As we noted last week, there's a laundry list of potential issues plaguing Google's attempted entry into the game streaming space via Google Stadia, not least of which is the US' substandard broadband networks and arbitrary broadband caps. Stadia eliminates the physical home game console and instead moves all game processing to the cloud. And while it's clear that this is the inevitable path forward and somebody is going to eventually dominate the space, there's no solid indication yet that it's going to be Google.
Initial Stadia shipments went out this week (some anyway, many orders never shipped), and so far the press response has been a large, collective, "meh." Most reviews cite a fairly pathetic launch lineup filled with titles that were first released years ago. And while the service works in ideal conditions on good broadband lines, the $120 entry fee (plus $10 subscription cost) is being derided as largely a public paid beta:
"There’s no reason anyone should buy into Stadia right now. Google has made sure of that, partly by underdelivering at launch and partly with a pricing scheme that sees you paying three times (for hardware, for the service, for games) just to be an early adopter.
But the nice thing is that no one’s forcing you to, either. Early adopters know who they are, and they’ll hopefully be subsidizing a better experience for the rest of us while helping Google work out the kinks. The technology works reasonably well, and Google’s gadgets can all be automatically updated over the air."
This is, of course, before you get to the fact that countless Americans not only have substandard broadband, but have been saddled with bullshit broadband usage caps and overage fees. The fact that Stadia can chew up to 20 gigabytes per hour at full 4K makes for a costly experience:
"This is by design, of course. That 1TB data cap is targeted primarily at people like me, who have cut the cord and now get their entertainment through a collection of streaming services. Of course, Xfinity allows me to have “unlimited data” if I pay an additional $50 a month, which isn’t something I do because my overages tend to only be in the realm of $10-$20 a month when I happen to go over."
I remember being pitched on the idea of game streaming way back in 2001 at E3, so it's great to see the progress these efforts have made. But it remains abundantly clear that game streaming is going to be a work in progress for the better part of the next 5 years, and a continued headache in parts of the country where limited broadband competition has resulted in slow speeds and unnecessary restrictions. There are also other questions related to a shift to game streaming (like how do you preserve game history when the consumer has no ownership rights and doesn't own anything?) that will need to be hammered out in time.
Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft, which both have new high-powered game consoles launching next year (hand in hand with their own streaming alternatives) likely have nothing to worry about. We're still years away from game streaming being a consistent and popular affair, and the competition to dominate the space remains wide open, thanks in no small part to Google's fairly underwhelming Stadia launch and US telecom dysfunction.
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