Google Stadia officially launched last week. The service was billed as a revolutionary step forward in cloud gaming. However, the reality ended up being a lot messier.
With enough time (and funding from Google), this platform may grow into something truly awesome. But right now, this is little more than a beta, and there are eight good reasons you should avoid buying Google Stadia this holiday season.
Sad Game Lineup
The meat and potatoes of any game system is the game lineup. Unfortunately, the current offerings from Google Stadia are a bit slim.
As of now, there are only 22 games available to play on Stadia. That may not seem like too low of a number (after all, Xbox One only launched with 23 games). But many of the games available are ones that you can already play better on a console or PC.
In other words, there’s no “killer app” for Stadia to make you take out that wallet.
Bad Pricing Model
Gamers typically experience two pricing models: the one for physical media and the one for digital media. When a retailer doesn’t have to store physical copies of games, they can sometimes offer really awesome digital media discounts (which is why Steam sales are so frequent).
Right now, Stadia is a digital platform with console game pricing. You have to ask yourself if you’re comfortable paying $60 for a game that you will never actually own. If Stadia is dead within a year, you could lose all of the games you paid for.
Furthermore, you must pay $10 a month to simply use the service. This is pricier than services such as Xbox Live Gold. And it is the same amount as services like the Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Now, each of which gives you access to over 100 games to play.
Currently, Stadia’s $10 a month only gives access to two games.
Poor Customer Service
Sympathetic players may say that every gaming launch experiences some bumps in the road. As long as the company tries to make things better, things work out… right?
Sadly, Google has dropped the ball on customer service. To start with, many gamers who purchased the $129 Founder’s Edition of Stadia did not have platform access at launch, nor did they have the unique usernames they were promised. These Stadia fans were meant to be brand ambassadors, but now they serve as a lesson to stay away.
Other Founders didn’t even get their physical kits on time. And when they called Google Support, some of these beleaguered customer support representatives didn’t even know what the heck Stadia was.
Lack of Players
Google tried to swing big by including some major multiplayer action on Stadia. In fact, Destiny 2 is one of the games you get access to simply by paying $10 a month. There’s just one problem: there are not that many players, which means you get a bad experience even if the tech is running perfectly.
You may argue that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, articles like this one may end up further diminishing the potential pool of players. But it seems likelier that the poor service, pricy games, and decidedly mixed reviews of Stadia meant that would-be Destiny players decided to stick with consoles and PC.
Lack of Features
One of Google’s big talking points was that Stadia would be a system designed for the streaming age. Therefore, it would include features to make it easier for gamers to share experiences and create their own online community.
Sadly, the game launched without these features.
In time, features like Crowd Play, Stream Connect, and Stat Share may change how we look at streaming. But none of these advertised features were available at launch.
Low Device Support (For Now)
Arguably, the biggest selling point of Stadia was the “gaming anywhere” approach. Cloud gaming meant that you could have the performance of a powerful PC on just about any PC, tablet, or phone.
That may still happen, but not at launch. As of launch, the only way to play is on a computer web browser, a Google Pixel phone, or the Chromecast Ultra you get (eventually) with the Founder’s Kit.
This may be simple technical error. But at glance, it looks like a cynical attempt by Google to steer gamers towards purchasing an expensive new phone or Founder’s Kit instead of using existing tech.
The entire premise of cloud gaming is that you are streaming a game. You don’t need beefy hardware: you just need a device with a solid internet connection. However, speed is the core problem for many early Stadia reviews.
Many users simply don’t have fast enough and reliable enough internet to take advantage of things like 4K cloud gaming. This means you get a terrible experience that will send you packing back to console or PC.
Worse yet, even users with great internet speed encountered latency problems. Latency is problematic for any game, but it’s the kiss of death for fast games like Destiny 2 and Mortal Kombat 11.
Finally, users must beware any data caps on their internet use. When you start regularly streaming high-resolution games, you may burn through your data way too quickly.
Value Versus Price
As Black Friday and Christmas shopping looms, one thing holds very true: Stadia just isn’t worth it.
There are several awesome Black Friday gaming deals on everything from PCs to console bundles to individual games. Something like $200 could get you a brand new Xbox One or PS4 and several games. Or that same amount could get you three Stadia games and two months of that subscription fee.
And after paying, unless you’re rocking a Pixel phone, you’re only playing on a web browser and most likely encountering connection issues. Might as well take your money and spend it on a better gaming experience (which is just about anything at this point).