Here it is, it’s now done, Google Stadia is officially available and we spent a little time with not only the platform but also Destiny 2, Red Dead Redemption 2, Mortal Kombat 11 or Gylt.
Here it is, tomorrow, November 19, 2019 that Google Stadia, the video game platform from the giant of Mountain View, will be officially launched. Google has given itself the means to compete with the major players in the video game market, Sony Playstation, Microsoft Xbox but also PCs with Epic and Steam and to a lesser extent Nintendo. We spent some time with Stadia and here are our returns.
The Google Stadia principle
When we talk about Google Stadia, the new video game service from Google, an amalgam remains, even for those who pre-ordered the Founder’s Edition pack. Indeed, following countless assumptions before its official announcement on June 7, many still keep in mind that Google Stadia is supposed to be a Netflix of video games. No! Simply put, Google Stadia really has to be seen as a brand new console like the first Xbox by the name of Microsoft when it launched into the video game market, then dominated by Sony, Nintendo and Sega. Google Stadia is a new console but the difference is that it is in the cloud, much like the Shadow platform which is none other than a PC in the cloud.
Once this principle acquired, the returns before the launch that we see on Twitter with the blow of “I pre-ordered the pack Founder’s Edition and I will have to buy my games, it sucks” do not really take place to be. When Sony releases its new PS5 and Microsoft’s next Xbox, there will be no basic games either, the games will be purchased in addition. It’s the same with Google Stadia. Basically, if we do not count the free offer that will arrive in 2020, it is as if we paid for console rental 10 euros per month, or 120 euros per year. The future console of Sony or Xbox will probably be around 400 or 500 euros. The difference here is that the games will be automatically patched and launch in the best version possible. The games are not frozen in a console version as it is the case on Playstation Now or Xbox GamePass for example.
The Founder’s Edition pack
As we saw with the unboxing of the Founder’s Edition pack, we remind you that this pack is available since the official announcement of Stadia, namely June 7, 2019. The pack includes:
- A limited edition Stadia controller (69 euros)
- A Chromecast Ultra (79 euros)
- 3 months of Google Stadia Pro (29.97 euros)
- 3 months of Google Stadia Pro offered to a contact (29.97 euros)
The pack was priced at 129 euros instead of 207.94 euros if we had bought everything separately. So, it was a good deal if you didn’t have any of the above. And if you regret the Founder’s Edition pack, don’t worry, Google is offering the same pack for launch, called First edition. The only difference concerns the color of the controller and the fact that there is not 3 months offered to one of your contacts.
We remind you, none of this is an obligation. Indeed, the Chromecast Ultra will only be used on your TV and push performance up to 4K HDR at 60fps and sound in 5.1. If you don’t have Chromecast Ultra, you can play from a Chrome browser (Mac OSX, Windows, or Chrome OS) or a smartphone (Pixels only at this time). Regarding the Stadia controller, it works wirelessly only with the ChromeCast and wired with any other compatible device. It is not mandatory outside of the ChromeCast and we can still use a PS4 or Xbox or even Nintendo controller. Everything is explained HERE for the launch. And finally, the Google Stadia Pro subscription can still be taken on launch day so if you have not taken the Founder’s Edition package, it is not too serious in itself.
The controller and other ways to play
Regarding the controller, during the announcement, we were a little scared. The design didn’t really inspire and with competitors almost at the top of their game, it would be difficult to reinvent the wheel. So, during our first tests, we were pleasantly surprised. The Stadia controller is comfortable in hand and doesn’t look as “cheap” as you might have feared, the buttons respond well and the button travel remains short. The triggers are flexible and responsive, just like analog sticks. I also had fears about the directional cross and finally, it is of the same ilk as that of the Xbox controller for example. If you find the same buttons, the Stadia controller offers two additional buttons, the first, Google Assistant, not yet supported and the second to make screenshots that you can only find in the Stadia application on your smartphone. Yes, they come directly from Google’s servers. We’ll come back to it. The only thing we didn’t like about this Stadia controller was the buttons that were slightly too noisy for our taste. As a reminder, the Stadia controller is only WiFi and does not offer Bluetooth. Also, as soon as you use the Stadia controller with a Chrome browser or a smartphone, it will necessarily be in wired mode. WiFi will only work with ChromeCast Ultra, at least for now.
The ChromeCast Ultra is currently the only way to play Google Stadia games on TV and in fact, the Stadia controller is a must as it is the only device capable of connecting to the ChromeCast Ultra. Indeed, even a controller connected via Bluetooth or wired on a smartphone, itself connected to the ChromeCast Ultra will not work. And speaking of ChromeCast, the ChromeCast Ultra currently on the market will have to update to accommodate Stadia.
