Televisions and video games have been together since the beginning. It makes sense that, if you want to play a AAA video game, you want to do it on the biggest, best screen in the house. So I’m a bit mystified that, just now, 18 months after launch, Google’s video game platform will support Google’s television platform.
Google has announced that, starting this month, Stadia will get support for Android TV. First up is official support for the following devices:
- Chromecast with Google TV
- Hisense Android Smart TVs (U7G, U8G, U9G)
- Nvidia Shield TV
- Nvidia Shield TV Pro
- Walmart Onn FHD Streaming Stick and UHD Streaming Device
- Philips 8215, 8505, and OLED 935/805 Series Android TVs
- Xiaomi MIBOX3 and MIBOX4
Google also adds that, for Android TV devices not on this list, users will be able to “opt into experimental support to play Stadia.” The company warns that, “While this feature is still in development and not every Android TV OS device will work perfectly, you can now try out Stadia and play your favorite games on more screens than ever before.”
One of the big theoretical selling points of cloud gaming services like Stadia is that, because your video game is streamed over the Internet, the hardware requirements these games typically demand no longer apply and you can play on anything. For Stadia, that’s been the case if you’re using Chrome on a desktop computer or Android on a phone. You can use all sorts of existing Xbox and Playstation controllers, but Google has yet to reach that point on Android TV, which represents Stadia’s biggest potential TV platform.
Stadia launched with one option for TV playback: the Chromecast Ultra, which was bundled with the controller in the $100 Stadia Premiere package. The bundle is still for sale, but as a standalone product, the Chromecast Ultra was discontinued in September 2020. The Chromecast Ultra’s replacement is the “Chromecast with Google TV,” a new product that changes the Chromecast line from a dumb media receiver to something that runs an Android TV-based operating system (Google TV is just the next version of Android TV) with a user interface and the ability to install apps.
If you’re going to try Stadia on one of these newly compatible Android TV devices, running a hardwired Ethernet connection would be your best bet instead of relying on a janky Wi-Fi stream. Google also says you’ll need “a compatible Bluetooth controller that you might already own,” but the company doesn’t have a specific list on controllers yet.
Running on Android TV is a big deal for Stadia (why did Google try to bury this good news under WWDC?), but it also seems like something that should have been here 18 months ago. With the service already facing fleeing executives, the shutdown of its only in-house development studio, and signups that were reportedly “hundreds of thousands” under Google’s estimates, more open TV playback might be too little, too late.