The launch of Google Stadia has been met with wide-spread criticism from critics and gamers alike.
The cloud-based gaming system was already on the back foot, with claims that its “negative latency” technology would become “faster than local gaming systems.” It was also criticized that the system would exceed data caps for those who had them, and negatively impact the used game market and game preservation should the system take off.
To make matters worse, Google later revealed the system would not be a Netflix-style subscription, and that games would be purchased at full price much like their local console counterparts. On top of this, Stadia lacked a “killer app” with most games being older (albeit popular) titles. With only an initial line-up of 12 games, Google later increased that number to 22.
Nonetheless, Google studio lead Jade Raymond told GamesIndustry.biz that the system may not have games fully utilizing cloud technology for several years. However, she did state there were exclusive games in the works, possibly on a yearly release.
“It is a long term view that Google is taking,” Raymond stresses. “For a big bet and a huge new IP that’s going to fully leverage the cloud, it may be several years. But we do have quite a few exclusive games in the works that will demonstrate some of the exciting things about the platform all along the path. It won’t be four years before gamers get to see the new exclusive, exciting content. There will be some coming out every year, and more and more each year.”
Numerous other issues also became apparent. The controller would not support wireless headphones on TV play on release, the wireless controller would need to use a USB-C cable to be used with PCs and phones, those who pre-ordered the game may not receive the system on launch-day or the “Buddy Pass” for a friend.
Along with the delay in the buddy pass, the Reddit AMA thread revealed yet absences at launch. Google Assistant features would not work except for launching the game, the Stadia could not stream 4K or HDR to Chrome PCs, no achievements, no games supporting Stream Connect, State Share, or Crowd Play, and that the Stadia would not work on Chromecast Ultras until a firmware update- despite those in the Founder’s Edition being able to.
Google’s director of product Andrey Doronichev stated that Stadia would update over time, much like other Google services.
“Our approach to releasing features on Stadia is similar to how we run Google Search, YouTube and other Google services: gradual rollout and continuous improvement, based on your feedback. We always start with nailing the key user-journey and then proceed with releasing extra features. YouTube started with “watch video”. For Stadia it’s “Play the Game on your biggest screen”. New features will start popping as soon as one week after launch.”
Combined with how Google quickly abandons projects that do not work (Google+, Google Reader, Google Wave, Google Buzz, Picasa, Orkut, and more), some developers feared the Stadia would have a short life-span, or even be cancelled before it launched. Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, Gwen Frey (Kine) stated that the largest complaints from developers was the latter, though quickly defended Google being willing to take risks, and the concept of cloud gaming.
“The biggest complaint most developers have with Stadia is the fear is Google is just going to cancel it. Nobody ever says, ‘Oh, it’s not going to work.’ or ‘Streaming isn’t the future.’ Everyone accepts that streaming is pretty much inevitable. The biggest concern with Stadia is that it might not exist. And if you think about it like that, that’s kind of silly. Working in tech, you have to be willing to make bold moves and try things that could fail. And yeah, Google’s canceled a lot of projects. But I also have a Pixel in my pocket, I’m using Google Maps to get around, I only got here because my Google Calendar told me to get here by giving me a prompt in Gmail. It’s not like Google cancels every fucking thing they make.
This is tech. The default state is failure. But this s cool, and it could really change things.”
Google also emailed tips to those who pre-ordered the Stadia [1, 2], and even this drew ire. Along with recommending an Ethernet connection as oppose to wi-fi, they also recommended not to stream movies or music to other devices while playing the Stadia. “It can slow things down.” This quickly drew comparisons to the days of dial-up internet, where the internet could not be used while someone was making a phone-call and vice-versa.
The Stadia was released November 19th, and the general consensus among reviews was not positive- widely citing performance issues, input lag, poor quality graphics, and the large cost of investment compared to other platforms.
Bungie even confirmed to the Verge the game was running at 1080p, upscaled to 4K and “runs at the PC equivalent of medium settings.” The Washington Post confirmed that players would be unable to adjust any of the game’s graphical options.
“I expected to not to have to sneer at sub-optimal latency, video compression artifacts, or wrestle with finicky software. Regrettably, I bumped into all of these issues on multiple occasions. I can play games for long periods of time under generally acceptable conditions, but it’s all too easy to focus on the little annoyances that make Stadia feel like a less-than alternative to traditional console or PC gaming.”
“[…] So far, Google’s tech has impressed me to the point where I would comfortably play most in a browser tab or on a phone without batting an eye, but then I consider that I will have to buy the vast majority of games, and I’m left in awe of the value Microsoft and Sony are offering, even if their overall services lack Stadia’s flexibility. For the moment, cloud gaming still feels like a decent alternative to the real thing, and I don’t think I’m ready to dedicate a full-price game purchase to a secondary platform.”
“Until Google finds a way to loop in YouTube and develop truly unique competitive large-scale games, Stadia isn’t worth your time yet. Yes, the future is possibly wild, and you can see hints of the streaming-only cloud-based playground Stadia wants to become. But we’ll see what it shapes into over the next handful of months and check back in.”
“I may have been a Stadia skeptic going into this test run, but I was willing to give it a chance. But this has been a catastrophe from start to finish during my testing phase, and the problem is that even if it did work flawlessly, which it absolutely doesn’t, the entire model seemed doomed from the start. This is an enormous miss from Google, and I am really wondering what the fallout is going to be from this ill-conceived early launch.”
“With Destiny 2, it’s even more obvious that the game isn’t running at the highest settings. On a Chromecast Ultra, a “4K” stream looked closer to 1080p, and my colleague Tom Warren and I swore that the 1080p streams we were getting in the Chrome web browser looked more like 720p.
Initially, Google told us that it was using the highest-resolution, highest-fidelity build of Destiny 2 available. But Bungie later confirmed that our eyes weren’t deceiving us. “When streaming at 4K, we render at a native 1080p and then upsample and apply a variety of techniques to increase the overall quality of effect,” a Bungie rep said, adding that D2 runs at the PC equivalent of medium settings. That explains why the Xbox One X build, which runs at a native 4K and with higher-res assets, looks so much better than Stadia.”
[…] “There’s no reason anyone should buy into Stadia right now. Google has made sure of that, partly by underdelivering at launch and partly with a pricing scheme that sees you paying three times (for hardware, for the service, for games) just to be an early adopter.”
~ The Verge
“Google is right that casual players don’t want to spend $300-to-$500 on consoles. But they also don’t want to spend $60 on software. Sure, they might buy Red Dead or FIFA. But that audience is used to getting games for free on mobile devices. So Google Stadia might work, but it doesn’t actually matter.”
~ Venture Beat
“When played on a browser or LCD 4K TV, horrendous latency plagued singleplayer and multiplayer games, giving a cinematic game like Shadow of the Tomb Raider the feel of an avant garde college grad project, replete with buggy, quick cuts. Precision shots were impossible in Destiny 2. Even walking in a straight line was a challenge in the otherwise lovely indie game Gylt, the console’s only exclusive title.”
[…] On the phone, however, a totally different story emerges. While playing Destiny 2 in 60 fps on a Google Pixel 3a XL over a WiFi connection, there was almost no blurriness and barely any latency. Barring a few noticeable but quick skips during play, the images produced were fast and sharp on the phone’s 2160×1080 resolution screen.
[…] “Stadia is absolutely paving a new sort of information highway for gaming. My advice today is to stay in your current lane until they finish that work.”
~ The Washington Post
You can find The Washington Post’s video on the input lag they experienced here.
What do you think of Google Stadia? Sound off in the comments below!