The streaming wars are in full swing. No, I don’t mean the various companies offering streaming services duking it out against one another, though there is an element of that going on. What I’m talking about is the game streaming service providers going to war with Apple on ways to get their services on iOS devices in an official capacity. Microsoft was denied having its xCloud streaming service available in its Game Pass app on the App Store when they officially launched their service a couple of weeks ago, unless of course they decided to jump through a bunch of ridiculous and unrealistic hoops first. However, Xbox head Phil Spencer has recently stated that he believes Microsoft and Apple will eventually come to a resolution that allows iOS users access to the xCloud service. Until then I’m rocking my trusty Android tablet xCloud setup and have been pretty happy with it so far.
Then there’s Amazon, who just last week announced their intention to enter the cloud gaming market with a new service they call Luna. What made their announcement especially noteworthy is their claims that Luna will be available on iOS platforms by way of special web apps. Yes, the plan is to circumvent the App Store and Apple’s guidelines altogether, and according to Apple’s own words in their recent guidelines update which “allows" game streaming services on the App Store, this is A-OK with them. They said themselves that “there is always the open Internet and web browser apps to reach all users outside of the App Store."
I think what everyone really wants to know though is how good can a web app experience REALLY be for cloud gaming? Well, we might have a sneak peek at our answer thanks to an extremely clever new web browsing app called Stadium (Free) which allows iOS users to access and play their library of games on Google’s Stadia game streaming service. It has fullscreen support and full support for all controllers that work with iOS, though ironically it doesn’t work with the actual Stadia controller for whatever reason.
What’s cool about Google Stadia is that you can get a one month free trial of their Pro subscription tier and that will give you access to a couple dozen games for free, so you can see what all this cloud gaming business is all about without any real risk. You will need a Google login, which pretty much everyone has already, and you will need to provide a credit card for them to be able to bill you when the trial runs out. Just be sure to set a reminder for yourself for before the trial period runs out so you can cancel the service without getting charged if you don’t plan on continuing to use it. Don’t be like former TouchArcade editor Eli Hodapp and forget about your Stadia membership and just give Google ten bucks a month for almost a full year. Don’t be that guy.
Your Stadia trial will also land you a $10 credit for the Stadia games store, and there are a handful of cool games you can get for that price or less which means you’ll still have access to them even when the Pro trial runs out. There are even more options for games to pick up if you want to just use the $10 credit as a nice discount and are fine spending up to $20 for something out of pocket to pick up the rest of the tab.
Personally, while I like the Stadia service and the idea of cloud gaming in general, I’m not really willing to shell out hefty prices for games on Google Stadia when often those same games are MUCH less on either Steam or consoles, and also with Google’s history you never know when they’ll just decide to up and shut the entire service down on a whim, and I don’t want to spend money on games that will be tied to what could just be a dead service someday. Also their selection of free games for being a Pro subscriber just isn’t enticing enough to drop $10 a month on, especially as I’m already an extremely happy Game Pass subscriber with access to WAY more content for not much more than that per month.
What I’ve done here just to have something to play and check out how Stadium works is use my $10 credit to pick up the Definitive Edition of the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider. I’d never played it before, I don’t own it on any other platform, and it seemed like a decent test of AAA-style gaming and how well it performs both through Stadia’s streaming service itself and through the Stadium browser app on iOS. Well, a better test than Hotline Miami at least, which was also an option in my freebie credit price range.
I’m happy to say that everything works pretty dang flawlessly. There were a couple of hiccups here and there, but only ever during cutscene sections and not actual gameplay, though I did notice the sound was overall a little fuzzy while playing. The performance of Stadia in this instance is actually even better than Microsoft’s xCloud service, which I’ve been playing for the past couple of weeks. If Google could work on getting A LOT more games in their library, adding access to A LOT more games to the Pro subscribers, and prove that they won’t just up and shut down the service out of the blue, I think Stadia is an extremely promising gaming option for those who don’t want to pick up a gaming PC or gaming console and instead want to be able to game on the devices they already own.
Anyway, I’ve gone on a bit of a Stadia rant but the bottom line of all of this is that Stadium is a fantastic app for getting Stadia on iOS devices. The app was created by Zachary Knox who goes by the name of u/zmknox on Reddit and was inspired by some of the more hack-y ways people have been going about getting Stadia on iOS lately. His Stadium solution is simply a very specialized web browser app that gives you the ability to change the user agent, focus on a primary URL (in this case the Stadia homepage), and save your Google login details so that every time you launch the Stadium app it’ll take you right into Stadia itself, ready to go. The controller support was built upon proof of concept work done by u/GrayBayPlay, which you can read more about here and here.
Could Apple get mad and pull Stadium from the App Store? I mean sure, they can do whatever they want. But as far as I can tell, Stadium doesn’t do anything malicious, doesn’t do any sort of tracking, cannot harm your device in any way, and is totally free to use with no ads or IAP. I don’t believe it’s doing anything that violates App Store guidelines. And as I said earlier, this is just an example of someone taking Apple’s own advice and using “the open Internet and web browser apps to reach all users outside of the App Store." Based on my very positive experience using Stadium tonight with my new copy of Tomb Raider, my Xbox One controller, my MOGA controller clip, and my iPhone 11 Pro, this is an extremely viable solution for game streaming, and if a Stadia enthusiast on Reddit can come up with something this good then surely Microsoft, Amazon, Nvidia, and any of the other major cloud gaming players can do at least this good or better.
To try this all out for yourself, you can download Stadium for free with the link below. Instructions on how to get everything running can be found in this Reddit post here. Basically you’ll just need to copy paste the two strings from that post into the two appropriate text boxes in Stadium, and then authenticate your Google account in Stadium, and you’ll be good to go. Then you’ll need an Xbox One, PS4, or MFi controller paired with your device, as the virtual button overlay option in Stadia doesn’t work here. Of course you’ll also need that free trial of Stadia itself or already be a Pro subscriber or own games through Stadia to be able to play stuff, but it’s definitely worth doing at least the free trial just to get a taste of the cloud gaming future on your iOS device. Finally, if you want to discuss all things Stadium or Stadia in our community, go check out this thread in our forums.