The promise of a game streaming service like Google Stadia is hard to reject. You can theoretically play high quality games almost anywhere on the internet, without much more than a little technology and a new thought. In good faith it is a reality worth wishing for.
I believe in that future after spending a week with Stadia, but it is also obvious that there is a long way to go for Google to get us there. Stadia's most innovative features will not be complete until at least 2020, and there are layers of small issues that plague these and now the basics. Even then, Google made us aware of a number of things that will change at Stadia's November 1
With cloud games on the brain and having finally seen what Stadia (mostly) is, it's becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the other game giants next to Google on the track: Microsoft and Sony. Sony's PlayStation Now cloud service was recently priced at $ 10 a month (with discounts for longer commitments), giving you access to hundreds of PlayStation games from multiple console generations on a few different devices. Microsoft's streaming service for xCloud games exists only as a private beta, but our early experiences streaming to Android phones have been agile. Microsoft also expanded its available gaming library from four to 50, and revealed at the same time that xCloud will be part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription from next year.
However, neither Microsoft nor Sony can match Stadia's framework today, which emphasizes extensive multi-platform support, quality of life features that seamlessly connect the experience between devices and 4K, 60 FPS games with HDR and Dolby 5.1 on your TV. Google is one of the few companies that is positioned to make cloud gaming an experience on par with dedicated consoles or computers, and that seems to go for it.
Google also states that Stadia is "a place for all the ways we play," a bold claim to the couch, desk and palms. The decision to charge per game, in addition to a service charge for the advanced Stadia features, is driven by high expectations. Given enough time, Google could theoretically run in with a noise and scare the pants from the competition with a revolutionary service. But Google really gestures hello and asks if we want to play with a work in progress.
Over the past week I've been playing pieces by Red Dead Redemption 2, Destiny 2, Mortal Kombat 11, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Kine and the new exclusive Stadia, Gylt – a youthful adventure with Alan Wake vibes. These tests took place on a Pixel 3 XL phone, on multiple computers and laptops, and on a 4K TV, primarily with Google's official Stadia controller.
And wouldn't you know it, Stadia worked well for the most part. On a good connection, I looked at console-level graphics on a mobile device, and with Founder's Edition control and a custom plastic clip, I also had quality control checks. When I got tired of cozying up to the phone, which is a bit of a problem for most games, I can transfer to a computer by opening the Stadia pop-up menu and redirecting the drop-down menu to an open Chrome browser tab. You will need to connect the Stadia controller to your PC for now, but you can alternatively use an Xbox One or DualShock 4 controller to play wirelessly. If 4K is what you really are looking for, you can point the Stadia power towards your Chromecast Ultra (included in the founder's Edition bundle).
Google Stages Gameplay: Mortal Kombat 11, Destiny 2, and more
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But as the old saying goes, just because you can't mean you should, especially if you have traditional gaming hardware within easy reach. During about a week of testing, Stadia exhibited many small pain points. I did not expect to have to laugh about sub-optimal latency, video compression objects or wrestling with sophisticated software. Unfortunately, I came across all these issues on several occasions. I can play games for long periods under generally acceptable conditions, but it's too easy to focus on the little annoyances that make Stadia feel like a less than alternative to traditional console or PC games.
Stages today, however, will not even be tomorrow's Stages, when Google officially launches its ambitious early adopters gaming platform, the selection of Stadia games, their cost, number of players on servers, publisher page for certain games, Google Assistant button , some of Mortal Kombat 11's locations, support for mobile PS4 and Xbox One controllers on mobile, shared captured content, being able to voice chat and seamless streaming of games on mobile will hopefully be completed and working.  Not everything about Stadia is in limbo, and I can say that the final controller is a winner. With a body similar to a Switch Pro controller and a layout similar to a DualShock, the Stadia control is both familiar and new. Material is nice and comfortable to hold, and practically it works like a charm. I have only good things to say about the Stadia control, and it should only increase in value as Google continues to release new features centered around its built-in microphone and Wi-Fi connection.
But a word of caution: Google's recommended smartphone clip scratches on the Founder & # 39; s Edition control's finely textured finish, leaving permanent scuffs in the grooves. Claw, as it is called, has a very robust grip, and the tension on the telephone clamp is just as intense. Definitely think twice before investing in a phone clip if you are sensitive to your controller's cosmetic condition, but do not take the chance for granted, as Claw places the phone ideally for mobile gaming.
We can also think of Stadia's data requirements, which, according to Google, will consume up to 20 GB of data per hour for 4K games, or 4.5 GB per hour at 720p everywhere else. There is a balanced option where Google will calculate a data rate somewhere in the middle, based on your network environment.
To make a long story short, I had to lose $ 50 extra on my internet bill to unlock my data capacity, which I am currently experiencing or coming close to hitting each month. It's a cost I can afford because it's for work, but when I try to imagine what impact that would have on me as a typical consumer, I dare say it's a dealbreaker.
Even with my professional motivation, the extra cost makes me rethink the value of Stadia's convenience when I am obliged to increase my key bill and also pay out of pocket for most games, many of which are old titles that I have played or decided not to play on other platforms. Destiny 2 and Samurai Shodown are free at launch, and Google promises to add more free games over time to Pro subscribers, but what does it do to me today, as a virtual founder of Stadia?
At least, I can certify a handful of games that will be part of the launch. As it is free for all Stadia Pro users, Destiny 2 is surely one of the most popular games outside the gate. Under ideal conditions, Destiny 2 plays decent, with responsive controls and good graphics. However, if you encounter delay, you will fight under firefighters while your reticle darts and stalls. It is also one of the more challenging games to play on a phone screen because of the relative size of distant enemies that you might otherwise see on a TV, but which seems small when shrinking to fit the smaller screen.
Mortal Kombat 11 is another game that becomes unplayable without a connection strong enough to support rapid action and reactions. That goes without saying for most video games, but that's especially true with a fighting game like MK. But when everything works as it should, MK doesn't feel that far away from the real deal – although the minimum input latency is always obvious if you explicitly look for it.
I can play games for long periods of time in generally acceptable conditions, but it is too easy to focus on the small annoyances that make Stadia feel like a less than alternative to traditional console or PC games .
Of the games we made available, Shadow of The Tomb Raider proved to be the best balanced for Stadia, which is more of a factor in the game's relatively low key requirements.
Gylt is the exclusive game in the package, but it is far from a system vendor, leaning in basic stealth design and a childish definition of terror as its main selling points. As mentioned earlier, it evokes an atmosphere that can best be compared to Alan Wake, with strange supernatural disturbances that create havoc on the real world. There are monsters between you and the next item or puzzle, and the best way to keep you alive is to sneak undetected or hit back with a flashlight to defeat monsters. After an hour of playing with Gylt, my interest dried up. I can see how it can entertain someone who is not dedicated to keeping up with the latest games, but the derived design is probably the way to satisfy the gaming enthusiast who is waiting to see what Stadia is all about.  I've experienced less than half of Stadia's launch library right now. There will be more games coming soon, but most are titles that are readily available on other platforms. So far, Google technology has impressed me to the point where I would comfortably play the most in a browser tab or on a phone without turning a blind eye, but then I think I have to buy the vast majority of games, and I'm left with astonishment at the value that Microsoft and Sony offer, although their overall services lack Stadia's flexibility. At 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.
I will continue to prioritize my consoles and PCs for the foreseeable future, but I will also continue to test Stadia for the next few days, and will soon return with my final thoughts on Stadia's 2019 debut.