Stadia one month later: Streaming service a work in progress

Stadia is a vision of the future, but it’s not the one
everyone expects. Hard-core gamers get caught up in promises of 4K
streaming and powerful hardware that can run anything — “Crysis”
included
— but the biggest advantage that Google’s gaming
initiative has is convenience and ubiquity.

Sure, playing a game with the best graphical fidelity and
features is important, but being able to play a game anywhere and
not having to worry about storage or downloadable updates is a
sea-change. It untethers gaming from the living room or the desk so
that players can enjoy releases wherever they are.

Stadia removes a barrier and that could mark the beginning of
the end for traditional consoles and the inane tribalism that has
divided the gaming community. With the rise of streaming, it’s no
longer about the power of the platform but the content of the game.
It could mark a new phase for the industry.

This vision could become a reality if Stadia works, and after
using it for a month, the product delivers on the core experience
though the rollout has been barebones. Many games haven’t
delivered on the promised 4K at 60 frames per second specs and
Stadia doesn’t have basic features such as sharing screenshots or
video on social media. Just recently, the service added
achievements.

I’ve played plenty of “Assassin’s
Creed Odyssey”
on the service and it works flawlessly. It
feels like a local game most of the time. I do encounter hiccups
here and there, but that’s dependent on the available internet
speed. Playing at home with a 1GB fiber connection, I could stream
at 4K with HDR. When I was visiting in-laws in Southern California,
the cable internet connection and WiFi wasn’t the most stable. It
was playable but I experienced stutters playing on a 1080p laptop
screen.

Visually, the games look good but not great. Players will notice
visual artifacts in blue skies or places with a lot of solid color.
The graphical quirk will remind them that the game is being
streamed. Other times, I noticed that titles have a softness to
them like old Hollywood movies. Most of the flaws are noticeable on
4K but on lower resolutions the games actually look better, with
the flaws less blatant on smaller screens.

The Stadia controller itself feels sturdy and comfortable. It
resembles the Sony’s DualShock 4 and Xbox One controller but with
deeper and more grippable handlebars. The device has what’s
essentially a start and select buttons that often used to bring up
menus, but it also has a Google Assistant and capture buttons. Both
of those features have limited functions. Google Assistant only
works in conjunction with a Chromecast Ultra meanwhile the capture
buttons grabs screenshots and video, but players can’t easily
share them.

That’s the story with Stadia. The service is promising but
players are waiting for it to improve to a higher standard. In many
ways, it feels as though the people who invested in the Founder’s
and Premiere editions are buying into a service that’s still in
its beta phase. The service doesn’t feel complete. In terms of
mobile, it’s only available on Pixel 2, Pixel 3, Pixel 3a and
Pixel 4 phones.

On top of that, the game selection is limited with few exclusive
titles, and many games that players may already have. The next year
could be more promising with the highlighting being “Cyberpunk
2077.”
These big hundred-hour games are ideal for Stadia. The
service lets players jump into these enormous endeavours from any
screen.

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If the kids are using the living room TV, Stadia players can hop on
a laptop and play at the kitchen table. If they’re traveling to
the in-laws for the holidays, instead of bringing a console with
the game, they can just stuff a controller and a tablet into a
backpack and take off. The only thing that’s required is a good
internet connection. That can be hit or miss depending on the ISP,
but as 5G is introduced next year, that will become less of an
issue.

To use Stadia right now, it will cost $9.99 a month for Stadia
Pro. It lets users stream at 4K at 60 fps and allows 5.1 surround
sound. The subscription includes additional free games released
regularly, but players need to continue the service to keep them.
Meanwhile, a free version is in the works but it only lets users
stream at 1080p at 60 fps. Both services will require players to
buy the games separately.

At the moment, Stadia isn’t perfect but the type of
convenience it offers is a game-changer. Instant access to a game
at any time and anywhere is huge during an age when finding time to
play in a busy day can be difficult. Currently, the constraints are
Google’s own slow rollout of features, limited game content and
users’ internet infrastructure (when 5G and fiber connections are
more abundant it will be big for the service). If all of these
factors ramp up quickly, then the promise of a streaming future
will come sooner rather than later.

Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
Stadia one month later: Streaming service a work in progress