Google stadia is due for release soon and having been a gamer for 20 years I was really interested in it. But the more I read about Stadia, the less interested I become. My primary machine to play games is an Xbox One which I purchased 4 years ago. It has started showing its age and I’m anxiously waiting for the next-gen consoles which are due to arrive next year. I was primarily exploring stadia as a temporary gaming device which I could use before getting a next-gen console, but gave up on the thought after reading more.
- Lack of popular multiplayer games
I mostly play multiplayer games and so do most of my friends who are gamers. Apex Legends, Fortnite, PUBG, Call of Duty, League of Legends, Halo etc. These games also happen to be the most streamed games on Twitch. While there are certain single-player titles that make it to the top 10 streamed games on twitch, it’s usually short-lived. Stadia supports none of them. Would you really buy a console today, or purchase one on EMI if it did not have the multiplayer games that your friends play?
2. Can’t play with PC players
While the Stadia launch list of games isn’t very appealing, I was excited about Destiny 2. I play it on my Xbox and figured that maybe I could repurchase the game on Stadia so that I can play with my friends who are on PC. But that isn’t supported either. You can only play with other stadia players and game developers will have to implement cross-play to allow stadia players to play with other platformers. This is a bummer and I wonder how games like Elder Scrolls online will work. Game lobbies are going to be hard to fill up.
3. Crazy data usage
Streaming at 4k is going to take up about 16 GB of data per hour, which is 1TB in 65 hours. 1 TB also happens to be the data cap limit of many popular internet service providers. So you would essentially be using up all of your monthly data cap by just playing stadia for 2 hours every day. Binging on games is going to cost you a lot. A single-player game that you could play on a PC/console with your internet off, now requires a high bandwidth always-on broadband connection.
Ask any gamer what they hate most about gaming and the answer is going to be a unanimous ‘LAG’. Nothing is more frustrating than shooting a shot first but being killed because of latency.
Here’s how the pipeline works for a game that you play on console or PC
Anything more than 100ms is perceived by the human brain as not instantaneous. And even with the best of setups, it’s hard to counter latency and lag on a PC/Console. The above image is going to look very different for Stadia.
After mouse/controller input, you have network latency which would send your input commands over to Google’s server. After GPU time, you have HEVC encode time ( I’m assuming Stadia is using HEVC since 4k on h264 would consume mammoth amounts of data and won’t look good either). That would be followed by another step of network latency to transfer this data to your computer/tv . And since the video data would be HEVC, your local machine will also have to do HEVC decoding ( which isn’t cheap). So in addition to all the latency that you get on a PC, you have 4 new steps that have been added to an already slow process. While Google has made a few optimizations like forcing games to run at 120fps to bring the frame latency down, but that’s still small compared to the other sources of latency which get added due to it being a cloud service.
5. Lackluster exclusives
Exclusives play a big role for consumers to decide what console/service to play. I got the Xbox because I am a huge fan of Forza and Halo. Xbox One had Gears, Forza Motorsport and Horizon, Halo , Titanfall as exlusives. PS4 also had a stellar lineup with God of War, Last of Us, GT, Yakuza and so on. Stadia has one exclusive game and it is Gylt by an Indie publisher. While the game might be good, but does Google really think that an Indie game exclusive is going to draw people to their gaming service? Halo was an exclusive which is widely credited with original Xbox’s success, I doubt if Gylt would do the same for google.
Google has the upper hand here with 10.7 Teraflops compared to 6.0 on the Xbox one X and 4.2 on the PS4 Pro. But those consoles have to only run at 60fps, unlike stadia which needs to run at 120fps for decreased frame latency. So it’s unlikely that Stadia is going to provide an experience that is better fidelity than the current-gen consoles.
And let's not forget that the current-gen consoles are almost EOL and new consoles are due to be launched next year. They are obviously going to be vastly more powerful than current-gen consoles, and would easily surpass Stadia’s computing power. And all of them have promised ray tracing support, which stadia lacks.
So I’m going to give Stadia a pass. Maybe there is a certain type of casual gamer who would prefer to use stadia, but even for them, a console is going to provide a much richer experience.