Let me quickly address the headline. Some may be arguing that my headline is wrong. Stadia was shown to already work, and that it’s test run ran pretty smoothly. That is true. Stadia does technically work, but it only works for the few, and even then, it may not be the smoothest experience. Also, by work, I don’t mean that it will fail. Stadia will most likely make a huge profit for Google. Hell, it’ll probably lead to many a great things, but it’s not the idea or really anything in Google’s control, that will keep it from working for the masses. The internet infrastructure just simply isn’t there.
The first road block that Stadia will run into is that many countries just don’t have access to broadband internet speeds. Broadband might be there, but prices might put it out of reach for the population in many countries. Another thing is data caps. Many countries, like the UK, have internet data caps. You only have so much data a month. This limits everything, from downloads to streaming, but imagine if you’re streaming a game at 4k. You could likely use your entire data in one session. If that was the case, then why would anyone use the service? They wouldn’t. Even at 1080p, the amount of data used would eclipse anything that you would see from Netflix or Hulu. This would put Stadia out of reach to a sizable population of the world. Why waste my data on Stadia when I could just download the game or buy it physically, and stay under the data cap?
Let’s throw away data caps and try to focus on just the US. There are plenty of people to serve in the US, and after all, that is where Google is based. Is it possible for Stadia to have a giant player base in the states? Not really. It depends on what you consider “giant”. A few million is a lot of users, but far from what Google would likely want. According to the FCC, Google’s Stadia wouldn’t have much trouble. According to FCC data, over 90% percent of Americans have access to broadband internet. That would be good news if those numbers weren’t crap. Govtech.com reported that Microsoft directly disputed the FCC’s claims.
The FCC claimed that only 24.7 million people didn’t have access to broadband internet, but Microsoft’s data suggests that over 162 million either don’t have access, or don’t use it. That’s a much bigger number. The number gets even larger when you factor in stability. There’s a difference in an ISP having the ability to get 25mbps (the speed at which Google claims is best to use Stadia) , and having stable/constant speeds of 25mbps. Most broadband providers can get near that number, but like to bounce up in down. In order to use Stadia at optimum levels, you would need a constant speed of 25mbps, which most people in America do not have.
I truly love the idea of Stadia, but the infrastructure just isn’t ready. Where I am, there is no internet, and I live not too far from the capitol of Texas. I have to use a glorified hotspot that I pay over 200 dollars a month for, and is limited to 150GB a month. Stadia is just not a possibility for me, neither is downloading updates, patches, games, etc. Everything I do has to be metered. Have to work as hard as I can to stay within the limit, which is a lot harder than one would think. For many people, they don’t even have this option due to just not having the money. Google could do something about this. They could force the expansion of the internet in the US, but they’re not. They used to, back when Google fiber was one of their tent poles, but now it just doesn’t seem to be one of their priorities. That together with net neutrality being killed, things aren’t looking good for the many people, like me, who want better internet access, but either can’t afford it, or can’t move to somewhere where there are more options.
Maybe Google will figure something out, but at this current moment in time, it looks like Stadia will remain just a lofty idea. A nice pipe dream that millions of people won’t have the ability to use. At least we’ll still have the dream.