Google Stadia is the 4K streaming gaming platform that's taking on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X to be your gaming go-to.
Stadia is Google's first major foray into the world of video games, beyond the odd Google Doodle, and it's certainly put the cat among the pigeons for both rival games platforms and gamers alike.
Even if you're not into gaming, Google Stadia is still a very interesting prospect, especially for those of us who like to stay up on the latest TV-based technological happenings. Will it be the Spotify of gaming? And can it take over from console-based offerings from the traditional players like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo?
Read on for all you the latest on the Google Stadia release date, price, games, controllers, and more.
What is Google Stadia?
Google Stadia is a gaming platform from Google which requires no physical, dedicated games console. Instead it is an online gaming service which streams the live game to the user onto the screen of a device which they already own. This could be a TV with Chromecast Ultra, a mobile, a tablet or a laptop. This means that Google Stadia can avoid the hurdle of the large initial outlay on hardware for new customers and, as such, could potentially open itself up to a far larger audience.
It's a similar proposition to the short-lived OnLive games streaming service (if we're not the only ones who remember it). It competes with the likes of Sony's PlayStation Now, Nvidia's GeForce Now and Microsoft's Project xCloud, and to a lesser extent consoles such as the PS4 and Xbox One X, and forthcoming PS5 and Xbox Series X.
The upside for gamers is that they can get access to all the games they want without having to wait for massive downloads. Which is quite a draw.
The downside is that even though you have paid for access to games, you will never actually own them – much like with music and streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal. If one day Google Stadia is no more, then all that investment from gamers will go up in smoke. And that could be a very real possibility: remember Google+, Picasa and Google Wave? Or OnLive, for that matter?
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Google Stadia: 4K gaming
Another big draw of Google Stadia is the offer of 4K gaming at 60fps. That's quite a big promise given the variety of devices that can be used to access it and the reliance on the internet to match that streaming rate and resolution.
While the frame rate will be consistent no matter what, those top resolutions are only available to those with the best internet connections. A 10Mbps service gets you 720p and stereo sound. At 20Mbps you can receive Full HD with HDR and 5.1 surround, but at around 30-40Mbps and beyond is where the 4K magic happens. You can test out what you'd receive on the Google Stadia website.
Reviews say Stadia is a pretty robust platform, with drop-outs being exceedingly rare, even at the higher resolutions. So if you have the bandwidth, it offers quite a compelling gaming experience.
MORE: Best 4K gaming TVs
The Google Stadia Controller
Whatever means of control you already have – joypads, keyboards, mice – will work just fine with Stadia, but for the full experience, you want the official Google Stadia Controller. It connects directly to the Stadia servers for the fastest wireless response times.
It's very much like a regular console controller with bumpers, analogue sticks and the like. But, just like the Google Home speakers, there's a built-in mic for Google Assistant voice control functionality, too. At launch, this was slightly limited, letting you launch games from Stadia's home screen, for example. But it's recently expanded to let you use Google Voice Assistant while you're playing games. However, at the moment this only works if you're playing on Chromecast - those gaming through Android or desktop will have to wait for the feature to arrive.
In the future, it should let you pull up videos while you're gaming, so you can watch a walkthrough guide on how to complete a certain part without even leaving the game. Neat.
The Controller also features a dedicated Google Stadia button which can share a live stream of your gaming experience straight to YouTube.
Once live on YouTube, viewers can drop into your game at the touch of their button, thanks to a feature known as Crowd Play. Likewise, Google has touted the ability to start playing a game straight after watching its trailer on YouTube, a potentially very clever use of Google's two platforms.
What games are on Google Stadia?
There are plenty of titles available on Google Stadia, spanning a range of genres. These include shoot 'em-ups like Red Dead Redemption 2, Superhot and Doom Eternal, sports sims like NBA 2K20 and MotoGP 20, and beat 'em-ups like Mortal Combat 11 and RPGs like Octopath Traveler.
You can check out the full list of games here.
Some games are free to play, some are covered by a monthly subscription, and some premium titles are paid for separately. Talking of Google Stadia pricing...
What about the Google Stadia price?
It's free to access Google Stadia but, typically, you won't get all the goodies if you just go for the basic package. Stadia Base gives you up to Full HD gaming, at 60fps and in stereo sound. You can buy those premium gaming titles whenever you like but there'll be no discounts or freebies. If you don't mind missing out on 4K, though, it's not a bad option for the very casual gamer.
If you want 4K, then you need Stadia Pro, which comes in at £8.99 ($9.99) per month. With Stadia Pro, you get the 4K resolution and 5.1 surround sound. There are also free games each month (the first of which was Destiny 2: The Collection). Don't expect your package to include every game you want to access but you should be entitled to a discount when you want to buy extras.
As well as one-off titles, there are also separate subscriptions for all the games from particular publishers. For example, Ubisoft Uplay+ from Ubisoft, which costs £12.99 ($14.99) per month, and gets you access to series like Rayman, Rainbow Six, Far Cry and Ghost Recon.
Google Stadia release date
Google Stadia went live at 5pm UK time on 19 November 2019 in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, UK and US.
At first, only the Pro subscription was available, but in April 2020 Google made the free Base option available. It also gifted new users two months of Pro for free.