Google Stadia has launched – A troubled beginning

Google made huge waves with their announcements about their upcoming Google Stadia and its subscription-based cloud-gaming service. The idea was to eliminate the hardware requirements of processing-intensive games by hosting them elsewhere and then streaming the experience to the player.

It was an impressive idea – in fact, this sort of setup could have revolutionised gaming and esports, and made it more easily accessible to the masses. For many, especially in poorer regions, purchasing expensive computer or console systems is difficult at best – all the Stadia needs is a controller, a stable Internet-connection and an active subscription.

Google Stadia Launch, Troubled Beginning

© Drew Angerer | Google

The reality of it

At launch two days ago, things didn’t go as planned. The service went live, but it was plagued by problems. Most of them don’t relate to the actual service.

There were severe shipping problems that saw players who ordered in November receive their kits before the ones who bought in July. Even more troubling, Google promised that usernames could be reserved on a first-come-first-serve basis, but this didn’t happen either – once again, much later buyers received their reservation email before early buyers did.

As for the service itself, users on social media described success – while there were some complaints, many players described a smooth experience, at least for single-player games.

For multiplayer games, things are different – even players with great Internet connections struggled to play games like Destiny 2 where fast reactions and reflexes were a factor.

The future of esports?

Tests by reporters and experts showed another problem – particularly in a test by the Washington Post, extreme input lag became evident.

In the video, the tester simply tries to jump, and the lag between pressing the button and the game reacting is somewhat extreme. While it’s only the first week of the service and improvements are perfectly possible, it isn’t overly promising.

Being able to play and stream esports games and tournaments without the requirement for high-spec machines would make it possible to host esports tournaments in small locations, and with relatively little planning beforehand.

The reality of it doesn’t quite match up though – while for casual users with powerful connections the service may well work, and especially single-player games run smoothly, the service failed to keep a lot of the promises it made.

The only way is up

Already, social media is filled with complaints from dissatisfied customers – however, Google is trying to address the issues. They have taken to trying to sort out the username-reservation codes that went out out of order, and are, according to their own social media posts, working on other issues as well.

Despite the failed promises, the troubles of Stadia are actually not all that surprising. Existing streaming services of a similar nature such as Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Sony’s PlayStation Now and the like each suffer from the same issues – lag and low-quality game feeds. This isn’t Google’s fault, of course, it’s largely due to hardware and Internet connection speed restraints. Despite this, a lot of people were disappointed – even more so to discover that the Stadia service practically devoured data allowances.

Test results posted on Reddit by players showed as much as 11GB for 4 hours of play – that sort of data volume could easily exceed monthly broadband limitations on metred or limited connections. That despite these requirements the promises of 4k graphics weren’t kept is perhaps the more noticeable issue – only under ideal connections, such as a powerful wired connection, Stadia managed to show its full power.

The only upside to this is that there is a lot of room for improvement – it may take a while, but the concept of cloud gaming remains a viable alternative to powerful desktop PCs… just maybe not quite yet. It’ll be a few years minimum before we’ll be able to see pro esports players competing in a cloud-computed competition!

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