Google’s game streaming service looks to be off to a rocky start. Everyone pretend to act surprised.
Google’s anticipated game streaming service Google Stadia releases tomorrow and early impressions have already gone out. While we haven’t been able to test it out for ourselves — you can expect a proper review from us sometime later — most members of the press appear to think Stadia wasn’t ready to hit the market just yet.
Vice’s Patrick Klepek spent a week with the service and said it is “At times, a disaster. At times, a revelation,” and encouraged people to stay away for now. His full review details that he tested out Stadia in less than ideal environments, like at a Starbucks, but emphasized that the purpose of Stadia is to work for people in these environments.
When he described using it at home, he said, “It’s a service with a crappy UI and without games, but it works!” And for those who opt to do this, you’ll need to be wary of data caps as Stadia can eat up to 20GB in an hour streaming at 4K.
Others, like Polygon’s Chris Plante, called Google’s decision to release Stadia today “a colossal mistake.” It may be praised years down the line, but it is far from living up to its potential. Plante’s current pitch for Stadia is even more damning.
Here’s my pitch for Stadia at this moment: a digital storefront from which players can purchase games to stream on certain compatible devices with a number of complicated, sometimes confusing, limitations. This isn’t a subscription service that unlocks hundreds of free games like Xbox Game Pass, nor is it as feature-rich as Sony’s streaming service PlayStation Now. Players need to buy each game on Stadia at retail prices.
But we all knew this going into it. Google wasn’t hiding what this service was. It just looks like after trying it out, most people are finding that the situation was as bad as it sounded. The good news is that some reviewers tended to not notice input lag when running at recommended internet speeds, though Plante did encounter brutal slowdowns and visual stutters. I guess take the little victories where you can.
However, Wired’s Jess Grey stated in her review that input lag was noticeable while playing Mortal Kombat, making the fighting game an odd choice to include in its launch lineup. Grey was a bit warmer to the service than some others, but still recommended that people wait to try the free version instead of spending $129 on the Founder’s Edition.
As for VentureBeat, Jeff Grubb actually considered Stadia to be a win for Google. The service worked consistently for him, and the worst he could say was that playing Mortal Kombat online felt a bit off.
It’s proven that it can work in perfect conditions, meeting and even exceeding expectations. But no one is going to be playing in a perfect environment. That’s not the service that Google got on stage and sold when Stadia was first revealed. It has a long way to go before becoming a viable product. Stadia is a service released too soon for its own good, but it may have helped propel the game streaming revolution.
The general consensus appears to be that Google Stadia still feels like just a beta, as The Verge put it, and not a particularly good one. When it works, it works well, but those moments are few and far between. Coupled with a meager launch lineup of games and missing features, it’s hard to tell who the service is really for.
Stadia Founder’s Edition
$129 at the Google Store
Rough waters ahead
This bundle includes everything you need to get started with Google Stadia like the controller, Chromecast Ultra, Destiny 2, and three months of the Stadia Pro subscription for you and a friend. Just be aware of the type of product you’re getting, and don’t have unrealistic expectations about its capabilities.
Pick up the parts
$70 at the Amazon
You can buy everything together or you can get just the basics for Google Stadia. The Chromecast Ultra is available to purchase now and lets you stream 4K TV as well as play games. This is probably the more appealing option since Stadia’s base subscription is free.