The past week has been rather eventful within the video game industry. In addition to the reveal of Valve’s Half-Life VR title, Alyx, Geoff Keighley announced 2019’s Game Awards nominees. Unfortunately for Keighley, the spotlight was shared with an outcry of unsatisfactory Stadia consumers and press reviewers. The world does not seem ready for a streaming future in video games. Who would have thought Internet data caps would make life difficult?
A plethora of YouTubers and online media outlets have collected examples of issues consumers are experiencing, with YouTuber YongYea compiling many sources into one damning video. From missing features to empty promises, Stadia has gone from being a beacon of hope one week to a colossal dumpster fire the next. Many gamers are concerned with Google’s track record of abandoning products that fail among consumers, with Stadia potentially being dead on arrival. Instead of delivering a finished product that was promised earlier this year, Stadia launched in a beta-like state, forcing early adopters to pay for testing that otherwise should have been free and properly communicated.
Out of all of the missing features Stadia has seemingly forgotten about at launch, a few exist that are causing many to scratch their head in confusion. The Buddy Pass, which was promised to Stadia Founder’s Edition purchasers, is nonexistent at launch, leaving many who thought they could experience the product with a friend behind. A mobile device is required for Stadia’s initial set up and is currently the only way users can purchase games. In addition, mobile support for Stadia gaming is only currently available on Google Pixel phones. Bought Stadia Founder’s Edition to play on your iPhone? Sorry, please try again later.
The missing features at launch are only one strand of issues Stadia is currently facing. Last week, Google proudly announced the launch lineup of 12 games partnered with Stadia. What Google did not anticipate, however, was the obvious industry reaction to a lineup of titles that are older and easily accessible on other platforms for relatively cheap prices now. In a swift act of justice and retribution, Google humbly added 10 more titles, increasing the launch lineup to 22 games. Sure, these titles are readily available on other platforms and even Xbox Game Pass, but who can deny purchasing them again for full price and the allowance to stream it?
Stadia’s problems were always outlined from the start. A gaming platform that required players to rely on their honesty and good-willed Internet Service Providers (ISP) for the privilege to play the titles they had to repurchase from Google’s storefront had bad news written all over it. Google’s promise to eliminate latency for players felt like a pipe dream, and for a while, people believed it. Footage from Stadia users now indicates Google’s ability to misdirect and mislead consumers with empty promises of a futuristic experience. Many believe that, one day, gaming will be in the cloud, but Stadia has gracefully shown that this experience is far from today.
When Stadia was announced, Google promised that with a stable Internet download speed of 35 Mb/s, users with a Chromecast Ultra can experience titles at 4K with 60 fps without the need of a high-end gaming PC. However, users have reported severe frame drops and visual degradation even when running at download speeds well above the recommended cap. Some eagle-eyed consumers have also noticed the ‘4K’ resolution touted by Stadia is instead 1080p or 1440p upscaled to 4K. Although Stadia was advertised as being a cheaper alternative to high end PC rigs or enhanced console experiences, the evidence only shows that the contrary is true.
Not only are consumers upset with the launch and future of Stadia, but media outlets are having a hard time justifying the product. Many were cautiously optimistic about Stadia’s vision of a cloud-only future for gaming, but even I did not think it would be this unsettling. All jesting aside, I am genuinely concerned for the future of Stadia and the investment that many gamers have already pledged towards it. Google cannot run away from the graveyard of failed innovations in its past, and the Grim Reaper seems to have already caught Stadia’s scent.
With all of these issues plaguing Google Stadia, many are asking how can a product be sold on a foundation of lies and empty promises? In a capitalist economy, many products are sold under the impression of misleading features and performance. What makes Stadia feel different, however, is that a free version of the platform will be available sometime in 2020—meaning that players who bought into the Founder’s Edition to feel special and rewarded for believing in the future Google was promising were bamboozled. Opting into a program early should feel rewarding for those who have paid even though they could get the experience for free by waiting. Instead, Google has showcased how to successfully manipulate those who believe in a product, and a future for a passion they hold dear.