Welcome to you and your Stadia opinions. Google unveiled its upcoming game streaming platform during a one hour presentation aired earlier today at GDC 2019. Reactions to the Stadia reveal can be summarized thusly: "Wow! That's pretty great! How the hell am I supposed to use it?"
Stadia doesn't require any sort of box or gaming PC. Everything is streamed directly from Google, which says its servers are equipped to give us all a buttery 60 FPS at 4K resolution (8K support is coming too, by the way. Yes, 8K. I thought only cats and eagles are biologically equipped to handle whatever sights 8K will show us, but here we are). With Google's servers doing the computing, games should run beautifully on your platform of choice—even low-end PCs, smartphones, and tablets. You can use any USB controller you like, but the Stadia controller is engineered with special options, like quick access to help whenever you're stuck in a game. There are already several developers on board with Google, and we imagine that list will grow.
Stadia sounds incredible. Chances are good it'll be incredible. Unfortunately, going by the information Google fed us, it also highlights the massive divide between digital "haves" and "have-nots." Yes, the Stadia might be a day-one purchase—if you live in a city that offers a robust internet connection, and if you can afford the kind of internet plan that won't hit you with a bajillion-dollar bill because streaming Assassin's Creed Odyssey caused you to smash through your data cap at 88 miles per hour.
Huge swaths of North America are rural and still lack anything close to a decent internet connection. People who live in cities with better infrastructure still overpay for slow connections and data caps. Up here in Canada, the Internet is in the hands of monstrous telecommunications monopolies who might be willing to offer me the kind of speed and data I'd need to enjoy Stadia, but boy howdy, would they ever make me pay for the privilege.
None of this is new information. It's not a new development. We aren't rebuilding from a nuclear war that wiped out internet providers across the continent. Internet has been dismal in much of North America from the very beginning, and politicians seemingly aren't interested in fixing the problem in any kind of a hurry (by contrast, South Korea's government has long prioritized making fast, cheap internet available for all citizens—not that we know when Stadia is coming to Asia). Nevertheless, game companies keep coming at us with declarations about how "It's time to stream everything!" No, I'm afraid it's not time. Not for a long while. How many times are we going to have this conversation?
I don't doubt Google is capable of building servers that can theoretically do everything it's promised Stadia can do. In fact, if any company can pull off those crazy promises, it's Google. Which is kind of terrifying, but I digress. The problem's on the consumer's end through no fault of our own. Stadia is offering us the menu for what could theoretically be a very nice meal; we just don't have the stomach for it.
Maybe it's uncool to be so cynical about such impressive technology mere minutes out of the gate, but it's important to be realistic. From my angle, Stadia is a great idea that might suffer because it's simply too far ahead of its time.
#Stadia sounds like a great concept, I won’t pretend otherwise. I’m wary in my situation though. I live in a good area, but even on a 100mb/s connection, even 720p Youtube vids compress, buffer and sometimes just shit out. And what of data caps for many folks? pic.twitter.com/uW33PJI0TI— shinobi602 (@shinobi602) March 19, 2019
There's also the issue of cost. While Google gave us a release date for its platform (2019 in the United States, Canada, the UK, and most of Europe), we didn't hear anything about what the platform costs, how much we can expect to pay for games, and whether or not we're going to pay into a subscription service. That gives me pause because I know the answer is probably going to be "expensive, baby." That's on top of whatever extra I'd theoretically have to dole out for a more robust internet connection. Some Stadia critics on social media are also against the idea of an all-inclusive streaming platform because they don't want to contribute to the already-dismal state of game preservation, but that's a whole 'nother ball of digital wax.
Google promises we'll learn tons more about the Stadia at another event scheduled for this Summer. We shall see! For now, stay with us as we cover everything else at GDC 2019, including impressions of the Stadia.