Today sees the launch of Google Stadia – the new service being dubbed the “Netflix of gaming”. However, the platform has been receiving mixed reviews.
First announced back in March, Stadia is a new product designed to bring gaming inline with other streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify. Running without a console, gamers can use Stadia via a cloud-based service accessible through a wide selection of existing electronic devices and playable over a regular Wi-Fi connection.
It was said that gamers would be able to enjoy big titles streamed at 4K resolution at 60 frames per second in HDR on this Google-powered streaming service through Chromecast-enabled TVs, Chrome web browsers and Google Pixel devices. A Stadia-enabled controller also features a special button that will enable users to share in-play clips straight to YouTube.
The service launched today with 22 titles available to play – including Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Red Dead Redemption II, Just Dance 2020, and a number of Tomb Raider games. Stadia costs £119 for a bundle that includes a controller and a Chromecast dongle, £8.99 per month for a Stadia Pro subscription, as well as a cost of up to £69 per game for premium titles.
Our launch lineup has just expanded! We now have 22 titles available to play starting November 19, with even more games arriving by the end of 2019. pic.twitter.com/mN8WbLjuBW
— Stadia (@GoogleStadia) November 18, 2019
However, the service has so far received mixed reviews from gamers and critics – with many complaining about the “lag” in the loading of graphics. Many have taken to social media to complain about significant delays between when they press a button and when that action is carried out in-game.
Some have also noted that video quality often drops to 720p to allow for quicker service, leading to choppy and lo-res scenes in game play.
Destiny 2 on Google Stadia is lit pic.twitter.com/6QSm0oaCcY
— Jez (@JezCorden) November 19, 2019
Here’s a Mortal Kombat Stadia cutscene recorded on my TV (sry for quality) so you can see the kind of stuttering and sync issues I’m talking about pic.twitter.com/OzmOPraZgh
— Paul Tassi (@PaulTassi) November 18, 2019
Oh my lord, Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC looks so bad on Stadia.
It's absolutely no contest compared to the Xbox One X and it only uses 44% of the pixel count. Apparently Stadia is 80% faster than XB1X and yet it only runs at 1440p and 30FPS. pic.twitter.com/l2BkRnzaMX
— Pixelbuster (@Nitomatta) November 18, 2019
"the input lag on Google Stadia is nothing to worry about it's hardly noticeable!"
— The Istvaan Man (@Canteen__) November 18, 2019
The Verge in their review meanwhile, wrote that: “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 Guardian noted that “the streaming works”, but noted that graphics could be “shaky” and questioned its value with only one new and exclusive game available via the service (Gylt). “Ultimately, the only real benefit of the system is the absence of that box under the TV,” they concluded. “If your impeccable sense of interior design values that above game selection, price, offline play or community size, go for it. Otherwise, stick with a home console if AAA games are where your heart lies, or pick up Apple Arcade to see what a revolution looks like when it focuses on the games and not the technology.”
CNet agreed: “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.”
“The overall Stadia system design is focused on low latency game play,” a Google spokesman told Sky News. “We achieve this through the overall architecture and detailed design of the Cloud, endpoints, and input devices like the Stadia controller.
“By connecting through WiFi, the Stadia controller delivers the lowest latency solution for Stadia as it connects directly to the Cloud. Additionally, we saw great results with Project Stream and have been optimistic about our continued work around minimising lag concerns even further.
They continued: “We are working on lowering the end to end latency with our scaled deployment including streaming algorithms and proprietary hardware. ”
Speaking to the BBC about the virtues of Stadia, Google Vice President Phil Harrison said: “I don’t think what we’re doing is particularly revolutionary when you consider what’s happened in the music, television and film industries.”
“They’ve moved from being packaged goods, discs, CDs, DVDs, blu rays, to almost exclusively an online and streaming experience.”
He continued: “I don’t claim that this innovation is going to change the world overnight. But I think this is the direction of travel and that this will be a very strong future for the games industry to create these kind of streaming experiences.
“We’re not the only ones thinking about this.”
He argued that Stadia had created a cheaper way to play the latest games without updating graphics cards as you would have to with other consoles.
“It allows more gamers to have access to more of the latest, greatest games without the need for these complicated, expensive pieces of hardware – which, let’s not forget, also require updates, download patches, installs,” he said. “All this nonsense that goes around games will just go away.”
Harrison added: “When you get the chance to play a game of the sophistication of Red Dead Redemption 2 on a phone streaming over the internet and it’s pixel perfect – that is one of those great moments in the industry where you see that this is a leap forward.”