Google this week began rolling out its new cloud gaming service, known as Stadia, which is designed to let you play games wherever WiFi is available on smartphones, laptops, tablets, TVs, and more.
Google Stadia doesn’t work on the iPhone at this time (though you can use the app to manage your account), but you can play games on the Mac so we thought we’d give it a try in our latest YouTube video.
Right now, Stadia is available to those who ordered the Founders Edition bundle, which was priced at $129, but it will soon be available to everyone.
There are a few cloud-based gaming services on the market such as PlayStation Now and GeForce NOW, so Google Stadia isn’t a new concept, but Google promises a simple hassle-free experience that works cross platform.
Basically, to use Google Stadia, you sign up for an account ($9.99 per month for 4K streaming and a selection of free games) and then you can access games on a Mac, Windows PC, Chromebook, or a TV using a Chromecast Ultra, with Stadia also available on Pixel 2, 3, and 4 smartphones running Android 10.
The $9.99 per month fee is to access the Stadia platform. You still need to purchase games separately, and major titles are going to cost anywhere from $30 to $60. There aren’t a ton of games available right now, but you can play Red Dead Redemption 2, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat 11, and a handful of other popular games.
We tested Stadia on a new 16-inch MacBook Pro, and found it to be simple and straightforward to use. All of our games were available right away after logging in to Google Stadia via a web browser, with no downloading or installing required to play.
Because these are cloud-based games, you can pick up where you left off on any compatible device, so a game started on the Mac can later be picked up on the TV.
Setup was simple, but the gameplay experience was, well, average. In testing, there was quite a bit of lag and several drops in resolution. Gameplay would be stable for a bit, but we also ran into some stretches where the gameplay was terrible.
Game quality also depended on the game. With Destiny, for example, we saw some hiccups but it was mostly stable, but with NBA 2K20, the game refused to recognize certain button presses and it just didn’t work well, suggesting not all games are quite as optimized as they should be. Google definitely has some bugs to work out.
The Stadia service works with any Bluetooth controller, but Google has designed its own Google Stadia controller that shipped with its Founders Edition bundle. We used the Stadia controller, which is pretty similar to an Xbox controller.
Using Google Stadia requires a solid internet connection, so it’s not for people who have slow connection speeds. You need at least 35Mb/s for 4K gaming, but even with a connection 10 times that, we had the aforementioned lag issues.
As mentioned before, Stadia is priced at $9.99 per month, but Google is also working on a free tier next year that won’t have a monthly fee and will be limited to 1080p quality.
The Founder bundle that we tested Stadia with is no longer available, but Google does have a similar “Premiere” bundle that includes the white Stadia controller (instead of the blue founder model), a Chromecast Ultra, and 3 months of “free” Stadia Pro service. After that, it will cost $9.99 per month.
Cloud gaming has been picking up in popularity over the course of the last few years, and now that Google has launched a cloud gaming service (Microsoft has one in the works too), it doesn’t seem out fo the realm of possibility that Apple could launch something similar in the future as an expansion of Apple Arcade.
What do you think of Google’s Stadia cloud gaming service? Let us know in the comments.