Google Stadia vs. Apple Arcade: What’s the Difference?

Google Stadia and Apple Arcade both want to make gaming more accessible, but they're more different than you might think...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

On the surface, these two news stories sound incredibly similar: two weeks ago, Google announced its upcoming gaming platform called Stadia. The following week, Apple announced its own platform called Apple Arcade. Basically, both tech giants are trying to wade into the wacky world of video games.

The services might sound similar at first, with both Stadia and Apple Arcade promising to bypass the need for a console and put games on your phones, tablets, laptops, computers, and TVs. Both services will launch in 2019, and neither one has revealed its pricing structure yet. So far, so samey.

However, when you dig a little deeper into the details, there are some major differences between Google’s Stadia and Apple Arcade. If you’re wondering which one to fork out for later this year, you’ll want to consider these stark contrasts before pulling the trigger on a purchase…

Ad – content continues below

They Cover Different Devices

Google Stadia and Apple Arcade will both launch on a lot of devices, allowing you to spread a games collection across different screens in your life, but they’re not launching on exactly the same devices. 

Apple Arcade is an easy one to explain: this service is only for Apple devices, which means you’ll be able to access this gaming platform on iPhones, iPads, Mac computers/laptops, and Apple TVs.

It’s less clear exactly which devices Stadia will support. It has been widely reported that you’ll be able to play on any laptop or PC that has the Google Chrome browser, and it has also been widely stated that you’ll be able to use a Chromecast Ultra to turn your TV into a Stadia device. 

As for mobiles, this is where Stadia’s offering becomes harder to decipher: although many sites have reported that any phone with the Chrome browser will be able to access Stadia, other outlets (including very trusted ones like Wired) have reported that Stadia for mobile will exist as an app that is only available on Google’s Pixel phones. This seems to suggest that iPhone users, and anyone else who doesn’t have a Pixel phone, will not be able to access Stadia on their mobiles.

We asked Google to clarify this for us and make it clear which devices will support Stadia. A spokesperson for Google came back to us with this statement: “We are excited to see the team’s hard work come to life with our platform announcement at GDC. We have optimized Stadia for many screen sizes and mediums, including phones, and will have more details to share on specific devices in the coming months.”

We’ve also noticed that the official Stadia website states that Google’s platform will be available on “multiple devices, including laptops, desktops, and selected phones and tablets.” Having read Wired’s report, we can’t help but read that sentence with the emphasis on the word “selected.” As Google reveals more of its plans, you can be sure that we’ll let you know.

Ad – content continues below

Only Stadia Has Hardware

Apple Arcade will be an app that you can download on your iPhone, iPad, Mac computer/laptop or Apple TV. As it stands, Apple hasn’t announced any additional hardware or software that you’ll need to access the platform.

You won’t need any extra hardware to play Google Stadia on your PC or laptop, because, on these devices, Stadia will run through Google Chrome and support existing controllers (this seems to explain why Google is adding Nintendo Switch controller connectivity to Chrome). However, if you want to play Google Stadia on your phone or tablet, you’ll need to invest in a Google Stadia controller. And if you want to play Stadia on a TV, you’ll need a controller and a Chromecast Ultra.

The price of the Stadia Controller is yet to be confirmed, but we do know that it will have some snazzy features. As well as all the usual things you’d expect from a controller, it will have a help button that will summon the Google Assistant and guide you through tough bits of a game and a capture button that will help you set up a live stream of your gameplay on YouTube.

They’ll Have Different Developers and Games

During its big Stadia announcement, Google announced that Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and iD Software’s Doom Eternal will both be available on Stadia. Ubisoft, in particular, were singled out as core partners in Google’s project. NBA 2K was also mentioned in the presentation, as was an as-yet-untitled game from Q-Games and Dylan Cuthbert.

Apple, meanwhile, announced loads of games for the Apple Arcade: Sega’s Team Sonic Racing, Red Games’ LEGO Brawls and Cornfox & Bros’ Oceanhorn 2 are among the biggest hitters, but heaps of intriguing indie titles with cool names (Hot Lava, The Pathless, Sneaky Sasquash) were also confirmed. You can see pictures and videos from these games and more on the Apple website. There is a big list of partners involved in Apple Arcade, including such big names as Konami and Disney. Neither of those companies got a mention in the Stadia announcement. 

It’s hard to tell at this stage which service will have a bigger library of games, but Apple certainly confirmed more titles in its initial announcement. Apple has made it clear that users can expect an “all you can play” service from “one subscription” with Apple Arcade, but Google hasn’t confirmed how Stadia’s pricing or membership will work.

Ad – content continues below

Their Offline Gaming Policies Are Totally Different

Arguably, the biggest difference between Apple Arcade and Google Stadia is how they approach offline gaming.

Apple is all for it, with the official website for Apple Arcade promising you’ll be able to “play offline anytime, anywhere.” This must mean that you’re able to download games onto your devices and take them with you, which is very handy if you’re traveling a lot and/or don’t have much of a mobile data plan.

Google Stadia, meanwhile, is all about streaming from the cloud. You won’t be able to store or process games on your devices with Stadia, because Google’s Data Centers will handle that heavy-lifting. This means you’ll only be able to play your Stadia games if you’re connected to the internet.

Asked whether the offline play would ever come to Stadia, Google’s Phil Harrison told GameSpot that it’s “not technically possible” and “would be a compromise of our vision.” So that’s a no, then.

As for what internet speeds you’ll need to support Stadia, Google has recommended 25 megabits per second to get 1080p resolution or 30 megabits per second to get 4K. For reference, the average home WiFi speed in the UK was believed to be a 46.2 megabits per second in 2018.

They’re Launching in Different Places

Apple Arcade will arrive in autumn 2019, and it will launch in over 150 countries. It seems like most countries that have the App Store will be able to access this service. 

Ad – content continues below

Google Stadia will also launch in 2019, with Google promising to announce more information in the summer. Stadia’s initial launch will reach the USA, Canada, the UK, and (in the words of Google’s Phil Harrison, speaking at the Stadia announcement) “most of Europe.”

These two rival services are less similar than they initially seemed, then, and Apple’s service will be available in more places at launch. If this is the next-generation equivalent of the console wars, we look forward to finding out who wins…