Google Stadia – A revolution in game streaming?
Console gaming has always been one of the most demanded platforms over the game streaming. Many people prefer this over computers because of it being cheap. One can get a PlayStation 4 for about $250 now and play all the games. In the case of a computer, one has to spend over $800 to get a PC powerful enough to play their preferred game. Another advantage of console gaming nowadays is the portability and wide range of playing options. One can either go for a normal controller or go for motion-sensing remote instead. Consoles such as Sony’s PlayStation lineup and Microsoft’s Xbox lineup have hardware designed to last up to 5 years.
This is great judging the fact that a one-time investment of $200 buys you a machine that can last up to 5 years minimum. In recent years, there has been a brewing competition between companies to produce a more portable console. Nintendo, with its Switch, is currently leading this category as the device has a screen and can also be connected to a TV. But now, we have a new player in this game and it has completely revolutionized console gaming.
Google, has launched its new gaming platform – Stadia in many countries now. Now you must be thinking, this was announced a while back so why are we discussing it now? Well due to the lockdown period, Google has announced 2 months of Pro tier for Stadia users. Users can now game at 4K 60fps and have a lot more gaming options. Let’s take a look and see to ourselves if Stadia is worth all that hype.
What is Google Stadia? –
Google Stadia is a platform through which users can game using the most basic hardware. To put this in simple words, it is gaming through the cloud. The name Stadia implies for the game streaming service as well as the marketplace to buy games. The games can be bought and kept even after the end of your subscription but you have to pay the full price of the game. But paying for a game is not a big deal as stadia eliminates the need to buy expensive gaming hardware. It requires three components. A Chromecast ultra or your phone or your laptop. Even the controller itself is not required as this service works fine with your conventional Playstation or Xbox controller. Although if you don’t have one laying around, you can buy one from Google.
The most vital component of this setup is an internet connection. This kills it for most people as not everyone has an uncapped fiber connection. That is the primary reason why Stadia has only been launched in developed countries such as the USA and UK. Now you may be wondering that Google forgot about its huge customer base in other countries. But the truth is, the internet in other countries is so expensive that using this platform will make no sense at all. The bare minimum to run this streaming service properly requires a 10 megabits per second connection. If you want to go all out and game in 4K HDR at 60 fps, then get a 35 megabits per second connection.
Pro vs Standard streaming-
When this service was launched back in 2019, there was an outcast requirement. If one wanted to play games, then he or she was forced to go for the pro subscription. The pro subscription came with games such as Destiny 2 and GRID. Now there are several games available to purchase. We will come to that later. The stadia pro connection also enables you to game at 4K HDR at 60 fps and can also get you discounts on games at the store. The pro version also provides 5.1 surround sound support. The service is priced at about $10 per month. During the launch, one was forced to pay $129 and go for the premier edition. This included a 3-month pro subscription, 2 -3 games, a Chromecast ultra and a stadia controller.
The standard or the free version was launched 2 days back. This also comes with a bonus. Due to the Corona pandemic which has led to lockdowns, Google is giving 2 months of free pro tier service to standard users. By default the standard pack comes with no games. Users can buy games of their choice from the store. The streaming quality is limited to 1080p which is still pretty damn good considering its free. This can be the best option to go for if you have a capped or slow internet connection.
Google Stadia app –
To get started, you need to download this app on your smartphone. The app is available for both Android as well as iOS devices. For the initial steps, you must log in to your app to start the service. You can cast the gameplay to your TV either by connecting to a Chromecast Ultra or open the stadia website on your laptop. Google has also some added advantages to its Pixel users. Pixel phones from model 3 and above can stream directly in the smartphone itself. The Pixel 3a range is also compatible. The stadia controller can connect to all the three devices, providing you to jump easily between the three.
Many games are available on this streaming platform ever since it launched back in 2019. Some of the big titles available to buy right now are –
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Stadia Ultimate Edition
- Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle
- The Crew 2 – All editions
- Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: Warlords of New Ultimate Edition
- Red Dead Redemption 2 Ultimate Edition
- Metro Exodus
There are also a lot of upcoming titles for this streaming platform. Some of them are listed below –
- Watch Dogs: Legion
- MotoGP 20 — April 2020
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Marvel’s Avengers
The pro tier of the Stadia streaming service provides the following free games –
- Destiny 2
- Serious Sam Collection
- Stacks On Stacks (On Stacks)
- SteamWorld Dig 2
- SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamesh
So it is pretty evident that this new gaming service is getting new games quickly. There might be fewer games of some genre but looking at the rate of growth of this service, I don’t think that will be a problem in the future.
Features for streaming –
Since Stadia is still a work in progress, many features are yet to be made available to the public. The majority of which is YouTube support. In the future, Stadia is expected to have a direct streaming feature. Through this, a user can directly stream his gameplay to YouTube. YouTube will also have a feature wherein a gaming video, a Stadia compatible link will be provided in the description through which a user can directly go to the game on clicking the link.
The current features available on the service include screen mirroring, seamless switching between devices and multiple controller support. Since this is a software-based service, there will always be a lot of changes and new features will keep coming along the way.
Performance during streaming –
This is the most vital part which decides whether this is worth it. As expected, this new service shines in this field. The Stadia performs well in fast as well as slow internet connections. When tried on a PC on a browser, it was able to stream at 4K HDR at a constant 60 fps. This was achieved on a 150 Mbps hardwired internet connection. When tried on a 50 Mbps Wi-Fi connection, the Stadia still performed well with a constant 60 fps on 4K HDR resolution. It was able to handle intense games without a problem while maintaining a constant fps. This test was done on a Chromecast Ultra.
Even at an internet speed of 15 Mbps Wi-Fi connection, the Stadia performed well at 1080p. Since this was an unstable internet connection, the resolution dropped to 720p at times. But even at such a low speed, it managed to provide gameplay at high definition. Since we did not have a review unit, we could not test it in person. These are on paper information which still looks pretty promising.
My Verdict –
The Stadia pretty much beats all its rivals. The features and the performance that it provides is mind-blowing. The best part about all this is the free availability of this service. Even when this is free, the 1080p resolution is something that most companies will never offer. The fact that all one needs to get started is open an app and register is impressive. The thing that disappoints me is the fact that Google is not rolling it out in new countries.
During this lockdown period, everyone is pretty much bored and could use some gaming to help themselves. The extension of free pro tier to existing customers and provision of pro tier to standard ones is commendable. But not expanding its services in other countries is what bugs me the most. I hope in the near future Google expands its services to all the countries with the same joining perks on offer right now. The collection of games suffices the need of the current gamers and the fast addition of new ones makes it a good option to go for. I can’t wait to get my hands on one as soon as it gets launched here in India.