Amazon Luna vs. Google Stadia: What's the Difference?

An in-depth look at Google and Amazon’s game streaming services

Amazon Luna and Google Stadia are both game streaming services that allow you to play the latest games, along with old favorites, without making an expensive investment in a gaming console or computer. Amazon and Google both leverage their massive cloud computing muscles to bring low-latency gaming to your computer or phone, but they have very different approaches. Here's what you need to know to make a choice between Amazon Luna vs. Google Stadia.

Controllers for Amazon Luna and Google Stadia

Overall Findings

Amazon Luna
  • Works in Chrome and Safari browsers on PC and Mac, Safari browser on iOS, 2nd gen and newer Fire TV devices.

  • Subscription includes access to library of 70+ games.

  • No need to purchase games.

  • Only 1080p streaming during early access.

  • Proprietary low-latency controller.

Google Stadia
  • Works in the Chrome browser, limited Android phones, some iPhones, and Chromecast Ultra.

  • Free games each month with a subscription.

  • You need to purchase additional games.

  • Stream in 4K if your internet connection supports it.

  • Proprietary low-latency controller.

Amazon Luna is an all-you-can-eat subscription service in the vein of Netflix, while Google Stadia operates on more of a storefront like Steam. The Luna subscription gets you access to the full 70+ game library as long as you remain subscribed, while a Stadia Pro subscription gets you a free game or two per month, and you have to buy anything else that you're interested in.

Once you get past the very different business models, these services are very similar. They both leverage massive global cloud computing networks, they both run in web browsers on desktop computers and mobile devices, and they both work with the respective streaming hardware produced by their parent companies. Stadia offers higher 4K resolution gaming, but Luna is expected to close that gap before it leaves early access.

Hardware Requirements: Stadia Works With Older Operating Systems

Amazon Luna
  • Windows 10 (with DirectX 11)

  • macOS 10.13+

  • FireTV device (Fire TV Stick 2nd gen, Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Cube 2nd Gen)

  • Chrome web browser (version 83+) on PC or Mac

  • Safari web browser (iOS 14) for iPhone and iPad

  • A compatible controller, or a mouse and keyboard.

Google Stadia
  • Windows 7 or higher (Chrome browser).

  • macOS 10.9 or higher (Chrome browser)

  • Chromecast Ultra.

  • Compatible Android phone (Android 6.0 or newer).

  • Compatible iPhone (iOS 11.0 or newer).

  • A compatible controller.

Luna and Stadia have similar requirements, but Stadia is designed to work with older operating systems. Luna only works with Windows 10 during early access, while you can play Stadia on a Windows 7 computer through the Chrome browser. Similarly, Luna requires macOS 10.13 or higher, while Stadia works with macOS 10.9 or higher.

On the mobile side of things, Luna requires iOS 14 for iPhone and iPad, while Stadia requires iOS 11 or newer. Stadia also works with compatible Android phones running Android 6.0 or newer, while Luna doesn't support Android phones or tablets during early access.

Luna does have wider streaming device support than Stadia, as it works with all 2nd gen and newer Fire TV devices, while Stadia requires Chromecast Ultra.

Stadia is the better choice here if you're using slightly older hardware or an Android phone, but it's likely that the Luna requirements will lessen once early access ends.

Input Methods: Simmilar, but Stadia Offers Wider Controller Support

Amazon Luna
  • Designed for low-latency Luna controller.

  • No controller clip available during early access.

  • Works with Xbox one and DualShock 4 controllers.

  • Xbox One and DualShock 4 controllers are compatible with some Fire TV devices.

  • Compatible with mouse and keyboard.

Google Stadia
  • Designed for low-latency Stadia controller.

  • Stadia controller clip available.

  • Also works with most Bluetooth and USB controllers.

  • Chromecast Ultra only works with Stadia controller.

Luna and Stadia have very similar input methods. Both services have their own proprietary Wi-Fi controllers with built-in lag reduction technology. Unlike USB and Bluetooth controllers that connect first to a device, and then to the server through that device, the Luna and Stadia controller connect directly to your wireless router via Wi-Fi and send your inputs directly to the game servers with no computer, phone, or streaming device to act as a middleman.

The tech inside the Luna and Stadia controllers is similar, as is the overall design. The biggest difference is that the Stadia has symmetrical analog stick placement like a Sony DualShock controller, while the Luna has asymmetric placement like an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch pro controller.

