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How to play games on Google Stadia on release day

Playing Google Stadia games on launch day may not be as straightforward as you think.

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Destiny 2, one of the nearly two dozen games Stadia will come with at launch.

Google

This week is the official launch of Google Stadia, and if you've been salivating for the streaming games platform since May, you will be able to start playing on Nov. 19… maybe.

Google's subscription gaming service will work a bit like Netflix or Disney Plus, where you stream games to your mobile device, computer or TV, with all the heavy processing happening online. If you bought the either the Stadia Founder's or the Stadia Premiere bundle, you get access to the service on launch day along with a free three-month trial to the Stadia Pro subscription plan, a limited-edition controller and a Chromecast Ultra streaming device.

As we got closer to this week's Nov. 19 launch day, Google started to talk about when exactly you'll be able to play, which devices you'll be able to play on, and which games will be available when Stadia goes live. Here's what we know about playing Google Stadia.

What do I need to play on Nov. 19?

If you preordered the Founder's Edition or Premiere Edition, you may be able to play when the gaming service opens Nov. 19 at 9 am PT: Google said it's shipping the Founder's and Premiere editions on a first-come, first-served basis, with initial shipments leaving the warehouse Nov. 18. You don't need this to play, and more on that below.

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The Google Chromecast Ultra and Stadia Controller that comes with the Premiere Edition.

Google

Back to the physical package you'll get on your doorstep, delivery times could vary depending on when you placed your order, in some cases, arriving after Nov. 19. When CNET staff checked estimated delivery dates for their orders earlier this month, estimated delivery dates ranged from Nov. 21 to Dec. 4.

The good news is, you don't need your bundle to arrive to play. On the day Google ships your order, it will send you an email with an invite code that lets you create your account and reserve your name in the Android app or iOS app. You also use the Stadia app to purchase games.

After you're set up, you can play Stadia games on your Pixel phone or in your Chrome browser while you wait for your limited-edition controller and Chromecast Ultra streaming device to arrive.

Can I still order the Stadia Premiere bundle?

Google still has the Premiere bundle available for order in its store. The Founder's bundle sold out earlier this year.

Which devices work with Google Stadia?

For mobile devices, you can play on Google's Pixel 2, Pixel 3, Pixel 3a, and Pixel 4 phones and tablets running Chrome OS. Google said it wants to expand Stadia to iOS and other Android devices next year.

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The Pixel 4, one of the devices that can play Stadia at launch.

Angela Lang/CNET

You can also play in the Chrome browser on a computer, and you can use a USB cable to connect a non-Stadia controller to your mobile device or computer to play. 

To play on your TV at launch, you'll need to use the Stadia Controller and Google Chromecast Ultra ($69 at Walmart) that comes with your order: That Stadia-specific Chromecast Ultra includes firmware for the Stadia Controller. Google said soon after launch, it will push an over-the-air firmware update to non-Stadia Chromecast Ultras so they can also work with the Stadia Controller. 

What if I didn't buy the Founder's or Premiere edition?

If you didn't pop for the $129 Founder's or Premiere bundle, you'll need to wait till next year, when you can play on the Stadia Base level for free, purchasing individual games as you go.

Which games are available on launch?

Google initially said Stadia would have a dozen games to play on its Nov. 19 release date:

But two days before launch Google announced 10 more:

Prices range from $10 to $100 per game, with many in the $50 to $60 range. In addition to the 22 games out now, Google said it will have four more games available by the end of the year. Google said you have 14 days after purchase to get a refund on Stadia games you've played for less than two hours.

For more on Google Stadia, see how it stacks up with Apple's Arcade games service and how Stadia compares with other cloud gaming services.