Google Stadia, which launches next week, lets you play console- and PC-quality games on your TV, phone, or in a Chrome tab. No need for any specific hardware besides your Google Pixel phone, Chromebook, PC, or Mac.
It works best, however, with the Stadia controller, a $69 gamepad available from Google. A $129 bundle known as the Stadia Premiere Edition adds a Chromecast Ultra and three free months of Stadia Pro; it’s available for pre-order now.
Premiere is largely identical to the Founder’s Edition that Google made available to early adopters in June, save for the controller color. Google sent us a Stadia Founder’s Edition ahead of the launch, so let’s take a look at what’s in the box.
What Is Google Stadia?
Google Stadia is a game-streaming service. This means you can play games that run on Google’s servers rather than your own local console or PC, which are then streamed to your platform of choice. It lets you play modern console and PC games on your phone or in a Chrome tab. The Stadia controller works best, but you can use a DualShock 4 or Xbox Wireless Controller, or even a mouse and keyboard for some games.
The closest thing to a console Stadia has is the Chromecast Ultra, which you can pair with the Stadia controller wirelessly and use it to play Stadia on your TV. For now, you need the Ultra that comes with the $129 Stadia bundle. Existing Chromecast Ultra devices will get an over-the-air update so they work with Stadia, but not before next week’s launch, Google said in a recent Reddit AMA.
You also need a very fast internet connection (Google recommends at least 10Mbps), and a wired connection if you want to play games on anything besides the Chromecast Ultra. The Stadia controller can wirelessly sync with the Chromecast Ultra, but that’s it. If you want to play on your phone or PC, you need to use a USB cable to physically attach the gamepad to it (though compatible Bluetooth controllers can work wirelessly with your PC).
That’s why Google sent us an unbranded phone clip that attaches to the controller, and a short USB-C-to-USB-C cable; for convenience. Curiously, the Stadia controller clip isn’t included with the controller; we reached out to Google to find out if it will be offered separately or in any bundles.
Google also sent us a Pixel 3a XL phone because if you want to play games on Google Stadia with your phone, you need a Pixel 2, 3, 3a, and 4, or the XL version of any of those phones. Sorry, Samsung Galaxy, OnePlus, and other Android phone owners. Stadia will work with iOS 11+ devices, and an iOS-compatible test app was provided for testing, but it will also not be available at launch.