connect wirelessly to a Chromecast Ultra but now syncs with any mobile or computing device. It also recently added support for USB-C headphones. Those solved our main issues with the controller, which we glowingly praised in our Stadia Controller hands-on.

Wireless controllers are great in most circumstances but can be awkward to use for playing on mobile, especially if you’re on the move. For the most natural Android Stadia experience, we recommend you use the Razer Kishi with Google Stadia. It’s a wired controller that slides around your Android phone so the left and right halves sit on either side of the phone, making it look like a tiny Nintendo Switch. Just check that you have a Razer Kishi-compatible phone before you buy it.

Stadia Best games, free games, and subscriptions

Cyberpunk 2077 Stadia Aiming Gun Web Browser

Source: Android Central

When Stadia launched, it had a very limited library of games, most of which were a couple of years old. As time passed, it added more backlist games but very few launch titles. We’re glad to say that has changed: many publishers like Ubisoft are bringing their new games directly to Stadia alongside console and PC launches. If you want to buy Stadia ports and play major AAA titles anywhere, you can.

Not only are new games arriving on Stadia every week, but in many cases, they outperform what you’ll see on the newest consoles. Our Cyberpunk 2077 for Stadia review claimed the Stadia port dodged all the notorious problems that caused the game to be removed from sale on the Playstation store. In fact, people have enjoyed the Cyberpunk Stadia port so much that Google’s servers became overwhelmed. Other popular annual titles like NBA 2K21 and Just Dance 2021 are hitting Stadia’s storefront on day one.

See our list of every game available on Google Stadia, which we keep updated regularly. Then, check our picks for the best games on Google Stadia overall. If you own these games on another platform like Steam, you’ll need to re-purchase them in order to play them on Stadia.

To get started with Stadia Pro without emptying your gaming budget for the year, we recommend checking out Stadia Pro. It’s a $9.99/month subscription that gives you access to better game streaming quality, plus a bunch of free Stadia Pro games. Currently, you can add 30 Stadia Pro games to your Stadia library for free, including popular titles like Hitman 2, Superhot: Mind Control Delete, and Hotline Miami.

In addition to standalone titles and Stadia Pro, Google Stadia also supports select game subscription services. Ubisoft+ gives you access to 100 games, including new games like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and all associated DLC — and you can access them through Stadia. We have hopes that EA Play will also arrive on Stadia at some point, but there’s been no word of any plans yet.

Google has even launched its own first-party game development studio, where it’ll create new first-party games and work with other studios to get Google’s cloud technology into the hands of as many developers as possible. As of now, though, Google-made Stadia exclusives probably won’t appear this year.

Stadia Data usage and internet requirements

The internet speeds that Google recommends for using Stadia

Source: Google

Since Stadia is entirely internet-based, you obviously need a good connection in order to play. The better your speed, the better your experience will be. You can use this official Stadia speed test to see if your internet will be up to the task.

At the bare minimum, Google recommends you have speeds of 10 Mbps. This will enable you to play in 720p at 60 FPS with stereo audio. At 20 Mbps, things are amped up to 1080p, HDR, and 5.1 surround sound. Proper surround sound is only possible if your TV supports HDMI eARC connections and is hooked up to the proper AV receiver.

If you want the best possible Stadia gameplay and need that crispy 4K goodness, Google recommends having a connection of at least 35 Mbps. To access it, you have two options: stream to a 4K TV using a Chromecast Ultra, or stream on stadia.com if your computer supports VP9 hardware decoding. In either case, you’ll want to use an ethernet connection for consistent speeds.

Please keep this in mind before using Stadia for your regular gaming needs: even if your internet plan can support 4K gaming, you may not have the bandwidth allowance to stream for long stretches of time. Google estimates that 4K gaming uses to 20 GB/hour, while 1080p gaming can burn through up to 12.6 GB/hour. If you have a monthly data usage limit of one terabyte, you’d use up half of it with just 25 hours of 4K gaming — less than one hour per day on average.

So if you’re a power gamer that wants to use Stadia on a regular basis, you may end up needing to upgrade to an unlimited internet plan.

Stadia State Share and Crowd Play

Hitman 3 State Share Library

Source: Google

Designed in the era of Let’s Plays, YouTube streamers, and social media, Stadia has a couple of specific, exciting tools that make it easier to share your gaming moments with others.

For starters, you can use your Stadia controller’s Share button to instantly save screenshots or video clips that you can upload to YouTube or download. Other consoles make you jump through hoops to get your saved footage online, making Stadia much more convenient.

Google also introduced a feature designed specifically for streamers called Crowd Play. If a YouTuber is livestreaming themselves playing a game, they can allow their audience to instantly jump in the game with them via Stadia by clicking a button on the video. Additionally, if you’re watching a trailer for a game like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, there will be a button that allows you to instantly jump in the game and start playing in as little as five seconds.

The newest and most dynamic feature on Stadia is called State Share. It allows you to capture specific moments of gameplay, then send a clickable link to your friends or followers that instantly transports them to where you were in the game, with the same difficulty settings, loadout, and other details. You can share a secret level with friends, or put yourself in an impossible situation and challenge other people to survive it.

The first Stadia game with State Share is Hitman 3, but other Stadia games will add the feature in the future.

Stadia Competitors

Amazon Luna

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central

Stadia has grown past some frustrating shortcomings and become a legitimate gaming platform. But there is an increasing number of excellent gaming services around today, making it hard to decide which to invest your time in. Does Stadia match up against other cloud gaming services? Here are its strongest rivals to consider as an alternative.

Amazon Luna is only in beta as of early 2021, but Amazon Luna vs Google Stadia is a legitimate battle between two tech giants just diving into the gaming industry. Luna only streams in 1080p for now, but costs less and has a 50+ game library that will grow in size and will all be available without having to buy them. It’s available on PC, Mac, Fire TV, and (via web app) iOS, but not Android just yet.

Nvidia GeForce Now vs. Google Stadia is a fight between two full-fledged cloud gaming platforms. GeForce Now is a service you can access for free, in that you can stream games you own on Steam without having to buy them again, if the publisher made them available on Nvidia’s service. Its monthly price is cheaper but often “sells out”, forcing you to pay for six months upfront; it also has a larger library of compatible games, but only hits a 2K resolution maximum.

Finally, you have Xbox Game Pass Streaming vs Google Stadia. Although it originally launched on Xbox, Game Pass can be played on your Android phone or tablet, and will be playable on a PC web browser or iOS browser sometime in Spring 2021. It costs more than Stadia per month, but also offers over 100 games in its library, including popular Microsoft titles like Halo: Master Chief Collection, Gears 5, and Forza Horizon 4.

Everything you need

Stadia: Premiere Edition

A good way to start

This bundle includes everything you need to get started with Stadia. It includes the controller, a Stadia Controller Power Adapter, Google Chromecast Ultra, and a Google Chromecast Ultra Power Adapter with an Ethernet port.

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