A new study by internet availability data company BroadbandNow doesn't so much raise any new questions about Stadia's practicality as it underscores the biggest challenge it poses to consumers. According to the study, close to 6 million daily gamers in the United States would likely exceed monthly broadband data caps were they to switch to playing entirely on Stadia.
As reported by VICE, the study from BroadbandNow characterizes Stadia as putting players "on a collision course with their internet service's data limitations." The study found that 17% of survey respondents knew their internet plan had a data cap, while 21% were not sure. Of the respondents who knew their plan has data caps, 45% reported have exceeded the cap at least once.
It should be noted that the study gives a high-end estimate of Stadia's data usage requirements. Google says Stadia is designed to work across a variety of connection speeds, with the service adjusting resolution and stream quality to best take advantage of a user's download speed. For the best possible quality (4K at 60 FPS), Stadia recommends 35Mbps down, which would use 15.75 gigabytes per hour. Using data on United State "core gamers" from The NPD Group, BroadbandNow's study calculates that players spending an average 22 hours a week gaming would use roughly 1,386 gigabytes per month by using Stadia at its best quality. That would exceed a monthly 1 terabyte data cap before taking other bandwidth use into consideration.
A key point BroadbandNow's study raises is that survey respondents with data caps who played video games at least once a month were the most likely to exceed the caps. That indicates that even before factoring in the considerable bandwidth requirements of playing Stadia at medium-to-high quality, a significant number of gamers in the United States are already struggling against the limits set by their internet service providers.
In response to Stadia's reveal earlier this year, many early impressions of Stadia's offerings were worried about how consumers would fare considering the poor state of internet availability and connectivity in parts of the country.
In an interview with USgamer, Google's director for games business developer Jack Buser claimed that streaming Stadia at 4K should not be an issue if you can stream YouTube at 4K. "A wise person once said, 'don't bet against the internet'," said Buser. "If you're able to get a high fidelity YouTube experience in your home, you're probably in pretty good shape for Stadia."
While it's true that widespread access to HD streaming video was once a pipe dream, the FCC estimates that millions of Americans still lack any option for connecting to broadband that would prove adequate for Stadia. We'll see how Stadia's fares in early adopters' households when the Founders Edition launches sometime next month.