Three months on from launch, we take a look at the state of Stadia
The future of gaming or a failed attempt at something new? Let's see...
Initially launched on 19 November 2019, there was a lot of talk that Google Stadia would be a massive game-changer.
In the run-up to the release, JOE spoke to Jack Buser, the Director of Games at Google, to find out a little bit more about the Stadia and what he thinks it might mean for the future of gaming itself, and while it wasn't exactly helpful to describe the service as "Netflix for gamers", that is still the closest comparison we've got.
Unboxing is easy enough. You've got the incredibly well-designed controller and a Google Chromecast Ultra but you'll also need to download the Google Home app (for the Chromecast) and the Stadia app. Once you've got all the bits and pieces talking to one another via bluetooth and WiFi, you're free to play.
The idea is that you'll just need to connect your Stadia controller to pretty much any screen that has the capacity to play YouTube and you'll be able to access and play your games anywhere you want from your Stadia account. So your big TV, your mobile phone, your laptop, desktop and so on.
Gameplay itself is seamless enough, thanks to the clean and easy homepage, and once you've got a decent internet connection, you shouldn't run into too many problems in terms of gameplay speed or latency issues.
The list of games available is still somewhat limited and the Stadia hasn't been tested yet in regards to a major, simultaneous game launch. Pretty much all of the titles have been available on other consoles already so it will be interesting to see how it will cope in a full-on competitive market of those releases.
Upon buying into the service, you can currently only choose Stadia Pro - €9.99 per month - on top of the €129 you paid for the system, which will give you some free games every now and again to add to your library (Destiny 2 and Rise Of The Tomb Raider were some of the freebies so far), as well as improved visuals and sound (if your screen/speakers can support them) over the Stadia Base subscription, which will be free when it is launched some time in 2020.
In the months since launch, there are still some other major features don't have arrived yet. Google Pixel phones are still the only mobile devices to support Stadia, for example. 4k visuals are supported on all Chrome-supported screens and devices. Local multiplayer requires both players to bring USB connectors to plug into the TV or computer.
The small niggles do pile up, especially when the sturdy and reliable console is right there working perfectly fine. Especially when it comes to the idea of the actual mobility of the Stadia itself, which requires you to sign into the WiFi and set up the bluetooth connection every single time you change location and play under a different internet connection.
Or if someone else has the Stadia, you can sign in on your account under their set-up. This is probably simpler, but Stadia isn't wide-used enough yet for that to be a viable option.
This all sounds like a lot of negativity (and, to be fair, it is) but the light at the end of this tunnel is brighter than most. Sure, it seems like Stadia is a step behind the PS4 and Xbox One, but - and this is the important bit - it is already a step ahead of the PS5 and Xbox Series X.
Stadia is, essentially, a next generation console released almost a full year ahead of its competition. It will have worked out all of the kinks and gremlins by the time the next Sony and Microsoft systems arrive. By then, the majority of those launch titles will also be coming to Stadia, too.
Look at where Netflix was when it launched (when it began, it used to rent out DVDs via mail) to where it is now. It got a head start on the competition - Disney+, Prime Video, NowTV, etc. - and is now synonymous with the format of streaming movies and games. However, a lot of that came down to the stuff you can only get on Netflix; from House of Cards to The Irishman.
Stadia needs to start thinking in those terms; killer content you can only get on this platform. If they nail that, then Google's game streaming service could legitimately be the console-killer that Sony and Microsoft are terrified it might be.
Clips and images via Google Stadia