After announcing earlier in the week they were going to hold their own event prior to E3, Google presented their “Stadia Connect”, the first in a series of pre-recorded videos discussing the plans for their upcoming console. For this first Stadia Connect, the company went into detail about pricing, and explained what games we could hope to see for their system.
One of the primary concerns about Stadia is that, as a streaming console, it seems like it would require an expensive connection for things to run smoothly. However, the company promised that with a connection of only 35 megabits per second, users could experience 4K, HDR Video, 60 frames per second, and 5.1 Surround Sound. At a connection of 20Mbps, the video would drop to 1080p resolution but maintain all its other aspects, and at 10Mpbs, it still maintains 720p resolution and 60 frames per second, but loses HDR Video and switches from 5.1 Surround sound to Stereo. This is what Google is referring to as it’s “recommended minimum” currently.
A key point stressed during the video is that players will be able to access the Stadia via anything currently capable of running a Chrome browser. A user’s desktop, laptop, television (if they have a Chromecast Ultra), tablet, and the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a, will all be capable of using the Stadia. The only thing required in most cases is the Stadia Controller, which will retail for $69.99.
Speaking of pricing, they also talked about the different tiers of pricing which will be available at launch. For those who don’t want to pay anything, the Stadia will still remain usable so long as they have a controller compatible with Stadia, or a keyboard and mouse. They can simply buy the games they want (they confirmed they were working on cross-save and the ability to transfer characters over from existing games, specifically Destiny) and play without hassle. For those wanting a more curated experience, there is Stadia Pro, which will cost $9.99, with content being added to an existing gaming library every month. They also pointed out the existence of the Stadia Founder’s Edition, which would come with a Chromecast Ultra, a limited edition Night Blue Stadia Controller, three months of Stadia Pro and a three month Buddy pass which could be awarded to friends, and access to Destiny 2, for $129.99.
When it comes to gaming, they announced a host of games which would be available for the system, a list that pulls from a wide range of publishers. Ubisoft seems to be at the forefront, bringing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, The Division 2, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, Just Dance 2020, and Trials Rising. Meanwhile Bethesda isn’t far behind, promising Rage 2, Elder Scrolls Online, DOOM Eternal, and Wolfenstein: Youngblood. Other noteworthy games include: Dragon Ball XenoVerse 2, Football Manager 2020, Borderlands 3, Farming Simulator 19, Mortal Kombat 11, Football Manager 2020, GRID, Metro Exodus, Thumper, Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid, Final Fantasy XV, the trilogy for the Tomb Raider reboot, and NBA 2K.
They also confirmed a handful of games which aren’t out yet, including Samurai Shodown, Darksiders: Genesis, Get Packed, Gylt, and the rumored Baldur’s Gate 3.
For Google’s first outing, this is fairly disappointing. After GDC, they really needed a home run, and this didn’t feel like it was it. Aside from the Controller (which presumably has components inside to help it work with Stadia’s servers), the pricing is excellent, but that’s the best thing I can say about their presentation here.
Granted, I had a strong vision for what I thought was necessary here, but I don’t think I’m out of line in asking: where are their games? Yes, they showed off over 20 games coming to their console this fall (also, they had no date announced here), but those aren’t theirs. Aside from Tequila Works’ Gylt (which will be great but not quite large enough to move the needle the way they need), those are all multi-platform titles belonging to third-party publishers. Sony and Microsoft can rely on third parties to fill gaps in their schedules because they have fanbases that have followed them for 20-25 years. Plus, the majority of these games have a limited shelf life regardless of how excellent they are. I loved Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey…but I got the Platinum for it back in early January and I only plan to revisit it to complete the season pass. For most people it’s probably the same for games like Metro Exodus, and certainly Final Fantasy XV.
In this instance, Google is a company that’s already viewed as an unwanted intruder by a lot of gamers, because they’re a tech giant and helping to usher in the age of digital much faster than before, so it felt like they needed much more than what we saw. This was akin to being invited to a party and bringing Doritos and two liter sodas and pretending to ignore the table in the corner stacked with chips and drinks already. They really needed to show their own stuff here, and while there’s still time for that…it’s up in the air as to whether there will still be interest. It’s pre-E3 season and gamers are primed to see as many new games as possible–you won’t have nearly this many eyes on everything gaming until December during The Game Awards, and even that’s a far cry from how many are paying attention during E3.
It feels like this was a project started by gamers, but they didn’t really have a proper vision. There’s a certain amount of pragmatism necessary for a venture like this that doesn’t feel present: where they should be grabbing the most popular evergreen multiplayer titles, they’re instead cutting deals to get Final Fantasy XV to look “legitimate”. Where we should be seeing exclusive first party games, instead they asked Larian Studios to debut Baldur’s Gate 3 here. Baldur’s Gate is a cult classic title and there are a ton of people that love this news…but a large number of them would rather buy the game on Steam than the Stadia.
Even making the argument that they can “show games later” is needlessly presumptuous and assumes Google has some sort of history with gamers. Other people get to botch it up because they have a past track record. This is Google’s second conference which underwhelmed. How many more before prospective buyers begin to tune things out?
I was looking forward to a possible fourth pillar to increase the competition between companies, but for that to be possible, the fourth pillar would have to actually be competition.