For the last week influencers and reviewers have been playing Google Stadia. Yesterday, the review embargo was up, and a deluge of universally disappointed people spoke out about how the technology was there, but the service just wasn’t up to it. It’s been a rough launch for google, and its missing a lot of the features it’s expected will eventually come to the platform.
I can understand why there is so much disappointment around this, they promised a lot and naturally people expected that promise to be mostly fulfilled on launch. The closer to launch we got, the more and more features were confirmed as “coming soon” basically stripping down the launch from the full platform to just being a beta or Early Access launch for those who really want to play it.
I’ve seen a few people mention this, and I think google may have missed a trick by not sticking a big fat “Early Access” label on Stadia until 2020 when they have the full suite of features up and running. That early access tag is superficial in a lot of ways, basically they’ve been honest and just launched what they have now, and will add the rest later, but it has led to a lot of questions about why they have launched a severely undercooked product into an incredibly competitive market.
The lack of features is alarming, some basic functionality just isn’t there from what I can see, for example buying a game can’t be done from all platforms, only really the Google Pixel phone, and you can’t play on the phone unless you have a USB-C to USB-C connector which evidently wasn’t sent out with the controller. It feels like they should have delayed the release but didn’t want their first entry to the games industry to be a delayed launch, although I don’t think this is any better for their reputation.
What’s more important to me personally, is that the technology is working. People are playing games on their TV’s at home, walking to a shop, and carrying on whilst walking right from where they left off. That is the dream for me, and as much success as the Nintendo Switch has had, I cannot wait until I can play games like Jedi Fallen Order at home and then on my journey to work.
The fact the tech works is far bigger news that I think it’s being credited for, but it really shines a light on the infrastructure needed to play these platforms. The internet is the key component that new streaming technologies need but the infrastructure just isn’t there for most of the globe. I am in a privileged position where I have great internet in my home and enough GB on my data plan to never have to think about it, but even I will struggle with playing games on my journey into work because the signal just isn’t consistent on trains. 5G internet will fix some of these issues, but even then, my train goes underground for a large part of my Journey so that’ll be the point where I have to stop playing.
The thought of getting to lunch time and being able to carry on from where I was is delightful though. That dreamland is now on the horizon, and I am very excited for the next couple of years when we will see this tech thrive. Stadia has launched this week and is the first out of the gate. Its rough launch has been tough on Google (Bless them, hope they’re going to be okay) but I have no doubt that the people at Microsoft have been watching with eagle eyed curiosity.
Next year they will be launching Project X Cloud in its entirety, and they will be watching Stadia and probably have more of an eye on how the technology is working than the services. They have a huge advantage in the fact they have libraries of 1000s of games ready for people to play, they just have to get the technology right. Their service is already made, the Xbox store, game pass, gold, it’s already ingrained in their ecosystem and Xcloud just opens their platform to more people. Quite how their platform will perform, or how the pricing will work, I am not sure, but I am certain they will be taking notes and making sure they get this right.
The Xbox camp has been steadily making all the right choices to position themselves as the front runner of the next generation, while stadia is an unknown and Nintendo won’t launch a streaming service until 2037. Their main competition will of course be the PS5, a console we know almost nothing about. There are rumours everywhere but what’s true and what’s industry speculation is hard to pick apart, the only guarantee is that games streaming will be a part of it.
Years ago, they launched a game streaming service to little fanfare. PSNow is a service that’s been improving for years and I think will be a big part of their next generation, even if they revamp its brand to make it feel like a new product. Playing anywhere isn’t a sure thing, but they’ve also been dabbling in that for several years as well with Remote play.
Stadia’s stumbling out the block shouldn’t scare people off streaming games platforms but should serve as proof of concept. It works, it just needs to be correctly implemented with the right services. Perhaps Google will get it there sooner rather than later, but if they don’t, I am confident Microsoft and Sony will.