What is Google Stadia? Google's game streaming service explained

Google Stadia has added the long-awaited Cyberpunk 2077 to its streaming service. The announcement was made at their Google Stadia Connect Livestream at Gamescom 2019. The upcoming RPG from CD Projekt Red will join Borderlands 3, Baldur's Gate 3, and more, in what's stacking up to be an impressive lineup of available titles. Besides that, the Gamescom livestream didn't reveal much more than we already knew about the upcoming streaming service, which will let you play games without the need for a dedicated console or gaming PC. We know the Google Stadia price, including a subscription option for a Stadia Pro, as well as a host of the launch games planned for Google Stadia's debut this November. According to the Gamescom announcement, the Google Stadia Founder's edition bundle has already sold out in some countries (see below to see what's included).

Read on to find out everything we know regarding Google Stadia. Also, be sure to check out our in-depth interview with Google about the future of gaming with Stadia.

What exactly is Google Stadia?

In the simplest terms, Google Stadia lets you play modern games on just about any screen you own, with Google's servers handling all the processing power and beaming them to you via the cloud. There are no downloads or installations to worry about; if your device can run a Google Chrome browser, it can handle Google Stadia. When Google Stadia launches, it'll support play on your TV (using a Chromecast Ultra), desktop computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphones starting with the Pixel 3 and 3a models. 

If your internet can handle it - and you pony up for the high-end subscription - Google Stadia can stream gameplay at 4K resolution with HDR and 5.1 surround sound at 60fps, all via an internet connection with at least 35 Mbps speed. And even if your internet isn't as fast as that, Google Stadia supports a wide range of internet speeds at the cost of some graphical quality (with 10 Mbps being the recommended minimum speed). You can check in advance if your platform of choice is ready for Google Stadia using Google's handy speedtest site.

This new kind of gaming platform is the result of years of work at Google, and Stadia has been tested extensively in the lead-up to launch. Late last year, Google offered a closed beta test for Project Stream, which let participants play Assassin's Creed Odyssey in their Chrome browser. At GDC 2019, Google Stadia was revealed in full, with playable demos on the show floor. During our Google Stadia hands-on preview, we were amazed at how Google has managed to eliminate the perception of latency between your inputs on a controller and the response from the game streaming in from Google's servers. 

When is the Google Stadia release date?

The earliest you can access Google Stadia is November 2019, with no exact date given just yet - but you'll need to buy into the Stadia Founder's Edition (which we'll get to the pricing of in just a second). Google Stadia will be available in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland regions first, with more territories being added in 2020 and beyond. If you don't want to buy a Stadia Founder's Edition, the Stadia Base option will be available sometime in 2020. 

What's the Google Stadia price, and how much will it cost?

Google Stadia is available at different price points, but to play it as early as possible, you'll need to buy the Stadia Founder's Edition for $129 / £119 with the option to pre-order it now. In the Founder's Edition bundle, you'll get a Chromecast Ultra for playing on your TV, a limited-edition Night Blue Stadia Controller, a three-month Stadia Pro subscription, a buddy pass that lets you gift three months of Stadia Pro to a friend, and first dibs on your Stadia Name (so you can snag your preferred handle). 

A Stadia Pro subscription, priced at $9.99 / £8.99 per month, is required to stream games at 4K/60fps/HDR with 5.1 surround sound, and grants access to a growing library of games that are free for as long as your Stadia Pro subscription is active. You'll also give discounts on games for purchase, and for a limited time, Stadia Pro will include the complete Destiny 2 experience, with the base game, all previous add-ons, the new Shadowkeep expansion, and the annual pass, with the option to transfer your Guardian from other platforms (PC and Xbox are currently confirmed, while Sony is still dragging its feet on approval).

If you don't want to pay for a Stadia Pro subscription, you can still use Stadia Base, coming in 2020. It's capped at 1080p/60fps with stereo sound, and games must be purchased individually, though they're yours to keep once you buy them. You can play in a Chrome browser on any computer or on your Pixel 3 or 3a phone, with plans to expand Google Stadia to other mobile phones in the future.

What about the Google Stadia controller? 

The dedicated Stadia controller isn't required to play on Google Stadia, which supports a wide range of controllers as well as a mouse and keyboard setup. But if you want to play Stadia the way Google intended, you can buy a Google Stadia controller for $69 / £59 each. Colors currently on offer include Clearly White, Just Black, Wasabi (the clear front-runner at the moment), or the Night Blue colorway included exclusively in the Founder's Edition.

Stadia controllers use your WiFi to connect directly with whatever game is being streamed from Google's servers, with the classic dual joystick, D-pad, face button, and shoulder button layout most closely resembling the DualShock 4 controller. It also has two additional buttons which let you easily capture footage or activate the Google Assistant. Once you've got a supported controller and a screen to play on, you're all set to use Google Stadia - no console or additional wires required. Here are the full Stadia Controller specs, if you're curious:

  • Wi-Fi: Dual-band (2.4GHz / 5GHz) IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac connectivity
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth Low Energy 4.2 (BLE)
  • Headset jack: 3.5mm headset jack for headsets with or without a microphone
  • USB: USB-C port for charging, wired gameplay, and accessories such as USB-C headsets. HID-compliant
  • Weight: 268g
  • Dimensions: 163mm x 105mm x 65mm
  • Google Assistant: Google Assistant button to trigger microphone
  • Capture button: Quick access to image and video capture
  • Battery: Internal rechargeable Li-Ion battery

What is the Google Stadia games lineup looking like?

The ever-growing library of Google Stadia games is looking impressive, especially considering that you don't need a console or powerful PC to enjoy these contemporary games. And the list got even more impressive at the Stadia Connect presentation at Gamescom 2019, where they announced Cyberpunk 2077 would be playable on the streaming service. The E3 2019 announcement even threw in a handful of world-first reveals, including Baldur's Gate 3 from the studio that brought you the Divinity: Original Sin series, and Gylt, an intriguing Lovecraftian horror game from the makers of Rime. Here are all the confirmed games (as of August 19) coming to Google Stadia, with more on the way:

We'll be sure to add more Stadia games as they're confirmed, so check Google Stadia games (this list is constantly updated!)