What it is
|$129 for Premiere Edition
$9.99/month for Pro subscription
Available November 19
A new gaming platform from Google, Stadia is software– rather than hardware–based—not that there isn’t hardware for you to purchase. It’s a cloud-based service that will eventually allow you to play games from a variety of devices connected to the internet, including computers, mobile devices, and any Chromecast Ultra-equipped television, with the ability to swap from one device to another mid-game. Effectively, the games are running on Google’s hardware at Google data centers, with the output being displayed on your device—with the image quality dependent on the strength of your internet connection.
While you won’t need to purchase a console or a high-end gaming PC to take advantage of the latest games, including promised 4K HDR video at up to 60fps, you do need to purchase the $129 “Premiere Edition” kit to join Stadia at this week’s launch, which also arrives without many of the service’s promised features. (The missing features and a completely free version of Stadia should launch sometime in 2020.) The Premiere Edition includes a game controller and a Chromecast Ultra dongle, as well as three months of the Stadia Pro subscription service, which, like similar offerings from Microsoft and Sony, includes a small library of free games for subscribers (though at launch that library consists of just two titles: Destiny 2 and Samurai Shodown).
It might be tempting to think of Stadia as a “Netflix for games” (or even an “Apple Arcade for bigger screens”) but there’s one very important distinction: the games definitely aren’t free, aside from the few titles included with the Pro subscription. Instead, you must purchase each title a la carte, as you would for any other game platform. (Though, unlike with other platforms, you won’t need to spend any time installing or updating your new games; they’ll be available to play within seconds of purchase.)
What critics are saying
Below are reviews of the Stadia service from a variety of professional sources. (Click on any publication name to read the full review.) Scores (converted to our 0-100 scale) are listed only if one has been assigned by the publication itself; otherwise, we have grouped the reviews into rough categories, from most to least positive.
Some critics will revise their reviews once they spend a few more days with the service, and we will update this page throughout the week as necessary.
Extremely positive reviews
Say what you will about streaming as a whole, but I dig the “put game to sleep, pick it up whenever you want” vibe that the Switch does so well. The ultimate benefit of Stadia, streaming concerns and soft launch impact aside, is playing something in bed on a phone, on my TV like a console, then on the go with my laptop. … For me, Stadia is a convenient option to play select games on top of all the ways I already am, but the service as a whole is still pretty early yet to call a home.
The fact that Google Stadia functions as well as it does is impressive, even if the platform’s launch leaves a lot to be desired and probably won’t win you over if you’re not already on board. That being said, if Google sticks with Stadia and can build upon what they’ve started here with more features and games, it definitely has the potential to be a game-changer.
At launch, Stadia is very, very clearly unfinished. But! It works, and it’s a markedly better and more flexible game streaming experience than any I’ve encountered before (a list that includes PS Now, xCloud, and GeForce Now). It’s definitely not the answer for everyone, but Stadia pulls off the most important thing it can at launch: it makes a case for existing.
Stadia is the cloud gaming platform we’ve been dreaming of for years. Latency and lag are almost non-existent, while gameplay and graphics are superb through Chromecast or mobile. Its games are pricier than we’d hoped and the supported device list is so far lacking, but the technology is sound and it truly feels like a next-generation service.
Google Stadia’s cloud-streaming service shows a lot of promise, and could be a great option for those who want to game without spending a fortune on a console. But with lots of missing features at launch, Stadia has a long way to go to become a serious challenger to PlayStation and Xbox.
The biggest plus for me, as far as features go, is the notion of not worrying about updates, downloads, and day-one patches; it feels as if I have schedule games in weeks in advance, these days, to account for the inevitable deluge of delays.
Look, Stadia is fun and it seemed to work well. I love that it lets me play some really good games wherever I go. Trust me, I’m the target audience, and I’ll probably continue to play. But the regular gamer should be more cautious than me, and there’s no need to ditch your Xbox, PC or PS4 just yet.
