It’s fair to say that Google Stadia has endured a rocky beginning, but it looks like Google is removing one of the game streaming service’s stumbling blocks with the latest version of the app.
9to5Google has decompiled the latest version of the Stadia app (3.15) and discovered an experimental feature called “bridge mode.” This will allow members to sidestep the official Stadia controller in two ways when playing on TV: either by using a phone’s touchscreen to control the action or by connecting another gamepad to the handset and using that.
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The site isn’t clear as to whether the latter will require a wired connection, but people looking for the best experience would be better off using a cable anyway: connecting via Bluetooth would add another layer of latency as signals bounce from pad to phone to Chromecast.
This feels like an important step. Currently, the only way to officially play Stadia on your TV is to use the last-generation Chromecast Ultra ($70) and official Stadia gamepad ($69) because, bafflingly, Google hasn’t yet brought support to the latest $50 Chromecast with Google TV.
However, this update should mean that you can play Stadia not just on the latest iteration of the hardware, but potentially on older versions, too. It also means that anybody with a Chromecast Ultra lying around can give Stadia a go, without having to buy a gamepad, which is one less barrier to entry.
That said, there’s still a feeling of ‘too little, too late’ about this. There are plenty of reasons to suspect that Google’s collective heart just isn’t in Stadia any more, from the lack of support in the latest Chromecast hardware to the shuttering of its two first-party game studios earlier this year.
While Google has put a brave face on things, promising over 100 games in 2021, a critical glance through the list of revealed titles doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Yes, there are exceptions — both Resident Evil Village and Cyberpunk 2077 are available to Stadia members — but for the most part, it lacks the triple-A library of a dedicated console or gaming PC.
And with GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass Streaming providing serious opposition with a clear commitment to long-term support, you’d be a brave person to take out a Stadia subscription in 2021, even with this very welcome news.