When Google first unveiled its video game streaming service Stadia in March this year, which would allow users to play high-fidelity games essentially anywhere, it was making a statement, both a literal one and an investment one.
On one hand, it was simply revealing a new offering among its ever-so-expansive library of products and services.
On the other hand, it was making a subliminal declaration to the tech market, announcing that it will be one of the earliest to capitalize on the video game streaming niche. Few foresaw the success of video streaming à la Netflix, and companies like Google think they’ve captured lightning in the bottle once more with a video game offering of that same business model.
However, in its rush to beat its rivals to the scene, it seems Google has launched a half-baked product onto the market last week, and people are not impressed.
When Google announced the Stadia, we were genuinely excited. While we realized something like this would not break into the mainstream in the Middle East, where internet speeds are average (and below average in some countries), we were excited about the novelty of the project.
Google promised a lot of things during that announcement, most notably a consistent 4K streaming experience. Post launch, this doesn’t seem the case.
“Last week, website 9to5google accused Google of ‘lying’ about the performance of Stadia games after it emerged key titles were not running in 4K resolution and 60 frames per second,” Eurogamer reported.
“The reality of Stadia is an issue for many owners of the streaming tech because it contradicts statements made by Google and its executives in the run up to release, and because Google is locking “up to 4K” resolution behind its [$8.99]-a-month Stadia Pro subscription” the game news site continued.
Google, however, released a statement in response, which highlights that it is not exactly their doing that led to this.
“Stadia streams at 4K and 60 FPS – and that includes all aspects of our graphics pipeline from game to screen… Developers making Stadia games work hard to deliver the best streaming experience for every game. Like you see on all platforms, this includes a variety of techniques to achieve the best overall quality. We give developers the freedom of how to achieve the best image quality and framerate on Stadia and we are impressed with what they have been able to achieve for day one.”
Apparently, there was a disconnect between Google’s expectations and goals and game developers’ capabilities of porting the Stadia-approved titles from their original platforms. Still, some argue that Google should have been on the same page with developers before making any grandiose promises.
Major issues noted on launch
Failed promises are only one aspect of the Stadia’s lukewarm response – technical issues abound too.
One reviewer reported inconsistent performance even at high connections speeds (43 Mpbs). When it works, it works well, but it also often struggles. Even when it works, the fact that you are streaming a game and not running it on your own hardware, means playing a reflex-heavy game like a first person shooter online like the available Destiny 2 is a total no go.
Significant price barrier
As it to be expected of any new piece of technology, there’s often a novelty mark-up to pay. While not outright expensive at first glance, the Stadia proves its hefty price tag upon closer inspection.
While one might assume that the whole service is rentable at the stated $9.99, there are in fact some other supplementary purchases to go with it. For one, to get started with the service, users need to shell out $130 for a hardware starter kit with three months’ subscription. After these three months, it’s a monthly $9.99 fee.
But that’s not all. Unlike Netflix, which even we compared the Stadia too, you don’t get access to all the ported games made available on the Stadia library (42 games). In fact, you have to pay full price for digital copies of these games. So, to play a one-year old game like Red Dead Redemption 2, you’ll have to pay full price for it – you can see why people aren’t too excited about that, especially if Google shuts down the service and you lose your titles permanently.
In the end, the Google Stadia is quite a tough sell. With virtually no market in the Middle East and other regions with insufficient internet speeds, as well as a high barrier to entry and technical inconsistencies, we don’t foresee the Stadia launching off in the successful manner Google had hoped for it, which is certainly unfortunate for any new tech. There is definitely room for improvement in the future, though, as Google tweaks its service and business model. Until then, though, it’s a no go for the Google Stadia.