Den of Geek
Stadia mostly delivers on its promise of letting you play the latest releases on any screen you want. And while cloud gaming technology isn’t a new idea — see: Blade Shadow and Project xCloud — Stadia is the best proof of concept yet. It’s a shame, then, that its initial lineup of games and lack of launch features holds it back from being a day 1 must-buy. In fact, it’s hard to recommend Stadia to people who already have current-gen consoles or gaming PCs.
Matthew S. Smith
Google’s Stadia is an astounding technical achievement. I’m honestly awestruck by its quality and performance. I went in skeptical, but I came out a convert. … That makes it even more of a shame Google’s execution has turned Stadia into a maze with no exit and plenty of dead ends. Features don’t work the same on all devices. PC performance is a disaster. And the limited library of games won’t win Stadia any fans. … Stadia has potential. But you can’t play games on potential.
Mollie L Patterson
The entire experience is marred by an overall package that is unfinished, overly complicated, and incredibly inconsistent, to the point that major aspects of the platform have changed mere days before launch. If Google can fix all of the issues currently plaguing Stadia, then that core technology may have the chance to really shine for those eager to embrace video game streaming—along with the plusses, and minuses, it brings with it. For now, however, Google Stadia feels like an idea rushed to market way before it was ready.
I wouldn’t play any of these titles competitively on Stadia, but the service is fine enough for a relaxing evening. At least, that’s how it works in my home. … Stadia’s success rate will vary depending on every player’s hyperlocal internet conditions. That’s not undue fearmongering; it’s just how the service operates.
As a technological statement, Stadia impresses with the best image quality and latency I’ve seen from a streaming platform, but there’s definitely scope for improvement from a stability perspective … Perhaps more pressing is the value proposition. … Combined with the feeling that the platform and the ecosystem is still some way off completion and I do feel that it’s perhaps too early for Stadia to be rolling out as a full service, especially when games are limited and the all-important platform exclusives are very thin on the ground.
Based on a nearly week-long trial, Stadia showed itself to have significant potential, but with enough shortcomings that early customers are likely to grumble.
Google Stadia works great. But the technical side of game streaming might have been the “easiest” problem to solve when it comes to Stadia’s overall acceptance and success. … With Stadia, Google has essentially earned its way into a subscription war with other more established platforms. When the novelty of the tech wears off — and it wears off fairly quickly — you’re left with a subscription service that will be compared to those of other platforms. Right now, the other platforms offer more of everything.
Purchasing a game and immediately booting it up without concern for downloads or updates is liberating, and when you have a stable internet connection, streaming games off the cloud feels like magic. Oddly enough, Stadia filled me with excitement for a game-streaming future, but it left me with less confidence that Stadia would be the platform to usher us forward.
For what it’s worth, I enjoy Stadia a lot when it works. Under ideal circumstances, it’s technically impressive, and I think the core technology is solid. It’s when you take into account the state of the service at launch as a whole that things break down.
The Stadia nailed the impossible, and then failed the possible. The single most important challenge facing Google – getting video game streaming on a par with local play – has been passed with flying colours. But on everything else, the company’s approach is baffling. … Ultimately, the only real benefit of the system is the absence of that box under the TV. If your impeccable sense of interior design values that above game selection, price, offline play or community size, go for it. Otherwise, stick with a home console if AAA games are where your heart lies, or pick up Apple Arcade to see what a revolution looks like when it focuses on the games and not the technology.
For the most part, Stadia does what it claims to do. Its biggest problem is that it doesn’t claim to do nearly enough.
The underlying tech is great, but everything else half-works, or works only in specific situations, or it’s “coming soon.”
For now, Stadia doesn’t behave like a console, or even a platform in the mode of Netflix and Amazon. It lacks far too many of the basic features we’ve come to take for granted in our consoles and streaming services. How disappointing, considering Stadia is supposed to be a mixture of both. Stadia’s more like an 18-wheeler. It has one job — deliver content — and it does that job just fine. It’s completely void of glamour and frills, and it’s not particularly pretty, but it’s efficient enough.
