Google’s new $50 Chromecast with Google TV will support a lot of the streaming services most people would want, although Apple TV Plus appears to be a notable holdout. Those sorts of gaps are fairly normal for a new platform, but the new Chromecast does have one very strange omission: Google’s own game streaming service, Stadia. At launch, the new Chromecast with Google TV won’t support it. Google says support will come sometime in the first half of 2021.
That said, we were able to get Stadia running on the Chromecast using sideloading, which means it’s unclear why Stadia isn’t supported on the new Chromecast. To get to a place where we can speculate, we need to explain the different layers of operating systems and services at play on the Chromecast with Google TV.
First, right now Stadia is supported on the current Chromecast Ultra, which is based on Google’s original Chromecast platform. It doesn’t have an interface on its own; it only takes streaming video from the internet as directed by your phone (or your Stadia controller).
The new Chromecast with Google TV, by comparison, has several layers. At the base is Android TV, the operating system for the new Chromecast. It’s what allows the new system to have a user interface you can navigate and over 6,500 apps. On top of Android TV is the new Google TV interface, a Google-centric skin that pretties up Android TV. Finally, at the very top there’s Cast — you can still cast videos to Android TV devices, just not Stadia games.
If we had to guess (and we kind of do), we’d say that there are problems for Stadia in two of those three layers. Stadia does have an Android app for phones, but apparently an Android app for TVs is a different beast. You likely expect higher frame rates, higher resolutions, and lower latency on your TV than your phone.
Currently, Stadia does work on Android TV, but only in a very weird, tacked-on way. It’s “still a shoehorned version of the phone UI that really isn’t great for a non-touchscreen,” as 9to5Google aptly puts it.
Latency may also be the reason that Stadia can’t simply be cast to the new Chromecast at launch. Since it runs on Android TV instead of the simpler OS in the Chromecast Ultra, the new Chromecast with Google TV may introduce more latency into the game stream.
Google clearly believes it can solve one of those problems and intends to do so in the next nine months or so. What’s confusing is why Google didn’t solve them in the last nine months, before the release of its new flagship TV product that literally has the company’s own name embedded in the branding.
It’s a weird one, but if you’re a Stadia user the bottom line is that you should stick with the Chromecast Ultra for the time being. You can still buy one as part of the $100 Stadia Premiere Edition kit, in case you’re wondering — Google is no longer selling them separately.
You can read our full review of the new Chromecast with Google TV right here.
Update, 3:02PM ET: Added that the Chromecast Ultra is no longer sold separately.