Google Stadia – Some Thoughts

So last week Google announced their new gaming platform “Stadia”. Basically it is a game streaming service that allows you to play games on all devices with a Chrome Browser. For the few details they have announced you can go here.

“A platform for everyone”

Well how do I put it… I don’t believe that for a second.

This is because of one simple reason: Streaming requires a stable and (reasonably) fast online connection. Sure, in cities like San Francisco where this was announced, this will likely not be a problem. But many places with lesser internet connections won’t be so lucky. The official requirement for 1080p and 60fps is 25 MBits per second. I know several people in my friends list that don’t reach those speeds reliably even nowadays and that’s not even outside of a city. Also, how is the flexibility to just play on any phone going to be of use when I am out somewhere? Data caps are becoming less of a problem with home internet connections, sure, but they are VERY real with mobile devices (and that’s even discounting the speed necessary to stream). So sure, that flexibility is nice for advertisement of the technology, but as of now I don’t think the “real world” is quite there yet.

Potential Use Case: Multiplayer

Where I DO agree and see this platform potentially being of use is more flexible use of multiplayer in games. Since the game is running in the cloud for all participants, there is less of a bottleneck in terms of communication between each player’s computer. Losing a bit of video quality on the side of the client causes less of a problem than synchronization issues between the different client instances. This means that there could theoretically even be new kinds of setups for multiplayer games, but that’s speculation on my part, we’ll have to see how developers use the tools Google is supplying.

“Work of wizards”?

In the presentation they showcased a tweet from their “Project Stream” test last year that called it “the work of wizards”. Uhm… yeah, how about no. The tech has some nice parts (see multiplayer) and is more flexible than other streaming services. But it is still limited by “the real world”. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Doom Eternal showed significant instances of input lag in some videos even in this supposedly optimal environment (sure, in best cases like with the DigitalFoundry test, the results were decent).

Lack of Information

Overall, this presentation really didn’t provide all that much information. We have NO information on cost, there has been no big new game announced for the platform, we just know that there is SOMETHING in development. Taking into account their test last year, I kind of would have expected them to have more prepared for this reveal…

Does it interest me?

In short: No. I almost don’t play multiplayer games at all and don’t stream them. So those two highlighted aspects in the presentation fall flat for me. Other people with the combo of “fast and stable internet” plus “weak computer” might get use out of it for single-player titles, but I am SO not in that category. I prefer to have my games installed locally, with mod-support and up to 4K resolution support.

Will this replace home consoles & gaming PCs?

Heeeeeell no.

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