If you head in anticipating an experience with the same graphical fidelity and tight, instantaneous control as you’d get from a high end gaming PC or console, you’re bound to be at least a little disappointed. … If, on the other hand, you go into the experience expecting and willing to accept a bit of latency, then — depending on the type of game you typically enjoy playing — you’ll likely get exactly what you anticipate: An imperfect but serviceable way to play games without spending an exorbitant amount of money on hardware.
The streaming itself is a genuine technical revelation, to the point where it is often difficult to differentiate between playing on Stadia and native hardware. This is no mean feat, but everything else about Stadia today screams of a product ready for trial dressed up as a commercial release. Missing features, an uninspiring launch line-up and only availability on select platforms all point to an unfinished platform.
Stadia works and has the potential to work well. But at launch, it’s missing many of its most important features, and I’m still not convinced that game-streaming is necessary or convenient.
Andrew E. Freedman
Don’t buy Google Stadia right now. It’s a promising technology in many ways, including the way it eliminates barriers to gaming with the lack of installation times. But there’s a free tier coming, and if you’re not sure about your connection, it’s hard to swallow paying for the potential of 4K gaming. It’s also tough to justify paying $10 per month for the service as it stands and games ranging for $30 to $60 on top of it.
It’s more reliable than any service I’ve tested in a decade covering the technology. … But the overarching reaction I had while playing Stadia was the same I have with half-decent headphones: I’d happily keep playing if I wasn’t already spoiled. … There’s no reason anyone should buy into Stadia right now.
It feels goddamn magical when you’re playing a gorgeous version of Mortal Kombat 11 at the local Starbucks on your phone, and can immediately pick up where you left off in the story a few minutes later at home, as if nothing happened. … But there is a reason it’s felt like Google has deliberately avoided a splashy launch for a service that otherwise seems positioned as a huge part of the company’s future: this is an early access debut for Stadia. For most people, the answer as to whether you should buy this is a resounding no. The technology is there, but the service is not even close.
The Washington Post
Stadia’s value is at its peak with a game like Destiny 2 — and really no other launch title we tested. Red Dead’s shooting and Mortal Kombat’s … well … combat all functioned as expected, at least whenever input lag and streaming latency weren’t an issue. But they’re all otherwise the same old games, just sometimes more fuzzy and less functional as they were years ago. … At the moment, Stadia seems best suited for games that encourage continued, slow progression, especially ones that allow for some cross-platform features like Destiny 2’s cloud saves.
Taken as a whole, Stadia’s strength lies in its versatility, and that’s never more apparent than when you’re playing a game on a laptop without a graphics card. There’s something delightfully subversive about firing up Destiny 2 on the kind of Chromebook they hand out to high school kids. … Google has a lot of features to flesh out and issues to address, but Stadia lives up to at least some of its lofty ambitions.
It should be clear by now that there are a number of technical and logistical headaches involved with the launch version of Stadia. But while Wi-Fi reliability will likely remain a problem for many, none of Stadia’s launch issues are so severe they can’t be fixed with time and effort. Even if every single problem with Stadia was magically fixed tomorrow, though, the benefits of the service wouldn’t necessarily be worth the costs. … That kind of seamless, YouTube-style instant access to a vast array of content could be worth all the headaches associated with Stadia, especially if the library of available games continues to grow. For now, though, investing in Stadia instead of a console seems like a bunch of hassle for very minimal benefit.
Though it’s entirely possible that Google will iron out Stadia’s issues over the coming months, it’s clear that now — at launch — the service isn’t ready for primetime.
Because Google’s big promises haven’t arrived, and at the price of the Stadia’s Founder’s Edition, I can’t recommend anyone jump onboard at the moment. … It works, but there’s not much incentive to buy in.
This has been a catastrophe from start to finish during my testing phase, and the problem is that even if it did work flawlessly, which it absolutely doesn’t, the entire model seemed doomed from the start. This is an enormous miss from Google, and I am really wondering what the fallout is going to be from this ill-conceived early launch.
If you’ve got all the right pieces in place, the Stadia service works pretty damn well. … But I can’t imagine someone actually shelling out money for this. … Outside of the ability to stream games on a browser or your phone, I really can’t find a strong selling point for playing games that you can largely get on other platforms already for around the same price. Stadia’s for tech-savvy people, but it’s likely they already own an easier way to play these games.
