Google sneakily delivered some news to Stadia Founder's Edition pre-order customers on Tuesday. The company published a new video meant to explain the appeal of its Stadia game streaming platform, and in fine print, it revealed that at launch its Stadia Controller would only support wireless play when paired with the Chromecast Ultra. Using the controller with any other device requires a USB-C cable.
Even that isn't guaranteed: a Google community manager said on Reddit that "when plugged in via USB cable, the Stadia Controller acts as a standard USB HID controller and may work on other platforms depending on the game and setup." Anyone looking to use the Stadia Controller with multiple devices now has to carry around a USB-C cable and hope the game they want to play supports USB HID controllers.
You wouldn't know the Stadia Controller was limited in such a way by looking at its product page on the Google Store website. The product copy said: "With the Stadia Controller, switch between TVs, laptops, desktops, and Pixel 3 and 3a with cross-screen early access starting from day one." A footnote makes it clear that playing on a TV requires a Chromecast Ultra, but it doesn't mention wireless support.
Google had plenty of time to make this clear to potential Stadia Controller buyers ahead of the device's launch. The controller's design leaked in March, and it was officially revealed in June, when it also became available for pre-order. Yet the only disclosure of its limited wireless capabilities arrived via fine print on a YouTube video published just a few weeks before Stadia's debut on November 19.
The good news is that Google told The Verge the Stadia Controller's limited wireless capabilities are supposed to be temporary. Once it can get wireless support working on devices other than the Chromecast Ultra--and make switching between them as seamless as possible--it will expand it. But there's no telling how long that will take; Stadia Controller owners could be stuck with their USB-C cables for a while.
Stadia's appeal at launch is supposed to be seamless gameplay across multiple devices. Restricting wireless play to the Stadia Controller (and only allowing the Chromecast Ultra to pair with the Stadia Controller rather than supporting additional devices) inhibits the platform's ability to deliver on that experience.