In arguably the first good news for Stadia in 2021, Google’s beleaguered game-streaming service has finally landed on a single company’s TVs—and only those manufactured in 2020 and beyond.
That’s not necessarily a reason to strike up the band and throw a “Stadia is back” party (especially without any exclusive Stadia games on the horizon.) But the gaming service’s arrival on modern LG televisions late Tuesday is still fascinating, mostly because of how neatly and seamlessly it works. The results make me wonder how much better the Stadia story might have turned out if app support like this had been in place from the start.
Got any extra-long USB cables lying around?
Since its limited November 2019 launch, Google’s Stadia service has been added to many platforms, including laptops and desktops, Android and iOS devices, and Google TV-branded streaming devices. But smart TV support has been scattershot, with popular device families like Amazon Fire, Roku, and Apple TV missing out on Stadia. There has also been a lack of built-in smart TV support from major manufacturers like Samsung and LG. (It’s worth noting that Amazon Luna and Apple Arcade compete as subscription-based gaming services.)
Tuesday’s Stadia release on LG TVs brings Google’s gaming app to any set that supports “webOS 5.0 and above,” and it follows an announcement from LG earlier this year at CES that pledged some form of Stadia on LG sets in the “second half of 2021.” The first week of December technically hits that deadline.
My own LG CX, manufactured in 2020, meets LG’s OS requirements, so I took the simple steps of accessing LG’s app store, downloading Stadia to my TV, and booting the service up. The app’s introductory screen directs users to either create a new account on a web browser or enter existing Stadia credentials via remote control. It then displays instructions for connecting a gamepad to an LG TV—which may not be elegant, depending on your set.
LG’s 2021 sets include Bluetooth support, but the 2020 ones don’t. That left me with the option of either dusting off my existing Stadia Controller or grabbing a long USB cable, plugging it into my TV’s open USB port on its backside, and physically connecting my spare Xbox or PlayStation gamepads. (Stadia’s instructions said that I could toggle the Stadia app on my phone and then wirelessly connect my gamepad to the phone while also playing on the TV, since they’re all connected to the same cloud server. While that’s a welcome stopgap solution, it sure isn’t elegant.)
Any wired gamepad will be recognized when you exit and reenter the app. Unfortunately, Stadia Controller users will always need to use the TV’s remote to start the app and pick their account, then enter a special four-button code on the gamepad to link it to your session. Unlike on Chromecast and Google TV, the current version of LG’s Stadia app doesn’t put that gamepad code on the main screen. Every time you start Stadia on LG TVs, you must either use your remote to find the “controllers” option tab or write your previous shortcut code down and hope it doesn’t change. Assuming anyone on the Stadia engineering team is still employed and listening, can you fix this?