Google Stadia: Everything you need to know (Update: Cellular support)

Updated, July 28, 2020: Google Stadia is now testing out cellular support for streaming games on 4G and 5G smartphones. We have added info on that new update and how Stadia users can try it out.

Last year, Google announced Project Stream, a limited streaming test built around Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. After a short test period in January, 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 Google Stadia 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 the new Pixel 4 devices.

In February Stadia expanded the number of its supported smartphones with 19 more handsets. Here’s the full list:

In June, 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. Users can download the Stadia app, tap on their avatar, then tap on the Experiments tab. Finally, users can tap on the Use Mobile Data option to begin trying out the new cellular support.

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

Interested in learning more about Google Stadia? The app is now available to download by clicking the button below.

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

That makes Google’s platform more powerful than any gaming console on the market right now. 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. Don’t expect VR support for now either, with the firm simply saying it has “no news to share at this point.�

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. 

More features coming soon

Other future Stadia features worth highlighting include:

  • 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. 
  • Achievements: Just like with other gaming platforms, Stadia will chronicle your in-game achievements.
  • Sharing games: If you buy a game through Stadia, you will be able to share that game with members of your family so each person doesn’t need to buy the game themselves.

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.

As of right now, 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.

Another unfortunate limitation with the Stadia controller currently is that it will only connect wirelessly to a TV with a Chromecast Ultra plugged into it. In all other scenarios, you will need to connect the controller to your system with the provided USB cable.

Another limitation of the Stadia controller is that it has no Bluetooth capabilities at the moment. That means you cannot use the controller as a generic gamepad on other systems, such as your PC or your smartphone.

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 type TV Via Google Chrome (version 75 or greater) Pixel 2, 3, 3a, or 4 with Android 9.0 or greater
Stadia Controller WiFi connectivity USB connectivity USB connectivity
Keyboard and mouse Currently unavailable USB & Bluetooth connectivity Currently unavailable
DualShock 4 Controller Currently unavailable USB & Bluetooth connectivity USB & Bluetooth connectivity
Xbox One Controller Currently unavailable USB & Bluetooth connectivity USB & Bluetooth connectivity
Xbox One Elite Controller Currently unavailable USB connectivity USB connectivity
Xbox Adaptive Controller Currently unavailable USB & Bluetooth connectivity USB & Bluetooth connectivity
Xbox 360 Controller Currently unavailable USB connectivity USB connectivity
Switch Pro Controller Currently unavailable USB & Bluetooth connectivity Currently 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 will have 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.

To learn more about the costs of the service’s games, check our full list here.

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 has also confirmed that its Uplay Plus subscription service is coming to Stadia in 2020. More details weren’t forthcoming, but the PC version of the service delivers access to over 100 games for $14.99 a month.

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

 Founders Edition box top down

Google Stadia launched on November 19 in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and 11 countries in Europe. However, the state of the service at launch is not at all the full concept of what Stadia will eventually be.

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.

Related: The Google Stadia launch games lineup isn’t nearly as bad as you think it is

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.

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