Google Stadia. Is It Good?
Google Stadia launched on November 19th to an extremely mixed reaction. While many were impressed by the technology behind the service, that technology didn’t quite live up to Google’s lofty claims in all situations. More critically Google launched Stadia with a lacklustre line-up of games and features.
Having initially been revealed in March, Google outlined their vision for a streaming future of video games which would allow people to play without requiring a console connected to your TV. Instead content would be streamed over an internet connection much like the shift that has been seen in the way people consume movies and TV. These games would be accessed via Google’s servers and could be consumed across any devise you have including TV’s, computers, tablets and phones.
Alongside this promise of a streaming future Google also outlined their vision for a more interconnected gaming platform. This would allow for greater interaction with content creators and advances to multiplayer due to all aspects of the game being processed in Google’s servers and then broadcast out to players. Fast forward to November though and this advanced streaming future Google outlined hasn’t quite been realised yet.
Those that pre ordered the Stadia Founders Edition and Stadia Premier Edition started to receive their Stadia packages from November 19th’s release date however in the run up to its launch many people were taking the decision to cancel their orders. This was largely down to two key problems that became more and more apparent on the build-up to release, a lacklustre launch line up and a barebones feature set compared to what was initially outlined.
A video game platform can be as advanced and high-tech as possible however ultimately it will be judged on its games. Launch line ups are traditionally underwhelming as developers need time to optimise their software for the new hardware however they do normally try to include either an exclusive title or ports of the latest AAA games. Stadia however launched with none of the latest big games and instead offered a selection of games that although are good, aren’t as relevant towards the end of 2019. What made this matter even worse was that Google chose to announce the initial line up a week before release and the expanded line up only a day before their service went live. I imagine this was largely down to Google finalising agreements with publishers however a lack of information regarding the titles available at launch certainly hurt them when it came to people cancelling their orders.
Since its initial reveal Google has stated that they plan on Stadia being a evolving platform that will grow and improve over time. This is particularly highlighted in the features that are available to users at launch. As of right now Google Stadia is only playable on TV’s via a Chromecast Ultra, computers via a Chrome browser and select Google Pixel phones and tablets running a Chrome OS. No IOS support, no Android support. This support is coming but to not have it available at launch certainly alienates a huge portion of their potential userbase. Their official Stadia controller also will only operate wirelessly while using the Chromecast Ultra meaning that any other set up with the controller Google wants you to use requires a wired connection, something that seems outdated on such a service focussed on technological advancements.
Beyond the hardware hurdles, Stadia also launched with numerous software issues. A lack of achievement system, games only purchasable through the Stadia app (this has already been updated to include Chrome browsers), titles not rendered at full 4K despite being processed on high-end PC’s as well as the issues that everyone forsaw in terms of latency and rendering of games being played over the internet.
Google states that Stadia will scale depending on your internet speeds. The issue is that people’s internet varies drastically not only across the world but also in countries with access to higher speeds and even within an individuals home depending on their WiFi range. Google obviously suggests using a ethernet cable when possible but very few homes are set up to accommodate this. As of right now even if you have the best internet speeds possible Google Stadia will only stream in 4K 60fps on the Chromecast Ultra, PC users have to wait for Google to expand this support.
Fortunately the internet I have available at home is more that suitable. As of writing this my current download speed is 236Mbps via Virgin Media on a Sunday afternoon with a number of devices connected to our Wifi and several streams happening at once. Subsequently I have had very good experiences with Google Stadia. Vary rarely do I experience any input lag or drop of image quality. For me it has joined my consoles in being a legitimate option for playing games on. Of course I would like a more robust line up of games. I find it confusing why Google didn’t push to get games like Call of Duty Modern Warfare, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, FIFA 20, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Fortnite on their platform at launch. I am sure that many of these games will come at some point down the line but to have them included on release day would have legitimised Google’s platform tenfold.
Personally Stadia does offer some games I am interested in. The Stadia Pro subscription that comes free with the Founders Edition gives you access to Destiny 2 The Collection, Samurai Showdown, Tomb Raider Definitive Edition and Farming Simulator Platinum Edition. I have been playing both Destiny 2 and Tomb Raider as well as Grid and Darksiders Genesis which I have purchased. All of which offer great experiences and have run very well in my experience.
Google Stadia currently finds itself in a difficult situation then. On one hand at its core, it works. On the other the vision that Google presented to us is still not available. Would I recommend Stadia to someone as a viable option, not yet no especially when you can get an Xbox One S All Digital Edition for less than £200. But from what I have experienced they certainly have planted their flag firmly enough in the ground to grow and potentially offer legitimate competition to Sony and Microsoft in 2020 and beyond.