Updated: Oct 6, 2020
OK GOOGLE! QUESTION...
Stadia is here and I have a lot of questions. Where are all the promises they made when the service was announced? Why can't I share a code with a buddy yet? Why do I have to make sure other things aren't using internet for the "best experience"? Why in the hell can I connect the controller wirelessly to the chromecast, but not to my pixelbook? Why don't other Chromecast devices work with Stadia yet? Why can't I Stadia over a data network, but CAN Stadia via tethering through another phone's data network? Just WTF is the service I'm paying for!? *Takes Deep Breath* I should preface all of this by saying. I love the idea of Stadia, hell, I not even mad I pre-ordered the equipment. Because for what I want to do, which is play games on my Pixelbook when I can't on the TV or be home. It gets the job done. However, as you can see, there are a lot of WTF moments that I want to talk about! Because, well, because What the F Google!?
The first issue here is that Google promised us the world. And not just the world, but the future. A future without hardware and true cloud gaming. They, and I quote, stated in their ads "you can bring the same incredible gaming experiences to just about all the screens in your life." Now granted they do say select devices, but never really detailed the hows until close to launch. In fact it's important to note that several promised features aren't even available yet for Stadia. Key features that really sold the service, including wireless Stadia controller support (which I will touch on more later in this article), Achievements, the aforementioned Buddy Pass, Stream Connect, and everything else I mentioned at the start of this article. It's just not okay to launch a service and say it's star features will be coming 2020...just release the damn thing in 2020!
See I was never looking for a console replacement. I was looking for an on the go experience. I'm invested in my xbox one and don't see myself leaving, however, I was willing to double purchase select games to play on my phone or tablet because I thought the goal was mobile. However, at launch that's just not the case with Stadia. To get the full experience you have to use the Chromecast ultra that they provided in the Founder's Edition. Additionally in order to play on your laptop or on that Chromecast Ultra, you’ll have to have the Google Home app. Then you need to have the Stadia app to set up Stadia on the Chromecast, link the controller, and to purchase games. Which again for a service that touted "console free" gaming. It feels a lot like a console. Except worse because with my xbo all I had to do was log in and I was ready to game. I didn't have to jump through hoops like a circus clown. And speaking of clown moves, on a side note. Why doesn't the Chromecast just pull power from the device its connected to? Like when it's plugged in? WTF GOOGLE!?
THE CONTROLLER JUST FEELS RIGHT...
This brings me to the point of the controller. What the whole fruit roll ups were they thinking. So in case you don't know, they made a wireless controller for Stadia that would allow you to get the best out of their platform. But, and here's the freaking mental part, it only works wirelessly with the Chromecast Ultra for now. In addition to that absolute nonsense, the controller has buttons that's supposed to really dial in your Stadia experience, expect, currently none of those functions work. Google assistant, which is supposed to help you if you're stuck on a difficult level. Not functional. The screenshot button only works in certain situations. The frustrating thing is this is hardware #MADEBYGOOGLE designed to work on hardware freaking made by google. . .and it just doesn't. In fact, I linked my xbo controller to my Pixelbook and played Destiny 2 with it just fine. So why did I drop over 100 dollars for this package? Because I bought an experience that just wasn't delivered.
That stated, the controller feels good. Like really good. It takes a just enough elements from the likes of Sony and Microsoft to feel familiar. While doing equally as much to feel new and different. It's not uncomfortable to hold, not to heavy or light. It is truly a sweet spot for controllers. Google has definitely given a lot of thought to how this controller should feel and react in the hand, and it shows.
However, what I find absurd and I am curious about is as to why on God's green earth did it not come with the usb-c to usb-c cable!? Like at least in the Founder's Edition. What the EFF!? You presented a service that touted a lot of great things. Yet launched it without more than half of those things, launched it without the full capabilities of the hardware, and launched it buggy and not ready for consumption. Effectively Stadia is going to leave a bad taste in a lot of mouths as it pertains to Cloud Gaming.
And this is the larger issue at hand with google. The fact that they KNOWINGLY release buggy or unfinished products. Again, I want to be very clear. I believe in this technology. And if not with Google, then certainly with Microsoft. I also think if anyone can give us a flawless experience, it can be Google. What I don't believe in is rushing a project, just to hit goals or meet deadlines with the promise of future updates.
STADIA DOES WORK!
The other big questions about Google Stadia was how much latency games would have. The controller actually connects straight to Google’s servers through Wi-Fi, which then slaps the resulting image back to your screen. Kind of like a ping pong match. And honestly I can say that though there has been stuttering in certain instances. Games look and react great. There might be a bit of lag between when I hit a button to what is relayed on screen, but most times I don't notice and the times I did, it's because I was looking for it.
Now that's not to say that others haven't noticed or had more than I and Google says they might be able to reduce input delay significantly in the future. Which is the theme with Stadia. #ComingSoon. And I want to be clear, I understand that Google is doing a lot of back end stuff to make this all work but I wish they were more proactive than reactive.
Now I know it might look like I'm completely dragging Google Stadia, but they entered a field that they claimed they could change and have made zero change with this launch. Do I think Stadia gets the job done? Yea, sure. I can take my Pixelbook to my restaurant and play Destiny. I can be at the airport waiting for my flight and get my Gylt on. I can Mortal Kombat my co-worker to show him who's really king of the sticks. And that's what I wanted. I'm rarely at home and when I am it's usually family time. Stadia allows for me to be on the go and still get my game on. To not miss certain Destiny 2 events. And to stay connected.
And yes, it takes up a ridiculous amount of data. And that's not okay, but it's expected. And honestly its not Google's fault America has all this Data Cap BS. That said, and I don't wanna bore you with numbers, but even streaming at 720p, Stadia takes up about 10 GB of data per hour. So if you have 1000 GB a month and you played Stadia for 2 hours a day, every day, that's more than half of your Data used a month. That's just on Stadia. And that's just at 720p. The amount goes up the higher the resolution.
Now I say all that to say that I have an xbox, so I'm not trying to do a lot of gaming at home, and if I'm using starbucks Data then I'm gaming just fine. It doesn't affect me, my family, or my wallet. Hell, I even find that the gaming experience on Stadia is almost better than that of the one I get on my xbo. Images look sharper, and controls feel more snappy in Destiny 2 menus. I just wish it was a more put together service. It's hard to invest money into games when I worry if the service is going to last given this turbulent start.
Also because Stadia is currently only available in the Pro tier, which means you have to pay monthly to PAY to purchase and play games, makes it hard to recommend to anyone. Especially when most of these games are available on other platforms with much larger user bases. Like I've only played one successful crucible match on Stadia so far. Since then looking for players takes so long that I give up after 10 minutes. Google is promising a future of Cloud Gaming perfection with Stadia’s extensive list of features, but it’s absolutely insane to me that so many of them aren’t available to try at launch. And it's a quite disappointing.
If Google wants Stadia to survive, in a world where Microsoft is dropping the xCloud and Apple is trying their hand at mobile gaming. Then they need to be the Disney+ of Cloud Gaming. They need to drop the price of their monthly subscription, have some games if not all games available to stream in that Netflix fashion we thought they were doing, and deliver on 2 free games a month rather than 1 like Playstation or Xbox, and probably get some Stadia exclusives going and get them going soon. Because the last thing I want to see if Stadia end up another Google Glass.