Google Stadia Might Require Some Players to Buy an Extra Piece of Hardware

Early users might need to make another purchase.

Google Stadia wants gamers to ditch their consoles and instead play their favorite franchises using the Chrome browser. The cloud gaming service, announced this month at GDC, has the potential to democratize gaming by letting users play console games on phones, tablets, and laptops. But one formidable barrier to entry remains: high-speed internet.

The roll-out of 5G is expected to largely eliminate this issue, eventually, but until then even single-player games could slow to a crawl on Stadia if you don’t have a speedy connection. People who tried an early version of Stadia said as much, and these lagging issues were even apparent during its on-stage debut. Stadia chief Phil Harrison recently disclosed his plan to combat the inevitable flood of Wifi and connectivity questions once the service goes live: a built-in guide or tutorial showing users how to up their internet speeds using a mix of software fixes and hardware.

“There’s a crucial bit in the middle which is, helping players optimize [in case] there are some environmental reasons inside their home that are restricting their experience,” he told GameSpot. “[We] will give them a knowledge base that will allow them to then — in some cases — move their wireless router or [maybe] upgrade their router.”

google wifi mesh routers
Google might push its Google Wifi hardware to give early Stadia adopters a boost in internet speed to be able to use the service.

Harrison wouldn’t say exactly how this would look on Stadia, it could even take the form of a simple push toward Google Wifi hardware. The tech company began selling mesh-capable wireless routers in 2016 and now offers them at $99 a pop or a three-pack for $259. A bundle of these device work as a team to amplify the Wifi signal inside of a home that might be suffering from dead zones.

The system is made up of a main router connected directly to a home’s modem and several modules (also called nodes) placed in different rooms to provide better coverage. Ben Arnold, the Senior Director of Innovation and Trends at the Consumer Technology Association tells Inverse that wireless mesh networks can provide the boost in internet speed necessary to use services like Stadia as consumers await the roll out of 5G.

“One thing that we’re seeing in people’s homes are updates of routers, things like the EERO and Google’s mesh home networks,” he said. “In the near term [as 5G is rolling out] the market around mesh routers is really boosting broadband speeds at home, which benefits cloud gaming.”

google stadia announcement doom
5G is expected to eliminate any internet issues with Stadia, but if early users want to try out the service as soon as it drops with new games they might need a mesh router's help.

Full nationwide coverage for 5G isn’t expected until sometime in 2020, while Stadia might become available as early as this summer. Google could use this down time to push its mesh nodes to provide the 20 to 25 megabits per second needed to get the promised 1080p resolution at 60fps performance from the service.

In other words, the Stadia controller might not be the only piece of hardware needed to get the full extent of the service’s experience after all.

Media via Google