Google has unleashed a huge update for Android smartphone owners. Three months after it debuted its game-streaming service – Google Stadia – on its own Pixel smartphone line-up, the US company is finally expanding to other brands for the first time.
The cloud gaming service allows smartphone owners to play the latest blockbuster titles on-the-move using a Wi-Fi, 4G, or 5G connection. Just like a Netflix boxset, or YouTube video, players are able to pause the game on one device – and then pick-up at the exact moment they left-off on another. Stadia works on laptops, desktop computers, tablets, as well as Chromecasts.
Until now, Stadia mobile gaming was limited to Pixel smartphones. But from today, you're able to enjoy a raft of titles on 18 more models, including 14 Samsung-branded handsets.
Stadia can now be enjoyed on the Asus ROG Phone, ROG Phone II, Razer Phone, Razer Phone II, Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Galaxy S8 Active, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9+, Galaxy Note 9, Samsung Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+, Galaxy Note 10, Galaxy Note 10+, and finally, the latest flagships from the South Korean firm, the Samsung Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+ and Galaxy S20 Ultra. Notably, you won't be able to enjoy Stadia on any of the folding flagships from the company… at least for the time being.
As you'd expect, each of these newly-compatible smartphones will work with wireless controllers over Bluetooth. The exception is the official Google Stadia controller, which will need to be plugged into your handset.
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This isn't massively surprising as Google requires its gamepad to be plugged into its own Pixel smartphones for mobile gaming. Google is hard at work on a system to enable the Stadia controller to connect to devices via Wi-Fi, rather than a standard Bluetooth connection. While the gamepad currently supports wireless gameplay on a TV via the Chromecast Ultra, everything else – including PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets – require a wire.
“This is one of the items on our roadmap which is going to be launched shortly, but we're actually using a very different approach with our controller, one that connects directly over WiFi to the data centre,” Stadia Head of Gamer Experience, Andrey Doronichev told Engadget.
“It doesn't actually maintain a Bluetooth connection with a phone, which is a slightly different way of doing things and requires some extra work on both the app side and the controller side to make sure it works well.”
But while the latest expansion for Google Stadia is clearly a big deal, the cloud-based service is still comfortably behind its nearest rivals.
Microsoft's xCloud service, which lets you stream Xbox games to devices that ordinarily wouldn't be able to play anything close to the same quality, currently supports any Android device running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or newer. The only other requirement is Bluetooth 4.0 or better on the device.
Microsoft and Samsung have already promised to enable a much deeper collaboration for their cloud-gaming offering in the future.
NVIDIA recently brought its GeForce Now streaming service out of preview. This can be used by an even greater number of devices, including any smartphone with 2GB of RAM or more running Android 5.0 Lollipop or higher.
Stadia costs £8.99 a month for the “Pro” subscription, which includes gameplay in eye-popping 4K with 5.1 surround sound, as well as exclusive discounts on games and a free game each month.
There will be a free tier to Stadia, which allows users to buy games and access them on a huge number of devices in 1080p quality with stereo sound, although this isn't scheduled to launch until sometime later this year.
Written by David Minister