How, is it going on? That's the first question I ask myself, shortly after I set up Google's new gaming service Stadia. Finally, I'm used to never being able to play video games directly. Previously, I had to drive to the nearest retailer and buy a cardboard box with CDs and DVDs. In recent years, thanks to download codes, I watched my PC downloading game files for hours. Now, though, I'm sitting in my living room playing Red Dead Redemption 2 , which I've just released a minute ahead of time. And it works.
The games come from the cloud at Stadia, so they are located on a computer of the company and are available everywhere with an access. This has the advantage that there are no downloads or installations and the games run on different devices: Gamer can play a graphics-intensive open-world adventure like Red Dead Redemption 2 or the multiplayer shooter Destiny 2 in the browser or on the phone.
What sounds like the future is not that new. Years ago there were cloud gaming services like OnLive or nVidia Grid, which were based on a similar principle. Sony is currently offering hundreds of games, most of them older, via stream, for a monthly fee, with PlayStation Now. By comparison, Google Stadia wants to score above all with two aspects: For Stadia, there should also be current top games. And it should run on as many devices as possible, especially smartphones.
ZEIT ONLINE was able to test Stadia a few days before the official launch on 19 November. The service worked mostly as promised - but some restrictions on the release seemed rather daunting.
If you want to exploit Stadia, you have to buy hardware
Stadia will be available in two variants, each linked to a Google account. For the start on Tuesday, only the Pro version is available, for 9.99 euros a month. This includes individual free games , discounts on game purchases and streaming with surround sound and up to 4K resolution (for those who have the appropriate screen). In the coming year, there will also be Stadia Base. This is free, but the streams are limited to stereo sound and Full HD resolution.
In addition there are the one-off costs for the hardware, which would be the first restriction: If you just want to play Stadia in your browser, you can do that after logging in and simply connect a PS4 or Xbox controller to the PC. So far, so easy. However, if you want to play Stadia games on TV or smartphone, you must first get more Google products.
For Stadia on their own TV is a Chromecast Ultra (79 euros) necessary. If you already own one, you have to wait for the Stadia-compatible update, which will be released soon. Add to that the Google developed Stadia Controller (69 Euro), because only this works with the Chromecast. As a so-called Premiere Edition, there is the Chromecast Ultra and the controller as a set for 130 euros to buy, including three months Stadia Pro. A cheaper alternative is to connect the laptop or PC directly to the TV.
Chromecast and Controller setup works through the Stadia app on the smartphone. There are currently for Android and iOS, but with a second important limitation: You can initially only play on current pixel smartphones from Google. On all other devices, the app is currently only possible to buy games and manage the account. Google wants to support other manufacturers in the future - including iPhones.
If you own a pixel, you can purchase a special holder for attaching your mobile phone and controller. It looks funny, but it does not really make you mobile. Stadia currently works only via Wi-Fi and not via mobile data connections. That could possibly change with 5G.