Brian X. Chen
The New York Times
I was generally impressed with how smoothly the games streamed. Even titles with intense graphics ran well on my TV, on a laptop and on a cheap smartphone. But there were occasional glitches and quality issues because of inconsistent internet speeds and early bugs. So as someone who has played video games since childhood, I wouldn’t ditch a console for this streaming service. Those who play games want motion to be flawless.
Stadia is just like all the other cloud gaming platforms I’ve tried: Often great for singleplayer games, terrible for multiplayer if your internet isn’t up to snuff. … Stadia’s launch is simply missing many of the features it needs to be a robust gaming platform.
Stadia doesn’t offer enough to truly kickoff a new era of wireless gaming. … Simply put, the quality and responsiveness of Stadia just won’t cut it for the serious gaming crowd who’s used to top-of-the-line PC rigs. And while it is pitched as a go anywhere machine, it likely won’t work great on your next flight (where a majority of the world’s population does most of its mobile gaming) due to WiFi restrictions.
When it works, with the proper equipment and the proper internet and the proper understanding that a number of accessible buttons on the controller don’t yet do anything, Stadia works surprisingly well. However, without quality exclusives, access to the newest and most popular titles, or a completed list of features at launch, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to pay money to be the metaphorical canary in Google’s latest coal mine expedition of new entertainment mediums.
Google Stadia is simply not ready for launch. There’s the kernel of a good idea here, a good concept for a service, but what Google is launching with simply isn’t up to snuff. It’s messy, it’s missing features, and the Stadia experience across platforms simply isn’t uniform enough to justify this full release.
Right now, Google Stadia is a platform for nobody. The company just doesn’t seem to understand any of the audiences it is trying to reach. … Its library and outlook are uninspiring to the kinds of people who spend a lot of money on games. Few hardcore players are going to want to build their library on Stadia when they can do the same thing on Xbox with better games, Xbox Game Pass, and the promise of xCloud. Meanwhile, Google is right that casual players don’t want to spend $300-to-$500 on consoles. But they also don’t want to spend $60 on software. Sure, they might buy Red Dead or FIFA. But that audience is used to getting games for free on mobile devices. So Google Stadia might work, but it doesn’t actually matter.
Reviews in progress (will be updated)
So far, Google’s tech has impressed me to the point where I would comfortably play most in a browser tab or on a phone without batting an eye, but then I consider that I will have to buy the vast majority of games, and I’m left in awe of the value Microsoft and Sony are offering, even if their overall services lack Stadia’s flexibility. For the moment, cloud gaming still feels like a decent alternative to the real thing, and I don’t think I’m ready to dedicate a full-price game purchase to a secondary platform.
At launch, it’s a messy service that will no doubt be remembered for its missing features, strange launch line-up, and obtuse rules surrounding set-up, optimisation, and core functionality. But behind it all, there’s certainly something special here. I’m still not sure how Stadia fits into my life, the steps I could take to make my home a better environment for it, or even who it is for, but under the right circumstances, it works.
Google Stadia has fully realized game streaming better with the highest fidelity graphics and lowest input lag of any service I’ve ever used, but there are more features Google has promised that are on their way than are actually available on the service right now.
What about the games?
Of course, any game platform is useless without games to play. At launch, there are 22 titles available for Stadia, including just one platform exclusive:
Exclusive to Stadia
Other launch titles [scores are for PC versions]
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
- Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle
- Destiny 2*
- Farming Simulator 19
- Final Fantasy XV
- Football Manager 2020
- Just Dance 2020
- Metro Exodus
- Mortal Kombat 11
- NBA 2K20
- Rage 2
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Samurai Shodown*
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Tomb Raider
- Trials Rising
- Wolfenstein: Youngblood
Other notable Stadia titles due out in the next month (but not at launch) include Borderlands 3, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, Dragon Ball: Xenoverse 2, and Darksiders Genesis.
What do you think?
Are you planning on signing up for Stadia? Have you already tried out the service? Give us your take in the comments section below.