Google Stadia begins rolling out 4K gaming in Chrome browser

Stadia Controller and App

With an increasing number of game streaming services like Google Stadia finding the spotlight, it can be difficult for any individual service to stand out. 4K support is a good way for a streaming service to stay competitive and relevant in today’s market, and that’s probably what Stadia has in mind with its recent tweet confirming that 4K support for Chrome browsers has already begun, rolling out as a “soft release.”

As discussed in our Google Stadia vs. Nvidia GeForce Now comparison, one difference between Google Stadia and GeForce Now is 4K support. Where Stadia supports 4K resolution game streaming through use of its Chromecast Ultra, GeForce Now only supports up to 1080p. While 4K gaming hasn’t yet become the norm (hell, I still haven’t taken the plunge to 1440p), it’s getting there. In fact, just over half of new TV purchases were 4K in 2019, up from about 37% in 2017.

Considering that the quality, performance, and graphics customisation options of games streamed using Google Stadia is somewhat lacking compared to other services like GeForce Now, 4K support is an important feature for Stadia. There are, of course, other game streaming services than Stadia that support 4K, such as Blade’s Shadow service. But 4K support, especially when it’s via your browser, is always a good thing.

Stadia has always supported 4K, but this has previously only been possible through the use of Google’s Chromecast Ultra, which ships in the box. Last Friday, however, Google confirmed (via Reddit) that 4K support on Chrome has already started rolling out as a “soft release” – meaning it has been released only to a limited user base, likely for testing purposes. This slow rollout is reportedly tied to which monitor you have.

This will probably be most important to those users who have been waiting for the upcoming free Stadia Base subscription. Because this free tier won’t come with a Chromecast Ultra, support for 4K in the Chrome browser will be vital for those users with a 4K monitor who want to experience games on the best gaming monitors in all their high-res glory.

Related: The best browser games on PC

Stadia already announced its intention to support “4K gaming on the web” back in January with its ‘New Year’ community update. This was listed alongside other upcoming features such as “further Assistant functionality when playing on the web,” “support [for] additional Android phones”, and “wireless gameplay on the web through the Stadia Controller.”

Stadia’s 4K support, even with the use of a Chromecast Ultra, has been widely criticised in the past. This is because many games appear to only run at 1080p or 1440p and then simply be ‘upscaled’ to 4K. In other words, not true 4K. Many game developers haven’t yet optimised their games for streaming with Stadia.

Google Stadia

Still, even if true 4K is only possible with Stadia some of the time, for a streaming service that’s currently under-performing when compared to its competitors in terms of both quality and performance, it’s still a badge that it can be proud of. Considering Stadia is a closed ecosystem where games have to be purchased in-store, allowing 4K in-browser without the use of a Chromecast Ultra is a good way to combat this extra cost to make it slightly easier on your wallet. Only if you’re gaming at 4K, of course.

Services like GeForce Now let you play your currently owned games by linking to various pre-existing game libraries such as Steam, meaning they already have a lot going for them on the price front. Maybe Stadia’s commitment to 4K without having to splash out on their Chromecast Ultra packages evens out the scales a little… but then again, maybe not.