I so want to like Google’s Stadia, but it seems with each passing day that Google is just trying its best to get me, along with everyone else, to hate it.
From day one, I was aboard the Stadia train. Despite having a lack of solid, uncapped internet, I was intrigued with the idea of game streaming, and I thought that if there was anyone who could pull it off, it would be Google. That was then. Now, I’m not so sure Google has any idea what the hell they’re talking about.
First, the lack of general information that Google has put out there was a huge cause of concern. Multiple conflicting reports about how Stadia will actually work did little to get the populous on board. We all thought Stadia was going to be like Netflix for games, but then we were told that wouldn’t be the case. Google alluded that Stadia would have both a subscription service, but also have games that you could buy and play over the service. Not exactly Netflix for games, but it sounds pretty good, or rather, it would’ve sounded good had Google back tracked and said that all of that was untrue. In an AMA back in July, Stadia Product Director, Andrey Doronichev, said that the Stadia Pro package was more similar to Xbox Live Gold or Playstation Plus, in that you would get 1 or 2 free games a month, along with discounts and such. Everything else, the consumer will have to pay full price for, just like if you were buying a game on a console.
See, that right there, sucks. Why does that suck? Well, it has to do with the fact that Stadia is not a console or PC. You don’t own it. It’s also reliant on the internet 24/7. You would be paying for a service that you won’t be able to use all the time. If you don’t have an internet connection, you can’t play your games. With a console or PC, you can still play your games, as long as they don’t require online to play. This wouldn’t be so bad if you bought a 60 dollar game and had 2 copies of it, like Microsoft’s Project XCloud, which allows you to have a game that you can play on your console, while giving you the ability to stream it to your phone or PC, if you want. With Stadia, there is no home console or offline play. As far as we know, if you bought a 60 dollar game on Stadia, you would only have access to it through Stadia. This fear isn’t helped by the fact that Google hasn’t revealed what exactly the subscription models are, or what they do. Another concern of Stadia being always online is the fact that Google could just kill this whole thing if it doesn’t go well, meaning you would lose everything, however, this isn’t why I think Google is full of crap.
I went from being completely sold on Stadia, to skeptical at best, to completely unsold on the idea in just a few months. The final straw, however, came just few days ago when Google made what might be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard out of them. Google announced that Stadia would eventually be able to out pace consoles and PC’s by achieving negatively latency. Let’s stop it right there. Negative latency. Just think about that for a second. Latency has been a problem for awhile, whether it be the latency from the controller to the console itself, or the latency from the console to the TV/monitor. When someone presses a button, they want it to register instantly. We used to have this problem solved, monitorwise, back when CRT’s were in every household, but once everyone switched to flat screen HDTV’s, latency and lag became a problem. This is why there are gaming monitors and TV’s that advertise their high refresh rates, and why they also have “game modes” that do their best to get rid of input lag. Input lag and latency are big deals, and is one of the main concerns everyone has with game streaming. It’s hard to get rid of with a hard wired set up, yet Google claims that not only can they get rid of it, but have negative latency. Negative. Not zero, but negative. This is impossible on anyone’s set up, let alone a set up that require the internet so it can STREAM the game to you.
That right there should be the biggest red flag that Google has no idea what they are doing, or at least that the guys they’re letting talk have no idea, but it gets worse. Just claiming negative latency would’ve been enough to turn me off of Google Stadia, but it’s how they said they will achieve it is what really drove the nail in the coffin. According to Google, they will use a system that predicts the inputs before a player presses a button. Yeah, I’m sure that will work perfectly.
These predictive systems are already in use today in many smartphones. They use algorithms that predict what apps you’ll open before you finger touches the screen. When it works, it works, however, when it doesn’t, it can be completely annoying. You go to open up an app, but for some reason your phone keeps opening up another one. That gets frustrating quick, and it’s also really obvious. Now, apply that to a game like a platformer or a fighting game where input precision is key. If the program messes up, and it will, it will cause you to lose games. That doesn’t fun, nor does it sound smart. Playing games isn’t like typing or texting. Software that chooses for you can only hurt your gaming experience. Oh, and by the way, even when it comes to typing and texting, the programs often get it wrong. We all know the frustration of auto correct changing our words again and again, completely ruining a message. It annoyed me so much that I have it all turned off. Can you imagine that if your games did that? It would be awful.
I honestly can’t believe that Google would let someone say that, or even think that the idea was a good one. In theory, it sounds like a good idea, but one doesn’t have to think very far until they see how it would fall apart. All of this is what finally made me turn around on Stadia. I no longer believe that they know what they’re doing. Look at Microsoft and how they’re rolling out streaming. You would think with Google showing up that Microsoft would be pushing XCloud super hard, but they’re not. They believe in it, but they know that the tech isn’t there yet, and you would never hear them say crap like “negative latency”, because they actually make video games, consoles, and computers for a living. Such a phrase would never be uttered, nor would the idea implementing a system that predicts a gamer’s inputs.
I’m really disappointed. I believed in Stadia. The idea of playing games anywhere was really cool, but now I’m not so sure, and I’m a Google sell out. I’ve had both the Pixel 2 and 3, and I’m amped for the Pixel 4 reveal. I’m not anti-google, but all of this just makes it hard to believe in them.
I believe that Stadia will come out and that it will work, but that’s about it. I’m no longer confident in Google’s ability to make it more than just a fun gimmick. I would be if they sounded like they knew anything about what they were talking about, but that’s sadly not the reality we live in. I hope I’m wrong, but at this point, I don’t think I am.