In the spring of this year, Google shook up the gaming world by announcing its entry into the “console” market: Stadia. Rumors have circulated for years that tech behemoths such as Amazon, Apple, and Google were toying with the idea of trying to disrupt the 100+ billion-dollar gaming industry. This year, that rumor becomes a reality, and it has a lot of people understandably excited.
Unlike the rumors, however, Google Stadia is not a console. Google has positioned Stadia as the first entry into the future of gaming: cloud. In short, this means that Stadia is a remote service that allows you to stream gameplay from anywhere with a robust internet connection onto anything with a screen. That bit, the bit about no console, really got folks talking. The industry knew cloud gaming was coming, but for an outsider to crash the party so soon is another thing entirely. The announcement even generated a response from Microsoft, who was poised to deliver their cloud gaming service, xCloud, relatively soon.
I don’t want to spend too much more time discussing cloud gaming. Heck, I wrote a whole guide on it. I recommend you read it if you aren’t super familiar with the concept. Let’s dig into Stadia, as the launch is a mere few weeks away.
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Stadia Purchase Considerations
As previously mentioned, Google Stadia is much more service than hardware. Though that is the case, the only way to play at launch is by buying some equipment. A free Stadia service will be coming next year, but for now, it’s going to cost you about USD 130 to get going.
The cost isn’t that high, especially when you consider the competition consists of home consoles that are double the cost, at least. It’s also not that high when you consider what you will be getting in the package. The first package offered at the time of announcement is the Founder’s Edition. In this edition, you receive three months of the Stadia Pro service, an exclusive Night Blue Stadia controller, a Google Chromecast Ultra, a buddy pass that allows you to give a friend three months of Stadia Pro, a founder’s Stadia name, and a founder’s badge. The other option (which is still up as of this writing) is the Premiere Edition. The Premiere Edition gets you a white Stadia controller, three months of Stadia Pro service, and a Google Chromecast Ultra for the same price as the Founder’s Edition.
As you can see, it pays to get in on the ground floor. The Founder’s Edition does come with a bunch of extra goodies, but the Premiere Edition is absolutely a good deal. The Stadia controllers run right around USD 70, as does the Chromecast Ultra. Additionally, the monthly Stadia Pro service is looking to be about USD 10 per month. That’s a cool savings of USD 40 for those who are early adopters.
What’s important to note is that, at launch, if you want to play on a TV, you can only play with a Stadia controller connected to a Chromecast Ultra. According to the Stadia FAQ, you will also be able to play on Chrome or mobile using a USB HID controller while logged into an account with an active Stadia Pro subscription.
As a final note, at launch, Stadia is only available in the following countries: the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Belgium, France, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, and Denmark.
Stadia Tech Specs
Now that I have armed you with some knowledge about purchasing, let’s chat about the tech.
The controller is a nice bit of design work. It looks to be just north of four inches tall and six inches across. That means that it is roughly the same size as an Xbox One controller. Additionally, the Stadia controller has a strikingly similar layout to the Xbox One controller.
The controller will have a few options to connect to systems. At launch, the possibilities will be Wi-Fi and USB-C. Google also outfitted the controller with Bluetooth technology, but it sounds like that won’t be available just yet. The most likely method of connection, for now, will be to use the Wi-Fi option. The good news is that the Stadia controller supports both 2.4ghz and 5ghz frequencies as well as every significant Wi-Fi standard available today. In short, if you have Wi-Fi, you should be able to connect. Finally, the controller is rechargeable via the same USB-C port that you can use for wired connectivity and headset connection.
The Google Chromecast Ultra is another strong piece of hardware. With a small form factor, availability to connect to your router wirelessly or via ethernet port, and support for all major operating systems, setup should be a breeze. I recommend you connect your Chromecast Ultra via ethernet cable for the best possible speeds. If that is not an option, it is essential to note that the Chromecast Ultras has the same general Wi-Fi capabilities as the Stadia controller.
The last tech topic has to do with game performance. Stadia boasts the capacity of delivering 4K HDR Video at 60fps with 5.1 surround sound. Wow! There’s a catch. To achieve these excellent specs, you will need a TV that supports 4K and HDR as well as having a minimum bandwidth of 35mbps. The highest level of quality is only available to Stadia Pro subscribers, so if you thought you would wait for the free version to play your favorite game in ultra-high fidelity, sorry to be the one to break the bad news.
The minimum bandwidth requirements to use Stadia is 10mbps, and that will get you 720p at 60fps with stereo sound. Somewhere in the middle lives 1080p at 60fps with surround sound, which is how I will likely be playing.
Bandwidth, as you can see, becomes a huge consideration. There are bandwidth requirements that will dictate the video quality of your game, but remember, your controller will also likely connect via Wi-Fi. Without writing a whole piece about how networks function, more items on a network will slow it down. Take this into consideration when considering Stadia.
Here we are. You just read all about the cost and tech behind Stadia, and you have decided you are going to buy one. You checked that Google Stadia is launching in your country, you went out and purchased a stupid fast gaming router, you called your internet provider and upgraded the internet package, and finally, you pre-ordered your Premier Edition bundle. All there is left to do is sit back and wait.
When does Stadia launch? Google says November 19th. I wholeheartedly believe that the service will be online and that they will be shipping bundles on that day. The issue is that Google has already announced they are shipping units in the order they received the pre-orders. I guess what I am saying is not to expect a controller and a Chromecast Ultra on your porch on November 19th. My order says the scheduled ship date is December 1st-2nd.
Okay, you waited patiently, and your bundle arrives. You get all set up, and it’s time to open up this service and see what’s what. Time to start streaming some games! After you buy them. You heard that right; Stadia is a cloud gaming platform and a game marketplace. You will be expected to purchase all of the titles you would like to play.
Google has discussed Stadia exclusives and free games, but their position is that the value Stadia brings warrants the expectation that you pay full price for games. As a Stadia Pro subscriber, you will have access to Destiny 2: The Collection for free at launch. Unfortunately for a lot of gamers, the launch games are ones they have already purchased. The launch lineup, as of this writing, looks like this:
Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
The Crew 2
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
Farming Simulator 19
Final Fantasy XV
Football Manager 2020
Gods & Monsters
Mortal Kombat 11
Orcs Must Die 3
Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid
Red Dead Redemption 2
The Elder Scrolls Online
Tomb Raider Definitive Edition
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
The Crew 2
It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a gamer, that is to be sure. Stadia’s launch is a pivotal moment in gaming’s history, and there are plenty of people excited about it. There are some technical hurdles, some perception issues, and like most new “consoles,” a perceived lack of content. For early adopters, the next few weeks are going to be interesting. I know I am eagerly awaiting my bundle and will excitedly update with an official review as soon as I get my hands on it.
How about you? Are you excited for Stadia? Did you pre-order your bundle? Let us know in the comments below.