For years now, the video games industry has been creating cloud gaming services. Platforms such as Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now have inspired other companies to start their own service, with Google being one of them. Google’s cloud gaming service, called Google Stadia, launched on Nov. 19 and has received mostly negative reception from the media and consumers.
A cloud gaming service means that whatever game that is played on the service is streamed to the user’s device, similar to how Netflix streams from video to a smartphone. For Netflix, this is not that much of a problem because streaming video is relatively simple. For video games, however, it becomes a little more complicated. Video games, unlike movies and TV shows, require input and interaction from the player. Streaming through the internet has a high chance of creating latency issues that will result in input lag, which delays button inputs from a players.
Washington Post reporter Gene Park has posted tweets such as this to showcase Google Stadia’s input lag. Latency is one of the service’s biggest problems. Video games are not enjoyable when your command isn’t immediately recognized by the game. This is particularly true in fighting games like “Mortal Kombat 11,” one of the first games available to play on Google Stadia. Fighting games require players to be precise and quick with their inputs if they want to win.
here is my Google Stadia review in one GIF.
this is on The Washington Post's Gigabit Ethernet last week. pic.twitter.com/qexEv6vyUD
— Gene Park (@GenePark) November 18, 2019
This becomes a problem when playing online as there is always that chance of running into latency issues. Online lag combined with the fact that Google Stadia users are streaming the game — which creates even more lag — just sounds like a mess. It gets even worse when you realize that there are no downloads for any games on the service. When you search for Google Stadia on Google, the very first thing you see is an ad for Google Stadia that reads: “Dive right into the action and play across screens. Get Stadia today. Play games instantly across screens and without waiting for game downloads. Stadia Pro. High-quality gaming. Up to 4K with Stadia Pro. Play without a console. No more game downloads.”
They are pretty much bragging about not allowing downloads, like having to download your games is a bad thing. I don’t know about you, but being able to play with little to no latency issues is better to me than using Google Stadia. Another advantage that downloading a game has over streaming on Stadia is ownership. Purchasing and downloading games digitally does not guarantee ownership. If a game is downloaded and purchased, it can be removed from a storefront at any time even if it was already purchased.
This happens sometimes on online stores, but in most cases, as long as the game was already purchased, it can still be redownloaded. Stadia does not work exactly the same. The service costs $10 monthly and will include free games at some point. However, in order to even play major releases such as “NBA2K20” or “Red Dead Redemption 2,” players must pay full price, which is usually $60.
If you’re buying games every month, then you are really paying $70 monthly. The worst part about this is that since there are no downloads on Stadia, any game you purchase has to be streamed. If the Stadia servers go offline for some reason, then you’re just out of luck. I don’t understand why they think this is a good idea, especially since Xbox Game Pass, one of Stadia’s competitors, lets its users download games. If Stadia shuts down, which I believe will be in a few years, then all of those games a person may have purchased will no longer be accessible.
I don’t know why anyone would purchase games on Stadia unless they wanted to try the service out of curiosity. The games currently available are games that were already available to Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo and PC players. The past three “Tomb Raider” games are all available to stream but they were all released in 2013, 2015 and 2018 respectively. I’ve played all three of these games and don’t really have any interest in playing them again. Is this supposed to entice me to try out Stadia? Because it isn’t working.
“Mortal Kombat 11” came out in the spring of this year. Again, why would I get this through Stadia? I could get it cheaper on Black Friday or through a Christmas sale and it will have less input lag, and I would actually own my copy of the game. In the future, new games will be available upon release, so maybe buying them through Stadia will make more sense, but as of right now it just seems like a waste of money.
Stadia users are able to play their games purchased through the service on a mobile phone, tablet, computer or Chromecast, a device usually used on televisions. If users plan on using the Chromecast to stream Stadia games, then they might want to reconsider; Chromecasts reportedly overheat when they are using Google Stadia. This isn’t an issue caused by Stadia but by the Chromecast, which is also a Google product. They shouldn’t let their own service overheat devices that are also developed by them.
I do not think that Google Stadia will last very long. I would not be surprised if it shuts down within the next two years. Even if all of the latency issues and the overheating were fixed, it just isn’t worth paying money for. Paying a $10 monthly fee for a service and then $60 on top of that just to play a new game is a waste of money when you can just spend $60 on a new game that has a better chance of actually being playable as soon as you buy it. If Google Stadia is meant to be the future of gaming, then I will happily live in the past.