Stadia has launched if you have the Founder Edition, our unit and code came a little late but it's here and surprisingly it all seems to be working well. Note: Our Founders Edition was a personal purchase.
This new game streaming service from Google is powered by Debian Linux and the Vulkan API, so I've been rather keen to see what it has to offer. Keep in mind you will need a good internet connection for it and you do always need to be online, although it's supposed to keep your place for 15 minutes to help with drop-outs and changing devices.
Quite a rough start, as they were clearly sending out codes slowly in batches. Something which wasn't explained properly. However, every Founder should now have access with them moving onto sending codes for those with the Premier Edition next week. I do hope Google learn to communicate better in future.
For now, Stadia is supported in these countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands. As for games currently available, it's limited with only 22 available although more are supposed to be coming before the year is up. You can see a list in this previous Stadia article.
While Google state that you need Chrome to play Stadia, that's not quite true. Testing on Manjaro Linux, I've got it running with Destiny 2 working fine in Chrome, Chromium, Brave and Opera.
However, for Opera, the Content Security Policy doesn't even let you click the Sign In link. I used a plugin to turn it off for testing (not recommended), which allowed me to get further but then Stadia tells you to install Chrome. However, in this case using a User Agent Switcher did then allow Opera to work!
I also tried it in Firefox with a User Agent Switcher, where I was able to at least get the store to load and interact with the very basic UI but games wouldn't load. No amount of tinkering and disabling things seemed to help for Firefox.
My main testing has been done on my desktop, attached directly to the router with a cable. With a Virgin Media internet connection that gives around 360Mbps down and about 36Mbps up (Speedtest - while in use it varies of course). You can see a video of it in action below:
Also slightly amusing that as I spawned into the game, there was someone I knew standing there (hi Marc).
So far, other people using the net to stream video and play online games all while I've been testing hasn't phased it. I had a single disconnection, which in the space of about 10 seconds sorted itself out. I've always been a huge streaming sceptic...but not so much right now.
What I'm perhaps just as impressed by is performance over wireless. Testing using a rubbish Kubuntu laptop, across the house and down a level right at the back. Wireless speed there gave me about 50Mbps down, so putting Stadia into the "Limited" mode for 720p, even there the experience was also very good. I was fully expecting there to have a ton of input lag, but it felt about the same as my PC hooked directly to the router. All while someone else was streaming video and playing an online game elsewhere in the house. You can see a poor quality quick video test of that here.
Onto the Stadia Controller, priced around £59 by itself it's not the cheapest. However, the build quality seems good and it does feel very nice. Far nicer than the Steam Controller or the Logitech F310. Perfect fit too, with a really nice finish. Smooth on the front, a little rough on the back for some grip. The Stadia Controller also has a dedicated button for the Google Assistant, although that's not actually online right now. You don't need it though! Mouse and Keyboard work great, the Steam Controller also works when paired with SC Controller, and the Logitech F310 was also plug and play. Simply no need to pay out for it.
I think it's important to understand what Google have achieved already with Stadia is quite significant. Load up a browser and play a AAA game on Linux, macOS and Windows with only a tiny amount of loading and no sitting and waiting for 50GB of updates. Compared to a lot of experiences with new games on Steam, it almost feels a little magic.
However, at least speaking for me personally, I don't think this will be replacing a locally installed game any time soon. While the input lag was somewhat minimal, playable and quite fun it was just enough to show me that it's not something I'm going to be spending lots of money on extra games. Barely though, I have been seriously impressed with it. If they manage to bring it down a little more, it would be ridiculously good.
The service offered currently is also incredibly basic. Most things outside of playing a game require the Stadia mobile application, as the in-browser UI is laughably bare-bones. Not only that, but they're going to need something big to really hook anyone in and keep them. There's no "killer app" for Stadia right now and their one exclusive game with Gylt isn't going to be turning any heads.
Stadia Pro also doesn't feel at all worth it. 4K that has already been shown elsewhere to not actually be fully 4K in some games, as it's down to the developer and only supported on the Chromecast Ultra, plus HDR and Surround Sound which aren't yet supported on PC as well. The amount of games you get with Stadia Pro is also going to be ridiculously limited when other services will be practically doing the "Netflix of games" style. Google will definitely need to give Stadia Pro a big boost.
From a standard user perspective, it does work fine on Linux. Shockingly well too for the most part. I fully expected there to be all sorts of issues and it's fun to see the normal Linux desktop sit alongside Windows and macOS as a supported gaming system for something so big. That's my main takeaway from the testing done.
Thinking specifically about Linux gamers for a moment there's multiple people who could enjoy this. There's likely going to be plenty of AAA games on Stadia, that will never be ported to the Linux desktop and also never work in Steam Play Proton. This includes those with extra layers of DRM, especially true right now for multiplayer titles with various different forms of anti-cheat. Stadia certainly could end up plugging a big gap for Linux gamers there.
That's only from a player perspective though, there's a ton of other issues that come with it I've mentioned in other articles. Games as a hosted service, with no ownership that can be taken away at any time is a genuine concern worth thinking on. As a pretty stark reminder of that, Destiny 2 went entirely offline today for multiple hours (all platforms). Not the fault of Stadia, sure, but it's making a point about relying on things in the cloud. Google sucking up even more data on you I'm sure plenty of people will be concerned about. Like the Stadia Controller with the built-in microphone to speak to Google—somewhat creepy or handy? You never do truly know if it's listening or not. That said, if you're like me and you have your Android/smart phone always by your side it's the same issue there so perhaps not quite as big a deal to certain people.
Bandwidth use is also a going to be a problem for plenty of people. Testing Stadia on the "Balanced" setting, which is supposed to give 1080p with an hour playtime using vnstat as the monitor it sucked away almost exactly 10GB. Let's say you play only 3 hours a day across a week, that's over 200GB. While I don't have a data cap, I've looked around and plenty really do and Stadia can easily blow through it.
Google also need to, rather badly, work on their communication and constant overselling of the service. It wasn't ready, clearly and still isn't in a lot of ways. They announced lots of shiny things, that just aren't there right now. We're talking Wireless controller on PC, 4K on PC, Google Assistant, State Share, Stream Connect, YouTube integration, Family Sharing, an almost nonexistent PC interface and even the Buddy Pass system isn't yet live. Stadia launched with the bare minimum to be called a service.
If Stadia does succeed, gaming will be massively different to what we see today. I can't even begin to imagine how indie games would adapt and you can bet more publishers would opt for their own subscription services to help counter it. They do have a lot of competition coming as well, even Amazon are said to be launching their own game streaming service next year. What of the Steam Cloud Gaming rumours too? Too early to get fully invested into Stadia when it's so limited.
Keep an eye on our Twitch Channel, as our streamer will be taking a look tomorrow.
If you’re interested in Stadia and want to see more about it here, or you would like something very specific tested do let me know in the comments.