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Everything we know about Google Stadia: price, how it works, and what games you can play on it

(Image credit: Google)

The Google Stadia dropped on November 19, and we're sure you have a lot of questions. Google's foray into the world of gaming promised a litany of games from which to choose, the ability to jump straight into a game without having to insert a disc, and the absolutely mesmerizing daydream of playing Red Dead Redemption 2 while waiting for your flu shot. 

In reality, Google Stadia's launch has been a little different to what we initially expected, with mobile phone support limited to Google Pixels and Mac tablets, and Chrome browser gameplay not supporting 4K, HDR or surround sound. There's still no word in when Google Stadia will come to iPhone. There's also been reports, including our own Google Stadia review in progress, that the service has serious performance issues on WiFi connections in the UK, among other places. As GamesRadar+ previously reported, a Reddit AMA prior to Google Stadia's launch had some interesting clarifications on what the Stadia was capable of and who could enjoy it. However, when it works, it works, and it's a fascinating feat and look into the future of gaming. 

Before you jump in and buy a Google Stadia Premiere Edition bundle, or set aside some cash to buy into the service once the Stadia Base option is available next year, you should probably read up on this revolutionary gaming service. What is Google Stadia? How does it work? What games are available? We've got all the answers you could ever need about Google Stadia (and then some) below. 

What exactly is Google Stadia?

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 (just not with 4K, HDR, or 5.1 Surround Sound). Google Stadia supports play on your TV (using a Chromecast Ultra), desktop computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphones - though for now only on the Pixel 3 and 3a models. 

If your internet can handle it, 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. 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. If you read our Google Stadia review in progress, however, you'll get another opinion on how the service stacks up against our expectations. 

How does Google Stadia work?

Cloud gaming, or streaming games without the need for physical copies, renders games on a remote server instead of your local device. That game is then streamed to your device while your input on the controller (or mouse and keyboard) is sent to the server. 

Google Stadia lets you play games via the cloud in one of two ways. Buy a subscription to Stadia Pro for $10 a month and you'll be able to either access Stadia's game library on a remote server on your computer, or use a remote PC onto which you can install games of your choosing. It's like renting a gaming PC that you can log onto remotely. The Stadia Pro subscription is currently offering Destiny 2 for free, but the service will be offering new free games in the future, not unlike Xbox Game Pass. With Stadia, you can play games on your TV, PC, laptop, tablet, and Google Pixel smart phones without any need for a game launcher.

Google offers a Stadia Pro subscription for $10 per month, which you'll need if you want to stream games in 4K resolution with 5.1 surround sound. A Stadia Pro subscription will also get you a complimentary game every now and then — the first one is Destiny 2 — as well discounts on all of the games in the Stadia library. A Stadia Base option is due out sometime in 2020, but as the Base option won't have a monthly fee, you'll have to buy games at full price. 

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

Google Stadia is available at different price points, but to play it right now you'll need to buy the Stadia Premiere Edition for $129 / £119, which you can buy here.  The Premiere Edition bundle comes with a Chromecast Ultra for playing on your TV, a white Stadia Controller, and a three-month Stadia Pro subscription. 

The Premiere Edition replaced the Founder's Edition on the Google Store, after the latter sold out The Founder's Edition bundle included a Chromecast Ultra, a limited-edition Night Blue Stadia Controller, a three-month Stadia Pro subscription, and a buddy pass that let you gift three months of Stadia Pro to a friend. It also offered first dibs on your Stadia gamer tag, but that seemed to be a promise Google had trouble keeping, as Founder's Edition owners were without launch codes over 24 hours after the Stadia's November 19 launch.

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 games can I play on Google Stadia?

The ever-growing library of Google Stadia games is impressive, especially considering that you don't need a console or powerful PC to enjoy these contemporary games. We know Cyberpunk 2077 will be playable on the streaming service sometime around its launch in April 2020.

GamesRadar+ has previously reported on the official list of titles that will be available on the Google Stadia come the November 19 launch day. You can check out the full story here, or read on below to see what you can play day one.

Google Stadia games available right now

Google Stadia games that will be available before the end of 2019

Confirmed Google Stadia games

(These games have previously been confirmed for Google Stadia but as of yet do not have a definitive release date.)

  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Baldur's Gate 3
  • Doom Eternal
  • Get Packed
  • Destroy All Humans
  • Elder Scrolls Online
  • Orcs Must Die! 3
  • The Division 2
  • Windjammers 2
  • Marvel's Avengers
  • Superhot Mind Control Delete
  • Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid
  • The Crew 2

What Google Stadia kit do I need and how do I get it?

(Image credit: Google)

Right now, you can only play Google Stadia if you pre-ordered the Founder's Edition bundle or if you order the Premiere Edition bundle from the Google Store. You still need an access code to play Google Stadia, so even though the service will eventually be rolled out to other Chromecast Ultras, as of right now it is only playable on the Chromecast Ultras that are included with the Founder's or Premiere Edition bundles. According to the aforementioned Reddit AMA, there is a firmware update necessary to cast Stadia to your television with a Chromecast Ultra that is not a part of a Stadia bundle - that update was due to drop "soon after launch."

So, simple put, if you don't already have a Google Stadia bundle, the only kit you can get that will let you use the streaming service is the Premiere Edition bundle taht is currently available on the Google Store.  

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

Keep an eye on our Google Stadia games list, you never know when an update to the list will be announced.