When Google Stadia was revealed, I didn't know who it was for. Fast forward five months, and I still don't know who it's for. It's a platform that I feel is forever destined to be caught in the middle of two markets: not "cutting edge" enough for the more hardcore audience, but too complicated for the casual audience.
Last week, with less than seven days to go until launch, we heard that Google Stadia would be missing some features at launch. What's more, features like Android compatibility and family sharing won't actually be available until an unspecified time in 2020. You'd sort of hope that a mega corporation like Google would have its shit together for a venture into the gaming market, but this does not seem to be the case
I opened up Mike Williams' review of Google Stadia ahead of embargo to read it over earlier today. "Google Stadia is simply not ready for launch," was the first sentence I read, and that was enough for me to wince. Mike's review does an excellent job of breaking down the hardware setup for Stadia, which isn't smooth sailing by anyone's standards.
Stadia lives or dies on its connection, being a streaming platform and all by nature. Issues popped up streaming both 1080p and 4K for review purposes, with Tomb Raider freezing solid, Just Dance 2020 crashing to the home screen, and Destiny 2 turning into a PowerPoint presentation. And this is all on private, home WiFi.
USG also had a solid debate over the Google Stadia controller in Slack last week (don't worry, it wasn't as brutal as the Final Fantasy 15 firestorm). The upshot is that Stadia controller cannot connect wirelessly to a phone, tablet, or PC. Yes, you read that right. One of the most powerful and wealthy corporations in the world has managed to put together a controller that lacks a bluetooth function, at least for now. The only way a Stadia controller can be used wirelessly is through a Chromecast for TV play. If you plan on using it with a laptop or phone, no matter how high-end your setup, you need to use the USB-C cable.
I'd take it a step further... a large portion of the people that play F2P games not only don't want to pay $60 for premium games, they also have no interest in those games to begin with. https://t.co/i8VC2SccPN— Mat Piscatella (@MatPiscatella) November 18, 2019
But back to the platform itself. There isn't a single person I know who would be hypothetically interested in Google Stadia. I remember our guides guru Jake Green saying how his younger sister wants to play games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but doesn't have a PS4. Google Stadia should theoretically be perfect for someone like Jake's sister: a plug in and play software setup that gives you access to tons of games in an Xbox Game Pass-like subscription service.
Everyone has a computer, in some shape or form. Not everyone has the PC hardware necessary to run something like Assassin's Creed Odyssey or Destiny 2, and this is the market that Google should have aimed hard for. What we've got instead is an upfront cost that's simply too expensive at $129 (plus the monthly subscription cost, even if it is free for the first three months) for a casual audience, while also having "noticeable latency" issues with games like Mortal Kombat and Tomb Raider that'll send a more tech-savvy audience running for the hills.
I will be very interested to see how many units Google Stadia sells. Mike's review notes that Stadia's gameplay "needs to be impeccable," and I agree. Google billed Stadia as "gaming for everyone." With less than stellar gameplay, a limited library, a finicky controller setup, and features not available at launch, I have a feeling it'll be more gaming for no one.
Major Game Releases: November 18 to November 22
Here are the major releases for the week of November 18 to November 22. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2019.
- Shenmue 3 [November 19 for PC and PS4]: It's almost time for the return of Shenmue, baby! Shenmue 2 was released for the PC, the original Xbox, and Sega Dreamcast (just like the original) back in 2001, so Yu Suzuki's third installment has been a long time coming by anyone's standards. Shenmue 3 will get us "40 percent" through protagonist Ryo's story, as Suzuki told us earlier this year.
- Football Manager 2020 [November 19 for PC and Stadia]: Normally I would turn to Gamer Network's Tom Orry and ask him for a segment about this, but since our former managing editor has now moved on, I know not what to say about Football Manager 2020 aside from the fact that it is more Football Manager, and this is good (I think). Remember, Football Manager 2020 will be a launch title for Google's Stadia on Tuesday, and it's thankfully a game that won't be impacted by latency issues, unlike the fighting games on Google's platform [Editor's Note: It includes lots of improvements to how you interact with the boardroom, if that helps.]
This Week's News and Notes
- Hands up if you saw this coming: A new Mass Effect is reportedly in very early development at BioWare. This probably made our resident Mass Effect fanatic Eric Van Allen's day, but there's no telling how many years away the game could be away from launching.
- In the same report from Kotaku, BioWare is trying to breathe new life into Anthem with a full makeover. Similar to how Final Fantasy 14 rose from the ashes as 'A Realm Reborn' after a disastrous launch near the start of the decade, BioWare are trying to bring back a game that has, by all accounts, failed to sustain a stellar player base since launch earlier this year.
- Microsoft might be looking towards the next console generation with the enigmatic Project Scarlett, but they're not done wheeling and dealing in the slightest. A deluge of announcements were made at X019 in London last week, including the Yakuza series, Witcher 3, Rage 2, and a host of classic Final Fantasy titles, all coming to Xbox Game Pass.
- Rare revealed its brand new IP: Everwild. It's a charmingly colorful game, just like you'd probably expect from the developers of Banjo-Kazooie and Sea of Thieves, set in a mysterious new world.
- Nadia really knocked it out of the park with her Pokemon Sword and Shield coverage last week. Standing ovation for our resident Pokemon and JRPG expert, please, who's coverage included the full Pokemon Sword and Shield review, breaking down the axing of the Global Trade System and how this impacts the game, how Shinies work with the catch level limits, and much more.
- The Sonic the Hedgehog movie returns! Wait, no, come back, he's good again, we promise. Turns out Paramount Pictures recruited veteran Sonic artist and director, Tyson Hesse, to redesign the Blue Blur for his big movie outing. The movie will open on the delayed release date of Valentine's Day 2020 (for that special Sonic fan in your life), and the project looks a lot better for being delayed out of this year.
- Axe of the Blood God: This week on Axe of the Blood God, it's a Pokemon Sword and Shield special, as our Kat Bailey and Nadia Oxford are joined by GameSpot's Kallie Plagge to depth into the new duo of games in detail.