Otherwise, apart from TV, to access the Google Stadia service on Chrome browsers or on smartphone applications, the Stadia controller is not an obligation and you can still use one of your old controllers, wired or wireless -wire. As an example, I played with a Dual Shock 4 in Bluetooth on Mac, with the Stadia controller wired on a ChromeBook and with an Xbox controller in Bluetooth on a Pixel 4 XL. Note moreover that Chrome browsers also support the keyboard / mouse duo, rather practical for games like Destiny 2, for refractory to FPS with the joystick like your humble servant. Last week, Google gave all the information of the various supported devices.
On what screen?
As we begin to understand, Google Stadia will eventually be available on any screen of the user going from smartphone to TV going through tablets and computers. Now, for the launch, it remains relatively limited compared to the promise but it remains more interesting than a more classic console. Today, just one day before launch, Google Stadia is available on:
- TV via ChromeCast Ultra
- A Chrome browser (Mac OSX, Windows, Chrome OS)
- A smartphone or tablet (Pixels only)
For launch, there is already an iOS app but it is only used to connect to the service to buy games or start a session on ChromeCast. Note that this is not an obligation since once the Stadia controller paired with the ChromeCast Ultra, the service can be launched by simply turning on the controller, no need to go through a smartphone at each gaming session.
Preferably a good connection
At the announcement, the promise was great. Google promised to be able to play Stadia as soon as we were connected. It was also one of the promises of 5G too, having access to cloud-gaming to enjoy a real nomadic life.
The reality is quite different on November 18, 2019. 5G is still not available in France and for the launch of Stadia, 4G is not supported and you will have to go through your good old WiFi connection. Attention also, it is clear that it is very very strongly advised to have the fiber to take advantage of Google Stadia. Some will find fault with it, but this is the case for any service like Sony’s Playstation Now, Nvidia GeForce Now or even Shadow. Without a fiber optic connection (even the worst), no salvation.
For information, one hour of game in HD (720p) is still 4.5 GB of data transfer, in 4K HDR 60fps, it goes up to 20 GB per hour of game. Needless to say, we hope that the launch of 5G in France will be with unlimited plans, and for once, it is not necessarily won. Currently, on our 4G plans, we are more around 50GB to 100GB per month, or only 5 hours of game in 4K HDR 60fps. In Paris, you can find fiber quite easily and during the test period, we could not test with someone with a more limited connection. On the other hand, in the parameters of Stadia, one can force a lower flow in case. We have the choice between the top in 4K HDR 60fps, the minimum in HD (720p) at 60fps and a balanced mode!
It’s also worth remembering that the stream of a video differs a bit from the stream of a video game. Indeed, when we stream a video, it’s as if we were downloading in small pieces for local playback. For video games, there is a permanent data exchange, hence the importance of the internet connection. In our tests, we were in fiber and we did not notice any particular problem. In addition, we had early access, which means there aren’t many people on the servers. We are waiting for the ramp-up from November 19 to see if the connections hold or not.
Besides, it’s not for nothing that the Founder’s Edition and Premiere Edition packs are not all delivered at the same time. They are spread out and this will allow Google to be more serene on the ramp-up.
As we said above, today, Stadia launches either via a Chrome internet browser, or from the Stadia application on smartphone or tablet, or via the ChromeCast Ultra.
On TV, this is obviously the best possible experience with the support of 4K HDR 60fps. This resolution is currently only available via the ChromeCast Ultra. On Chrome browsers and on the Stadia app, we are limited to 1080p at 60fps. On the other hand, on the TV user interface, it is impossible to buy games or even to consult the catalog of games, we just have access to the games belonging to us.
As you can see, a lot of things will happen on your smartphone. Moreover, the initial configuration will be done via the Stadia application on smartphones or tablets. To access the games catalog and make purchases, this will be done on smartphones / tablets or on the Chrome browser. Apart from these specificities, the user interface is quite similar between the different connection platforms. You can see your friends online without really interacting with them. Yes, it also reminds me of Nintendo, but worse, we can’t even send messages yet. The promise is still great and we will have to wait.
It all depends on the internet connection, it is a mandatory condition. We do not repeat it enough but the experience depends on this data and yes, if you have a borderline connection, your gaming experience can be catastrophic. Being in Paris, we tested the service with a fiber optic connection. Needless to say, in 90% of the cases, we were able to enjoy the available games pleasantly without really lagging or even at the level of the controller, our biggest fear. Speaking of lag around the controller, no problem, we were able to make our combos and other special powers based on a quarter circle, it answered the finger and the eye. Ditto for Destiny 2, we started the multiplayer missions and I did not note any particular problem, either with the controller or the keyboard / mouse duo via a Chrome browser. Be careful, when we talk about lag, we are talking about lag for the “casual gamer”. We are waiting to be able to test with PGMs to see where the real lag is located. However, I was still entitled to a few disconnections and it was often due to the internet connection. So, you have 15 minutes to reconnect and resume your game to save eventually.
