Google’s vision for the future of gaming has been revealed
The world of gaming is changing. Google has a new platform called Stadia, and rather than coming to market with another console or PC competitor, Stadia’s a new service that allows you to play your favorite games on all of your devices using powerful streaming technology
At GDC 2019, we were able to go hands-on with Stadia and see if it’s really all Google’s cracking it up to be.
While the experience was limited to just one game (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey), we came away cautiously optimistic. We’ll still need more hands-on time to put together a full opinion, but what Google’s shown us so far does look quite good.
Then, at Google I/O 2019 this past May, we were allowed to use the official Stadia Controller. Spoiler alert, it’s really damn good.
Stadia is the name of Google’s game streaming service. Similar to NVIDIA GeForce Now and Shadow, it’s a platform that allows you to play video games on virtually any device thanks to streaming technology.
Rather than launching a new physical console that accesses Stadia, you’ll just use it on the tech you already own. This includes phones, tablets, computers, etc. At its demo during GDC, Google showed Stadia working on a Pixelbook, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel Slate, and on a TV using a Chromecast Ultra.
At launch, Stadia will allow you to stream games in up to 4K quality and 60 frames-per-second. In the future, Google says that it’ll allow for streaming in 8K at 120 frames-per-second. In other words, it’ll be just as powerful as the Xbox One X at launch and only get better as time goes on.
What games work with Stadia?
Stadia works with existing third-party games that you’d expect to find on any gaming console. Third-party developers that want to bring their games to Stadia can do so at stadia.dev. As of June 6, 2019, here are all of the games that have been confirmed for the platform:
• Anno 1800 • Assassin's Creed Odyssey • Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle • Baldur's Gate 3 • Beyond Good & Evil • Borderlands 3 • Cyberpunk 2077 • Darksiders Genesis • Destiny 2 • Destroy All Humans! • DOOM • DOOM Eternal • Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 • Fary Cry 5 • Far Cry New Dawn • Farming Simulator 19 • Final Fantasy X • For Honor • Get Packed • GRID • GYLT • Just Dance 2020 • Marvel's Avengers • Metro Exodus • Mortal Kombat 11 • NBA 2K • Orcs Must Die 3 • Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid • Rage 2 • Rise of the Tomb Raider • Samurai Shodown • Shadow of the Tomb Raider • Steep • Superhot • The Crew 2 • The Elder Scrolls Online • Thumper • Tomb Raider Definitive Edition • Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist • Tom Clancy's The Division 2 • Trials Rising • Watch Dogs: Legion • Wolfenstein: Youngblood
In addition to standalone titles, Google Stadia will support game subscription services. While there’s no word if EA Access will ever make its way to the platform, Ubisoft’s Uplay+ will be available. It costs $14.99/month and grants you access to over 100 titles — including new and upcoming games along with all DLC packs and other post-launch content.
Google will “regularly release” free games for Stadia Pro subscribers (more on that below), but similar to something like PlayStation Plus or Xbox Games for Gold, it’ll likely just throw you a free title here and there. If you really want to build up your library, you’ll need to purchase titles as you do right now for existing consoles.
Perhaps even more exciting, Google’s also launching its own first-party game development studio where it’ll not only be creating new first-party games but also working with other studios to get Google’s cloud technology in the hands of as many developers as possible.
The Stadia Controller offers the best gameplay experience
While Stadia works with all of your existing game controllers, keyboards, and mice, Google’s also launching a new Stadia-specific controller.
The controller has a pretty typical design, including two analog sticks, a directional pad, bumpers, etc. 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 enables users to instantly share their gameplay to YouTube. Users can control if they want to keep the shared video private, only send it to certain friends, or have it be publically viewable. When the stream is shared, it’ll be in 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, Unique to the Stadia controller, you’ll be able to use Assistant to access special in-game features.
You can purchase controllers for $69 each, and if you pick up the Stadia Founder’s Edition, you’ll get a limited edition Night Blue one.
Here’s what kind of internet connection you’ll need
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.
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.
Lastly, if you want the best possible Stadia gameplay and need that crispy 4K goodness, Google recommends having a connection of at least 35 Mbp
There are two versions of Stadia
Google’s making Stadia available through two distinct plans — Stadia Pro and Stadia Base.
Stadia Pro will set you back $9.99/month and is the ultimate way to experience Google’s gaming vision. You’ll have access to up to 4K resolution, 60 FPS frame rate, and 5.1 surround sound. You’ll also get regular free games (Destiny 2: The Collection being the first one) along with “exclusive discounts on select game purchases.”
If you don’t want another subscription to deal with, Stadia Base might be for you. The gameplay quality is downgraded, including up to 1080p resolution and stereo sound, but you’ll retain a frame rate up to 60 FPS. You’ll also miss out on the free games and Stadia Pro discounts.
When and where will Stadia be available?
If you want to be among the first to access Stadia, you’ll need to pre-order the Founder’s Edition. It includes access to Stadia Pro and will allow you to play as early as this November. If you want Stadia Base, you’ll need to wait until 2020.
When Stadia does launch, it’ll work in the following countries:
• United Kingdom
• United States
Among those countries, Google does note that Stadia will not be available in Hawaii or Guam.
You can pre-order the Founder’s Edition now
If you want to be among the first to play Stadia, you’ll need to pick up the Stadia Founder’s Edition.
The Stadia Founder’s Edition costs $129, is available exclusively through the Google Store, and comes with the following:
• Chromecast Ultra
• Limited edition Night Blue Stadia Controller
• 3 months of Stadia Pro for you and a friend
• First dibs at your Stadia name
• Destiny 2: The Collection
Google says the Founder’s Edition is being sold in limited quantities, so you’ll want to act fast to ensure you get your hands on it.