You can stream everything now. Movies, TV, sports, people playing video games, and finally, video games. Back when Google first announced the Stadia, its new streaming-centric gaming console, it caused a mixture of excitement, confusion, and anger from the gaming industry. Its proposal to stream 4K games with good connection and frame rates seemed too good to be true. But it wasn’t. The awe-inspiring reality is it was more than possible, and Google not only did it, but nailed it, which makes the downfalls of the Stadia that much more confusing and frustrating.
The actually technology of the Stadia is where it really shines—play games, as soon as you buy them, no updates, installs, or anything. Play anywhere with a tablet, phone, laptop, or any other sort of applicable screen. Like many, I was skeptical that Google’s invention would work in practice, and the surprising thing is that it works exactly like Google said. The streaming is efficient, using Google’s already well-established cloud servers for a smooth experience.
Here’s where Stadia disappoints: The library is made up of 24 games that have been out for months or longer. Stadia lacks for no good titles, featuring games like Mortal Kombat 11, Red Dead Redemption 2, Borderlands 3, and more—there’s definitely a lot of quality, just a small quantity. The thing is, people who wanted to play these games, have, and with only a handful of exclusives on the Stadia, there’s not a lot here to take away from the gaming market. Next year looks more promising though, with titles like Cyberpunk 2077 and the new Avengers title both releasing (not exclusively) on the controller.
The library is the single biggest downfall of the Stadia, because honestly, the thing looks, plays, and feels great. I should know; I figured the controller, and my laptop and phone, could take a spin and test the device in some traditional and nontraditional gaming spots. I found that even if the Stadia won’t draw in players with a huge catalog of hit exclusives like other consoles, the streaming tech accomplishes every single thing Google set our expectations for.
Playing Stadia at Home
Now, this location gives me an unfair advantage over most of you, because my home is an internet cave for all my nerd dealings. It has a clear and expansive network, and is a reasonably sized apartment with just me living in it, so the Stadia had no competition and an extremely easy time. That being said, I’m still impressed. The controller managed to stream games like Destiny 2 at 4K 60fps while playing online seamlessly. So at home is absolutely the best way to play, if only because everything is much better at home.
Playing Stadia at Work
Big tower, shared internet, and lots of interference—I thought I had Stadia with this one. Nope. The Stadia worked between 720p-1080p on my phone and laptop, with little to no frame rate drops. I tried Destiny 2 again online along with Mortal Kombat, and both looked gorgeous. While I was streaming on my laptop and phone, so 4K wasn’t in effect, the resolution always looked nice and played smooth. It also felt badass to play full-fledged console games from my desk. While you may not be able to play the “it’s for an article” card with your managers, if you can get away with it, I highly recommend.
Playing Stadia at Starbucks
Everyone’s favorite gamer spot. Here is where I encountered the first of my issues. On my laptop connected to the busy and unreliable Starbucks network, Stadia did not work well: frame rate drops, resolution chug, and laggy controls. However, streaming on my phone connected to the cellular network worked again, and surprisingly well. I was still able to stream Destiny 2 and play online with little lag. While it was a more visibly shaky connection, it still worked, and worked well.
Playing Stadia on the Train/Subway
All right, to no one’s surprise, this was the worst place to play. When in tunnels or underground with shaky cellular connection, Stadia just didn’t work, which is understandable. You can’t stream Netflix on most trains, so why would I be able to stream games? Needless to say, Stadia isn’t a replacement for your Switch or handheld.
The Google tech powering Stadia is promising, and the price vastly undercuts the console market, retailing for $129 with three months of the Stadia Pro subscription and a Chromecast Ultra ($70) included, making it a significant deal compared to the $300-$500 you’d spend on a console with similar power. The ability to play games almost anywhere and the removal of downloading and updating is a huge plus. If the Stadia can get its library under control and add some must-have new titles and exclusives, its competitors should watch out. But as it stands now, it’s a fantastic piece of gaming technology that dropped the ball on the “fun” aspect.