Interest in the cloud gaming space is heating up. As big brands like Xbox, NVIDIA, and Amazon all jockey for their place in the market, early trailblazer Google Stadia has steadily evolved since launching in late 2019. Here are just some of the reasons you might want to choose Stadia over the competition.
While major cloud gaming services like GeForce NOW and Shadow offer an experience that will resonate best with PC gamers, Stadia feels more like it was built for console players. In lieu of logging into Steam, Epic Games Store, and Ubisoft Connect, you only need a single Google account to access all of your games. The user interface, including the game library, is all scrollable with a game controller — no mouse and keyboard necessary, unless you prefer them.
Stadia has full achievement support, a place to view captured screenshots and videos, and a game store that can be accessed via the mobile app or on a Chrome browser. There’s even a full-featured friends hub that lets you send friend requests, start a party, voice chat, and exchange text-based messages. All in all, the Stadia experience will feel very familiar to PlayStation and Xbox players.
Keep What You Claim on Stadia Pro
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Subscription models have proven successful in the cloud gaming space, driving the core ethos of Xbox Cloud Gaming and Amazon Luna. Google Stadia, however, is currently the only cloud gaming platform that lets players both purchase games from a digital store and subscribe to “claim” new monthly added titles with Stadia Pro.
The coolest thing about Stadia’s subscription service is that claimable Stadia Pro games will never leave your library once they’re added. As long as you stay subscribed, you can play them forever, at your own pace, without worrying they’ll be unceremoniously removed. Even if you downgrade to Stadia’s free tier and return to Pro a few months (or years) later, those same claimed games will instantly show back up in your library, along with all saved data.
While new Stadia Pro subscribers can sign up and claim more than 50 games today — including Control Ultimate Edition, Outriders, Saints Row: The Third – Remastered, and Saints Row IV: Re-Elected — players who have been subscribed from the beginning have unbridled access to hundreds of Pro titles with more dropping every month. In other words, the longer you stay subscribed, the more games you’ll have in your library.
When Stadia was first announced in 2019, it wasn’t meant to just be a console in the cloud. It introduced a range of exclusive features that most competing cloud gaming platforms haven’t been able to replicate years later.
The most meaningful of these features is Click to Play. Stadia makes it possible to click on a simple hyperlink and dive directly into a full-featured game — no downloads, sign-ups, or credit card info required. It’s a magical feature that seems like it shouldn’t be possible, yet you can immediately jump into Destiny 2, PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS, or HITMAN – Starter Pack right now. You don’t even need to pair a Bluetooth controller to your device, but I recommended it if you have one nearby.
Another great Stadia-exclusive feature is Live Stream. Whereas most game streamers have to use a third-party screencasting tool like OBS to capture and stream game footage on Twitch and YouTube, Stadia comes with this trick built in. Once you get your YouTube account linked up, you can beam live gameplay directly from a Stadia server to your YouTube channel. The only downside is that Live Stream to Youtube doesn’t support webcams, but it does let you attach a mic for full commentary.
Though found in only a small subset of games, there are some other great Stadia-exclusive features you may come across in your library:
Crowd Choice lets Live Stream viewers choose specific challenges you’ll face in your game.
Crowd Play lets streamers invite viewers to play a game live alongside them.
State Share enables players to share a screenshot of their game with others and then allow those players to dive into that same exact spot in the game to experience it for themselves.
Stream Connect is a co-op feature that gives teammates a live view of each other’s screens so that they can better coordinate attacks against enemies.
The Stadia Community
No gaming brand is worth anything without its players, and for a platform as young and disruptive as Stadia, this group is particularly vital.
Although the Stadia community is relatively small in comparison to those found on PlayStation or Xbox, their size is not to their detriment. Like a small town where everyone knows your name, Twitter hashtags like #TeamStadia and #Stadia100, as well as the official r/Stadia subreddit, are filled with a family of players who like to share experiences, exchange ideas, advocate for new games, and help one another get the most out of Stadia’s platform.
In short, these players are the heartbeat that keeps Stadia going, even as its longevity is repeatedly called into question.
A Ubiquitous Game Console
Some Stadia players like to say their Gmail account is their console, and while this isn’t exactly accurate, it’s not too far off from the truth.
A simple Google account provides the gateway to getting Stadia up and running. With an estimated 1.5 billion people signed up for Google services, many of them could use it to access games in the cloud, as long as they live in a supported region. Simply activate Stadia on your account, and you’re all set.
As for what device constitutes your “console,” it’s likely the one you’re using to read this article. Stadia works on phones, tablets, computers, TVs, and even some smart refrigerators and Teslas. Virtually anything with a Chrome browser can become a Stadia gaming machine. You don’t even technically need to hook up a controller or mouse and keyboard, since all games support touch controls on applicable devices, but these do improve the experience.
Get Started With Stadia Today
Google’s made it as easy as possible to start playing games on Stadia. In fact, you don’t even need a Google account to access more than 120 free trials and demos. Simply visit the official Stadia website, find a game that looks good to you, click on it, and dive in.
When you’re ready to go a little deeper, use your Google account to activate Stadia’s free tier. You only pay for the games you want to purchase and play when you choose this option. Unlike many of the free tiers you’ll find on competing cloud gaming services, there aren’t any wait times or time limits, either. You get to play as long as you’d like, free of charge.
Then if you want even more out of your Stadia experience, subscribe to Stadia Pro for $9.99 per month. Not only do you get the first month free, this tier lets you claim and keep 3-6 new Pro games every month, stream in up to 4K, and listen in 5.1 surround sound. Pro players also get access to regular game sales and free-play weekends where unpurchased games can be enjoyed at no extra cost.
So that’s it — everything you need to know about Google Stadia. Some players love it. Others are skeptical of it. The only way to know where you stand is to try it out yourself. Just head on over to the Stadia website and launch into a free demo now.