Let’s start with the basics: What is Stadia?
Unlike Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation, and Nintendo’s Switch, Google promised no additional hardware is required with Stadia.
“At launch, we’ll support being able to play games across desktops, laptops, TV, tablets, and phones. This new generation of gaming is not a box,” Phil Harrison, a Google vice president, said in March.
Instead, processing is handled “in the cloud” — by Google’s hardware in a data center — and streamed to you instantly. Your inputs are then instantly beamed back to the computer elsewhere.
This is an oversimplification of what is assuredly a deeply complicated process, but it’s similar to how Netflix works: instead of having to run physical media, it’s simply streamed to wherever you’re watching it. Pretty fresh!
But the reality at launch is far more complex than Harrison promised back in March.
Stadia is indeed available “across desktops, laptops, TV, tablets, and phones” — but the only way to actually use the service at launch is through a $130 hardware bundle that includes Google’s gamepad and a Chromecast Ultra stick. Moreover, the only phones supported are Google’s Pixel line (starting with the Pixel 2) — support for Apple’s iPhone, or any other Android smartphone, isn’t live yet.
Worse, there’s no indication of when that support is coming. “Oh man, I wish I knew,” Stadia product lead Andrey Doronichev said in a recent Reddit AMA. “Truth of the matter is that we want Stadia to run on every screen eventually. Android and iOS and whatnot. We’re starting with Pixel this year. Hope to learn a bunch, make it great and start expanding to more devices next year.”