Stadia advertises wider controller support than Luna, which Amazon says will only work with Xbox One and DualShock 4 controllers. However, the Chromecast Ultra only works with the Stadia controller. If you have a compatible Fire TV device, you can use the Luna controller, or just use an Xbox One or DualShock 4 controller.

Internet Requirements: Both Services Are Identical

Amazon Luna
  • High speed internet connection required.

  • 10 Mbps required (35+ Mbps for 4K).

  • Amazon reports 10GB/hr data usage for 1080p streaming.

Google Stadia
  • High speed internet connection required.

  • 10 Mbps required (35+ Mbps recommended for 4K streaming).

  • Google reports between 4.5 and 20 GB of data used per hour.

Luna and Stadia have identical internet requirements, with a high speed internet connection of at least 10 Mbps download as the bare minimum. Both services also recommend at least 35Mbps for streaming 4K, with faster connections allowing for better graphic fidelity and higher performance.

Game Library: Each Approaches Offerings Differently

Amazon Luna
  • Free access to entire Luna library with subscription.

  • Additional subscription for additional games, like Ubisoft channel.

  • 70+ games available during early access.

Google Stadia
  • Free games each month with Stadia pro.

  • You need to purchase additional games.

  • 100+ games available for purchase.

The most important factor to consider here is that Luna and Stadia take different approaches to their game libraries. Amazon Luna works on the Netflix model, just like Xbox GamePass, while Google Stadia has more of a traditional storefront.

During early access, the Luna library consists of over 70 games. You don't have to buy them individually, as your monthly subscription fee entitles you to play any games in the Luna library as much as you like. You also have the option to add additional games to the list by paying an additional fee. For example, subscribing to the Ubisoft channel gives you access to older hits and brand new releases from Ubisoft.

Google Stadia has a larger library, with over 100 games available, but you can't play them all for free. Stadia Pro subscribers do get at least one free game per month, which is added to their library just like a purchased game, but other game have to be purchased. Non-subscribers also have to purchase games to play them.

Luna takes the edge in this category, as the monthly subscription fee represents a pretty great deal for access to over 70 games. That's still a relatively small library in the grand scheme of things though, so make sure it has some titles you're interested in before signing up.

Graphics and Performance: Stadia Wins This One Hands Down

Amazon Luna
  • 1080p streaming at launch, with 4K coming later.

  • Runs on Amazon's massive AWS cloud hosting network.

  • Wi-Fi controller transmits inputs directly to servers.

Google Stadia
  • Capable of 4K video at 60 FPS.

  • 7,500 edge nodes to stream from.

  • Wi-Fi controller transmits inputs directly to servers.

With 4K streaming at 60 FPS, Google Stadia wins in the graphics department. Amazon Luna only supports 1080p streaming during early access, with 4K streaming to come at a later date, and only on select titles. If you have a rock solid internet connection, and graphic fidelity is your number one concern, then Stadia has a major edge in this area.

Amazon Luna is likely to catch up in terms of graphics as the service matures, but it's unclear how well it will stack up in terms of performance. Google Stadia boasts over 7,500 edge nodes to connect to their cloud platform and stream Stadia games, while Amazon's massive cloud network is limited to 217 points of presence spread across the entire globe. There are about 70 Amazon cloud edge nodes in North America, along with three regional edge caches.

What that means is you're more likely to be closer to a Stadia server than a Luna server. Since proximity to the server plays a massive role in performance, you're more likely to have better performance with Stadia. The reality of the situation may end up being different as the services mature, and there's always a chance you might have a stronger connection to your local Amazon server, but that's just what the number say.

Final Verdict: The Jury is Out, but Luna Looks Like the Better Deal

Stadia has a few edges over Luna: works with any Bluetooth or USB controller, claims a lot more edge nodes, and is capable of streaming in 4K. However, playing with a Bluetooth or USB controller introduces a lot of lag, Amazon's network is big enough that it's likely to provide similar performance in most cases, and 4K support is on the horizon for Luna.

Luna wins this fight from a value perspective, offering access to 70+ games for less than the Stadia Pro subscription that offers one or two free games per month. Asking people to pay full retail to buy games on Stadia is a bit of a tall order, as the Netflix model used by Luna and Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass is much more attractive to anyone trying to game on a budget with a streaming service instead of investing in an expensive console or gaming PC.