Google Stadia shows promise, but don’t dump your console just yet

David Anders
DA
David Anders
Nov 19, 2019
  • Google’s gaming streaming service allows you to stream games online without the need for a console
  • Launches on Nov. 19 with 22 available titles
  • $129 one-time purchase to get started
  • 4K resolution and HDR supported
  • Latency can frustrate fast-action gameplay

Google Stadia is here, but perhaps don’t trade in your PS4 at GameStop just yet. Our initial Google Stadia impressions? The game streaming service launched on time and delivered essentially what it promised, but still has a long way to go. In the tech world, we call that “beta.” 

That’s not to say that Google Stadia isn’t good. Considering the initial and projected list of games, the high-quality video resolution and gameplay versatility, it’s already one of the best game streaming platforms available – but it’s not replacing consoles anytime soon.

What we like about Google Stadia

It’s still early, but Google Stadia has enjoyed a fairly successful launch. Here’s what we like about it so far.

It works

Creating one game streaming service to rule them all is no easy task, but Google did it. They even announced an official launch date and stuck to it, which is more than we’ve come to expect when it comes to massive video game initiatives

This is welcome news to everyone who paid $129 in advance for the opportunity to play on launch day, as is Google Stadia’s last-minute game additions. Just two days before launch, Google announced they were adding 10 titles to the list of available games for a total of 22. So not only did Google Stadia deliver, it arrived with more than we were expecting.

Play on virtually any device

Perhaps the best thing Goggle Stadia has going for it is the ability to play on basically any device. This TV-to-mobile functionality is part of what made the Nintendo Switch so popular, and it will likely boost the appeal of Google Stadia.

An internet connection, a remote and some free time to kill are virtually all you need to play on your phone or laptop. In her review of Google Stadia on engadget.com, Jessica Conditt noted the ease and convenience of playing on multiple devices:

“I picked up my phone and jumped into a public event in Destiny 2. I’ve loaded up Mortal Kombat 11 and Gylt in seconds on my laptop, and I’ve played Just Dance 2020 on a Chromecast Ultra. Stadia makes all of this possible without a gaming console.”

As of now, only Google Pixel 2 devices or higher support playing on your phone, but Google Stadia will be available for iPhone and other Android devices at some point down the road. Playing on your laptop is less restrictive as you can play on a Mac or PC laptop in Chrome.

To play on your TV, you’ll need Google Chromecast Ultra and a Google Stadia controller, both of which are included with the Founder’s or Premiere subscriptions that were required to play on launch day.

The games are OK, but look amazing

Google Stadia brought some big-name titles with it, including Destiny 2, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Mortal Kombat 11. In all, there are 22 games currently available to play, with more games “coming soon.” 

Games available on Google Stadia

  • Assassins Creed Odyssey
  • Attack on Titan 2
  • Destiny 2
  • Farming Simulator 19
  • Final Fantasy XV
  • Football Manager 2020
  • Grid
  • Gylt (Google Stadia exclusive)

  • Just Dance 2020
  • Kine
  • Metro Exodus
  • Mortal Kombat 11
  • NBA 2K20
  • Rage 2
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Samurai Shodown
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • Thumper
  • Tomb Raider
  • Trials Rising
  • Wolfenstein Youngblood

This isn’t quite the extensive game library you’d get with other game streaming services such as PlayStation Now, but the fact that the service offers new games — and a little something for everybody — is impressive.

What’s even more impressive is that every game is set to play in the maximum resolution your device and internet connection will support; up to 4K now with 8K potentially on the horizon. 

Since the game is technically running from the Google server and not your hard drive or Chromecast Ultra, you can play in 4K without the need for expensive graphics cards or overworking your computer. This also eliminates the need for game installs and updates, a common pain point with current gaming consoles.

Why Google Stadia isn’t quite there yet

Google Stadia is off to a decent start, but it’s not yet worth the cost of replacing consoles. Here’s why.

Getting started isn’t easy, or cheap

As of now, you can’t just sign up for Google Stadia and start playing.

To play Google Stadia on launch day, you had to sign up in advance and pay a one time $129 fee for the “Founder’s” or “Premiere” edition. This includes an official Google Stadia remote, a Chromecast Ultra device (a $69 value) and service for three months. The cost isn’t bad, especially considering the price of a new gaming console, but it is fair to say it’s a bit pricier than expected for a streaming service.

And unfortunately for some, Google Stadia literally isn’t there yet. Many who ordered their subscription and equipment well in advance have yet to receive their hardware and access codes. 

Google has not formally acknowledged or commented as to why shipments were delayed, but it’s possible they didn’t want every subscriber potentially logged on at once. As we’ve seen on other streaming services, too many users at once can overload the servers, which would not be a good first impression for Google Stadia.

There aren’t many games, and you still have to buy most of them

Even with the last-minute addition of 10 more games, there are only 22 games to choose from. What’s more is a Google Stadia Pro subscription currently only includes Destiny 2. If you want to play other games, you’ll have to pay for them.

For premium game titles, Google Stadia Pro works like a Costco subscription. You pay a fee for the right to shop in the store but still have to buy the product, which may or may not be discounted. The free games included with a Google Stadia Pro subscription are like the free sample stations – enticing but not necessarily what you came for.

There is a free subscription plan, Google Stadia Base, set to launch in February 2020, but as of now it will not include exclusive discounts on games, support 4K streaming or let you play free games. It will basically be just a means to buy and play games without a console.

Latency will always be an issue

Google’s servers are perhaps the most powerful in the world, but even they cannot fully eliminate an online gamer’s biggest frustration: lag.

Google recommends download speeds of at least 10 Mbps to stream games in 720p resolution, but faster speeds are required to support higher resolutions. A high-speed cable or fiber-optic connection will work best, but such connections aren’t available everywhere, limiting the areas where Google Stadia is accessible.

Lag can still be an issue with high-speed connections, especially during peak usage times. If you’ve ever streamed a show on Netflix or Hulu, you know all too well that picture quality, or the connection itself, can drop at anytime. Imagine that happening in the middle of your game.

Even if your internet connection is strong and reliable, the time it takes to send data to and receive it from the Google Stadia servers can create enough of a disconnect to throw off your game. Jess Grey of wired.com summed this up pretty well with her experience playing Mortal Kombat 11 on Google Stadia: 

“When you add on the few extra milliseconds Stadia requires to communicate with its servers, there’s a substantial lag between your button press and the punches, kicks, and blocks you execute.”

Streaming in 4K eats up your data

If you have an internet plan with a data cap, it won’t take much more than a late-night video game binge to put you over it. Streaming in 1080p will use up about 9 GB per hour. Considering most internet providers have a monthly data limit of 1 TB, gaming a few hours per day could put you well into the danger zone, and that’s if you aren’t using the internet for anything else.

The verdict: Google Stadia can be good, but currently isn’t worth it

So, initial Google Stadia impressions: it does what it was intended to do — make newer games available to play on multiple devices without a console. However, the hefty price tag to get started and potentially excessive wait times for equipment, plus the fact that Destiny 2 is the only free game, hardly makes Google Stadia worth the cost and trouble. 

If you want to check out Google Stadia, it might be best to wait for Google Stadia Base (the free version) to come out in February 2020. Otherwise, you may end up feeling like you paid $129 to be part of the beta testing.