I will not go back to the 22 games available from this November 19, 2019. You can find the whole list HERE. On the other hand, I would just like to bring my stone to the building. Yes, these are not the most recent games, but they are not the oldest either. For the launch of a console, having a game like Red Dead Redemption 2, the last NBA 2K20 or even the last Football Manager 2020, is not nothing. If they do not clearly revolutionize the world of video games, especially for the most gamers among you, they remain excellent games and they are not the only ones. The advantage here is that there is no installation, no patches, we launch the game and play it directly on our TV, PC or even smartphone (if you have a Pixel 4 ), It is very pleasant. By the end of the year, 40 games will still be available and not the least since we are talking about Borderlands 3, Doom, Wolfenstein: Young Blood or a little later Cyberpunk 2077.
Regarding the graphics, we are far from having compared everything but taking the examples of Destiny 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2, we are for the moment being quite close to the PS4 for Red Dead Redemption 2 for example and halfway between the PS4 Pro and a good high-end PC for Destiny 2. If Stadia is still new for publishers, I think that for now, the working base remains the PS4 version for porting to Stadia. We will have to wait for real games developed for Stadia to see the real power of the Google platform. Speaking of exclusives, one of the exclusives of Stadia is Gylt and what was not our surprise to discover a spellbinding adventure game that reminds us of Stranger Things. We highly recommend it.
Competition and the future?
In the universe of cloud-gaming, there are two philosophies, streaming games or downloading games. We start with streaming! Nothing to install, we play it directly, there are no patches to install since it is done on the server side. On the other hand, as you can imagine, it really takes a big internet connection for the charge to hold. This is the case of Google Stadia, Playstation Now recently, Nvidia GeForce Now and later Xbox Game Pass with the xCloud project.
For the philosophy of the download (Playstation Now, Xbox Game Pass and Apple Arcade), there are advantages and disadvantages. The biggest drawback being that you have to download the game (and the patches later) and when you see the latest AAA games, they are very greedy in disk space and this requires having a solid connection to be able to play your game the same day. Likewise, there is no unlimited local storage, so sooner or later space will have to be freed up, etc. The advantage, however, is that even without an internet connection, you can enjoy your game if the game offers an offline mode.
But suddenly, where is Google Stadia positioned?
- Playstation Now and Xbox Game Pass: The biggest difference from Microsoft and Sony is that Google’s platform is scalable while Sony’s games are PS4 games and Microsoft’s games are Xbox games. Microsoft has a card to play with PC games which are the only ones, to date, to compete with the graphics and performance offered by Google Stadia. In addition, Playstation Now currently only works with a PS4 or PC, and Xbox Game Pass only works with an Xbox One or PC.
- Apple Arcade: The Apple platform currently only offers unwanted games that must take into account the limitations of the brand’s smartphones, it is not really a competition and the two services are completely different.
- Nvidia GeForce Now: He’s the one who has the closest philosophy to Google Stadia with the best of PC games in his catalog. While waiting for iOS / Android customers, GeForce Now is only available on Shields and PCs.
- Shadow: It’s not quite the same service, it’s a real PC that takes everything existing with your Steam, Epic, Blizzard, Ubisoft, EA Origin, etc. accounts. Until the future plans, the disk space remains the biggest concern and yes, it will continue to install its games, even on the cloud.
If we put aside the internet connection, a condition sine qua non to take advantage of Google Stadia or any cloud-gaming service, the service of the Mountain View firm is positioned a little at a crossroads with a promise most enticing for the future. If there are still limitations, Google Stadia is already available on TV, PC, Mac, ChromeBook and some smartphones. The list of supported smartphones should grow soon and we end up with a console available virtually anywhere. Its competitors, outside of Shadow, are only available on one or two max platforms at this time. Not everyone sees it because you have to have a PS4 or Xbox One in your living room while Google Stadia comes down, at worst, to a ChromeCast Ultra.
The biggest doubts for the moment necessarily concern the catalog where, yes, it sorely lacks exclusivity. Even if we have no complaints about the 40 games to come, it remains a catalog similar to a PC and Google will have to communicate a lot to prove to us daily the benefits of the platform. There is no doubt that the free offer from next year risks changing the situation.
Obviously, today, Google Stadia is a paid beta and only the most tech-savvy will be tempted. If you are not sure or if you are not a super player, wait for the free offer which will arrive next year. But suddenly, next year, the free version may change the game. Even if it’s limited to Full HD, it’s free, which means that virtually everyone will have at least one Stadia console, with no additional purchase obligations. This cloud console will go everywhere with you and you will always have it with you.
Also, when a new AAA game becomes available, one may wonder on which platform to buy it. On PS4 and Xbox, these will be required. On PC, it will take a racing beast and on Stadia, the promise of PC-type performance without really having to pay for additional equipment, it’s tempting. We hear the fears of the players but also of the developers who are afraid of seeing Google stop its service overnight but the cloud is a strategic issue which means that Google has invested too much and believes in it too much to stop the service overnight next day. At least, it’s in this sense that Google communicates to reassure.
Microsoft Xbox One Controller …
- Bluetooth 4.0 technology
- Wired connection for PC – 2.74m cable included
- Wired / Wireless Connection for Xbox One
- Ergonomic design