Gamers Need To Know More Before Investing In Google Stadia
As you’re all probably well aware now, Google held their press conference at GDC2019 which is taking place right now. With it, they brought along something very exciting… the Stadia game streaming service.
Stadia is basically the Netflix of the gaming industry. You sign up to Google’s service, your screened item connects to Google’s network and you stream games. There’s even a possibility to switch between devices mid-game, which was demonstrated pretty flawlessly at their GDC conference.
But there are still some waht I believe are very important questions that need to be answered. What does the complete game selection look like? We saw a lot of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which has proven to work in their beta testing already, and we were even treated to some Doom Eternal footage which was great. There were also a handful of what I would call indie games which were demonstrated. But is that it? Are there more publishers involved?
The biggest question of them all is how much does it all cost? Google kept this very secret during their show. Is it a pay monthly scheme? Do you buy the games outright and use Google as a service? Are we expected to see adverts during our loading screens and after every hour of gameplay? They did say that Youtube Red customers will not see adverts at all.
What about iOS customers who quite literally dominate the market? Of course Google used their own devices like the Pixel 3 and Google tablet to show off the software working, and there were no Apple devices in sight.
There was speculation around the actual ownership of the titles you will be able to play too. If you’re having to buy a £50 ($60) game outright to use on Google’s platform, does it live on that platform, or will you be able to play it through other services like Steam, Uplay, Origin or Epic? Likewise, are you able to play your existing games through Google Stadia?
One great feature available on Stadia is the fact that if someone is watching your YouTube stream, they will be instantly able to play with you in that game thanks to the inclusion of a Play Now button that will appear on your channel. Viewers will be queued to take turns to play with you. Sure, it’s probably quite lucrative to those wanting to play games with the likes of Dr. Disrespect or even PewDiePie and it will definitely drive players to the service. But, I’m wondering if both streamer and viewer have to have the Google Stadia system and the game. For example, a streamer is playing a co-op game through Stadia, and a viewer has that same game on the PS4. Can they just jump in? Or do they need to jump in using the Stadia platform on their Android phone or laptop?
The promise of 4K HDR image quality at 60FPS is a bold one to say the least, especially when there are chunks of the UK that definitely do not support the right broadband speeds to handle that kind of quality, even through something like YouTube which adds their own compression to the image. A previous home of mine, in the centre of our capital city could only receive 1mbps broadband thanks to the terrible infrastructure of the area.
In a recent interview with Kotaku, Phil Harrison stated that “to get 1080p, 60 frames per second, required approximately 25 megabits per second. In fact, we use less than that, but that’s where we put our recommended limit at.” So if I was still in my old home, it wouldn’t work. But if I was at home, wouldn’t I just fire up my gaming PC that I’ve spent a lot of time and money building? I’ve already got five game launchers installed, do I really need another?
But they do promise gaming on the go, which is something I could get behind. Though a caveat to that is the fact that people are so limited to the data packages their networks allow. The most common data packages in the UK sit anywhere between 8 – 20GB. Will this be enough to stream Assassin’s Creed Odyssey every day for around two hours while I commute to and from the office? Secondly, could 4G really handle the speed needed to run a game at 1080p at 60FPS? What if I go through a tunnel on my train and I lose all signal? If I stop for lunch, am I really going to want to launch a game of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey? Where by the time I ate my lunch I’ve probably run between two towns.
Google Stadia seems like a fantastic idea on paper. I’m excited to see where it’s going to send the gaming industry in the future. However I’m just not sure we’re ready for it yet, especially when the current systems in place to play games are so good already. If you want to play games on the go but want to steer away from Clash of Clans or Candy Crush-esque mobile games, you might be better off buying a Nintendo Switch.