Google's game streaming platform Stadia is finally here tomorrow. I had a week to tinker with the founding edition. It has the Stadia controller, a Chromecast Ultra and a charger with a USB cable, which you can also use to connect to your PC or laptop to play in a Chrome browser. Most of my experiences with Stadia have confused me a bit. Here's the thing with me, reader: I'm a fool. I always want to try the latest to see if the hype is real. There is one question that I keep coming back to: who exactly is that for? It's in the testing phase, but can I recommend it to someone in their current state? No not true. Does it still work, Paul? Yup. For sure.
In the interest of transparency, I have a sibling working on Google, but that does not affect my thoughts about my time at Stadia in the past week. It could be an unpleasant Thanksgiving conversation, but it will be fine.
If you have the right parts installed, the stadiums service works damn well. Redeeming the codes for the games they sent us for review and getting them into the code without waiting to download was exciting. As someone who regularly has to wait for patches to be downloaded and shaders installed, when my friends all congregate online for a multiplayer mode, I often feel like standing outside and waiting for the party while watching my friends inside can hear how they have a great time. Stadia just let me go on after I redeemed a code for Red Dead Redemption 2 . That's pretty cool.
To play on your phone or in a Chromecast Ultra, you must have the Google Home app, set up the device, and associate it with your personal account. The entire setup is done through the app itself, which worked pretty well. You can transfer games from your phone to your TV as you would a YouTube video. The app also lets you instantly transfer a game you're playing on your TV to your phone. It actually works very well.
I tested it on my 4K HDR TV at home, on my Pixel 3 (which I already owned), and on my PC with a browser. It works 100% with my Gigabit home Internet. The ability to transfer gameplay between my phone and my browser in seconds is great. Our review unit came with a USB-C cable to connect to my phone and a USB-C to USB-A cable to play in a Chrome browser on a PC or Mac. It's not as seamless a transition as the Game Developers Conference in March, but it works.
For third-person adventure games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Red Dead Redemption 2 and Gylt I noticed no entry delay. Tomb Raider was silky smooth on my TV. Red Dead Redemption 2 looked great, but it seemed to be reaching 30 frames per second. I was a bit disappointed in all the teraflop talks at the GDC. Destiny 2 looked fantastic on my TV at home and ran really well at 60 frames per second. There was hardly a noticeable entry delay, but if it happens, it is disturbing. I would stop sprinting and my character would take an extra step or miss a headshot I would have gotten safely on PlayStation 4 or with a mouse and keyboard ( Editor's note: Sure, Paul ) ,
These games work well as test cases, but I can not imagine anyone actually throwing out money for them. Let me explain why. Supposedly my current setup is ideal for the stadiums – I'm a fool who has gigabit internet, a 4K HDR TV and even a fucking pixel 3 in the early stages on a whiteboard.
But I ask again: Who is that for? Apart from being able to stream games through a browser or your phone, I can not find a strong selling point for games that you can mostly get for the same price on other platforms. Stadiums are for tech-savvy people, but it's likely that they already have an easier way to play these games.
Sure, it's a cheaper way to get started. With the $ 129 Founders Edition, you're cheaper than with other consoles, assuming you already have a TV, computer, or a pixel phone at home. But the starting lineup leaves much to be desired with just 22 games and all but one of the original 12 – with the exception of Gylt – have been available on other platforms for some time.
None of these games is particularly impressive as a launch title. Stadia can not really impress here, and it's a great place it hurts. According to Google, more games will hit the market by the end of the year, but this looks like a soft start to stay one step ahead of the shiny new consoles next year. At startup, some of the key social features like stream connect or crowd play will not be available in Stadia. That will come, according to Google, next year. Stadia has no system of success, current Chromecast Ultras will not operate Stadia, no family release, no buddy passports (sorry to ya mans) and some "founders" will get theirs only in late November or early December.  I still have to wait to see how the Google Assistant button works on the Stadia controller because it was not available in our reviewers. With the Share button I was able to save 30-second clips and screenshots in the Stadia app, but even then I could not do much with it. They were just caught in the app and could not be downloaded or shared. I mean, could I take the screenshots? But how … why?
Another (very specific) problem: I've worked with the IT manager at our office to get Stadia working on a TV. Stadia is currently not compatible with corporate networks. If your IT manager is not as cool as we are (greetings to Chris from IT) and helps you set up a private network to test it, then you're in for an adventure.
Ultimately I feel lukewarm stadiums. When you play in Chrome, your resolution is limited to 1080p, your phone is not really wireless, and there are a lot of missing features that people just have to wait for. But if it does work, you'll get a glimpse of what it can look like to play games on multiple screens, and you know what? That's pretty cool.
Right now Stadia is about as extensive as a phone upgrade. Sure, there'll be a better camera and some new features, but once you transfer something, it's the same UI – the same news threads and emails you ignored. It felt like you were playing Destiny 2 on my PC or Red Dead Redemption 2 on my PS4 Pro. There are currently no real reasons to buy the service through consoles or a PC. That's one thing that Google needs to address if this thing is going to be attractive, especially with a new generation of consoles on the rise.
Whatever you think, what a streaming service like Stadia might mean for game preservation or the modding scene, it's difficult to deny that we're going in that direction. It will not happen tomorrow, but if all the services I am currently subscribing to tell me, Stadia feels like a step in that direction. It's difficult for a console to make a good first impression, so I'm not counting it yet. In the meantime, I'll play most of my games the way I've done before: on the hardware that runs them locally, where all my other friends are.
We already know about the games that are available for Stadia to launch:
Price for Stadia Launch Games
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey – $ 59.99 ($ 30.00 Stadia Pro Deal)
- Gylt – $ 29.99
- Just Dance 2020 – $ 49.99
- Kine – $ 19.99
- Mortal Kombat 11 – $ 59.99 ($ 41.99) 99 Stadia Pro Deal)
- Red Dead Redemption 2 – Launch Edition – $ 59.99
- Samurai Showdown – $ 59.99
- Knocker – $ 19.99
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider – $ 59 , 99
- Rise of the Tomb Raider – $ 29.99
- Tomb Raider 2013 – $ 19.99 ($ 10.00 Stadia Pro Deal)
- Final Fantasy XV – $ 39.99 (29.99 $ Stadia Pro Deal)
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey Stadia Ultimate Edition – $ 119.99 ($ 60.00) Stadia Pro Deal
- Mortal Kombat 11 Premium Edition – $ 89.99 USD (62.99 USD) Stadia Pro Deal)
- Red Dead Redemption 2 Special Edition – 79.99 $
- R ed Dead Redemption 2 Ultimate Edition – $ 99.99