Ever since the initial reveal of the Google Stadia, I’ve been skeptical of many things surrounding their claims from their implementation to their value and purpose. Today, the first Stadia Connect was broadcast, giving us an idea of their pricing model and games. Having finally given it a watch, I can safely say that Google Stadia is not going to take off the way they hope, but I think the service could be a foundation for something more competent in about 10 or so years. That is the nicest thing I can say because everything else…well, let’s just discuss it.
So let’s start with what I had the biggest issue with: the claim that they could provide 4k 60fps over a streaming service from their servers. I constantly wondered what kind of internet you’d need to have in order to consistently achieve that, and it seems you’ll need about 35mbps according to their handy little chart telling you what resolutions and frame rates are possible at what speeds. If you go to their site, they even give you a speed test to show you where you fall in their requirements. At the moment of writing, Google’s speed test says my download speeds clocks in at about 47mbps, meaning I can enjoy that awesome 4k 60fps 5.1 surround sound experience from my computer, right? Well, yes. For a fee.
See, Stadia is going to be a subscription based service where you can pay a monthly fee or you can buy the games you want outright. Don’t know why you’d ever do that, but you can. More importantly is Stadia’s business model. So, that top notch experience? That’ll cost you $10 a month on top of having to buy the games. Otherwise, you cap out at 1080p 60fps with standard stereo sound. While that doesn’t bother someone like me, I know that there are those who want the most out of their gaming experience. Along with the ability to play in 4K, you also get access to free games and exclusive sales. For $10, that doesn’t seem like the worst. But to gate off the resolution they keep bragging about seems…strange.
Stranger still is that their first game that they’ll get for Stadia Pro will be Destiny 2: The Collection. That’s an odd choice for a first game, but I suppose it’s been out long enough? Currently, they have a Founder’s Pack on offer including the Chromecast Ultra along with the Stadia controller along with 3 months of Stadia. Oh, and you get first dibs on your Stadia name and “the bragging rights that come with it.” So adding up what you get here, that’s $69 for the Chromecast, $69 for the controller, $30 for 3 months of Stadia, and $30 for your friend to do this thing with you. That’s just under $200. Add on Destiny and you just just under $300 apparently. This all just sounds dandy. But. I’ve still got some issues.
First of all, streaming to your Google Pixel will probably not work as well as they hope. Maybe with the rise of 5G they’ll get something going, but we aren’t there yet and will probably not be there for a while given some of the setbacks in that regard. Even if it was, right now only Pixel owners can have that option at launch. Even when it does come to other devices, those internet speeds are still going to be pretty unreliable on the go. I can’t tell you how many places in Chicago alone have dead zones or places where the 4G isn’t as strong. If I’m in the middle of a game, what happens? Do I just have a drop in quality? What about saves? What about progress? As it stands, the “on-the-go” nature they want to foster with this service seems way too unrealistic right now. This, coupled with the fact that you don’t download anything to ensure some sort of stability? I don’t see that going well.
Second, they didn’t exactly bring any breakout hit games that were exclusive to Stadia to make people want to make that jump. I believe their only exclusive was Gylt, the horror puzzle game and that was it. Otherwise, Baldur’s Gate 3? Multiplatform. Destiny 2, The Division 2 and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey? Multiplatform. Remember how they revealed Doom Eternal? Well, you know. We don’t even know if they’ll be the same price as the other platforms, which I hope not since in this case you’re really just paying to stream it. Their game line up seems lacking, relying on games they know people already like to entice players to give this platform a chance with some familiarity. Will that work for the Stadia? I have a lot of doubts it will. A tactic like that works best with a solid project and so far Stadia is just a controller and a Chromecast.
Another thing they didn’t really address that they brought up before was the streamer/player relationship Stadia creates. I wanted to hear more about how that would work, but they just didn’t mention it. For those who forgot, they claimed that if you were watching a streamer from a Chrome browser, you could just click a button to play the game they were playing or hop in with that player and play the same game they were in. We got nothing about that. In this era of streaming, I think that could have been another unique selling point, but nothing. I was a bit disappointed by that.
I don’t see Stadia doing well. It’s a novel idea, but technologies aren’t there yet. Our mobile internet infrastructure sucks, and while home internet is fine enough for what Stadia requires, it won’t be everywhere and who knows how consistent it’ll be. Google has a lot to figure out before they launch Stadia and while I think it’s a terrible idea right now, I think in time this could end up being a good product. If only for that reason, I’m at least glad Stadia exists.