Here’s why Stadia might not be for you

The premise and promise are great, but the devil's in the details

Stadia is set to launch in November and it is Google’s grand entrance into mainstream gaming. It promises to bring triple-A games to virtually any screen, without the need for an expensive console or gaming PC.

The way Stadia accomplishes this is really quite remarkable, Google’s servers run the game and stream the video to your choice of screen, delivering quality up to 4K HDR at 60fps with surround sound.

By allowing Google’s servers to render the game, it does away with the need for a powerful console or gaming PC, letting you play on any screen you own. Or, that’s the promise, at least.

While the technology itself is very impressive, Stadia won’t exactly live up to its full potential at launch. Here are some things you should consider before subscribing to Stadia.

Network Speeds

Google’s Stadia won’t leave gamers wanting when it comes to quality graphics as the service provides up to 4K HDR video at 60fps with 5.1 surround sound. However, in order to experience all of that eye candy, you’re going to need a high-speed internet connection of 35Mbps or faster.

Users with slower connections can expect 1080p HDR video at 60fps with surround sound at 1080p at 20Mbps speeds; 720p at 60fps with stereo sound is possible at 10Mbps speeds.

The average U.S. household should have plenty of speed to support Stadia, but if you want to play in locations outside of your house, then you might run into trouble.

Public Wi-Fi and hotels are prime examples of places where you’ll often be constricted by slower network speeds. Even in a crowded house, you could be left fighting over the available bandwidth.

Data Caps

Considering the availability of broadband in the US, the network speed should be a non-issue for many users. Unfortunately, some of the largest broadband providers with the fastest speeds, also enforce monthly data caps.

The most common is a 1TB per month data cap from carriers. If that’s something you might need to contend with, you may see 65 hours of gaming at 4K HDR 60fps with surround sound in Stadia.

That shakes out to an average of two hours of gaming per day. Moreover, it doesn’t take into account everything else we use our internet connections for, including streaming services.

If you also want to stream Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, or have family members or roommates who also want to stream and game, then you’ll be looking at lowering the quality or significantly less gaming time.

Even when I was testing Stadia with Project Stream, I was able to blow through my 1TB data cap with it limited to 1080p at 60fps.

Limited Stadia Screens

One of Stadia’s biggest selling points is gaming on virtually any screen. Unfortunately, at launch, the variety of screens you can play on will be more limited.

Google says you’ll only be able to play on your TV if you have a Chromecast Ultra and the Stadia controller. Bad news for those of you with Android TVs with Chromecast built-in or Android TV boxes like the NVIDIA Shield or Xiaomi Mi Box S. Stadia won’t support them at launch.

Tablets are another murky area, during the launch announcement, Stadia vice president Phil Harrison specifically mentions tablets. Yet, on Stadia’s support page it lists the only mobile devices compatible at launch will be the Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, and Pixel 3a XL.

Perhaps Google doesn’t consider tablets a mobile device, or most likely there won’t be any tablet support at all in the beginning. If you were planning on playing using your tablet, it would be best to hold off until it launches and is confirmed to work.

If you want to play on your phone, then you’re out of luck unless you’re using one of the aforementioned Pixel devices.

What about iOS users? It appears they get no love at all. Stadia won’t work on the iPhone, and there has been no mention of the iPad, and it definitely won’t work on the Apple TV.

Pricing

When Stadia launches in November it will cost $10 per month for Stadia Pro. With Stadia Pro, you get access to occasional free games, discounts on games, and streaming up to 4K HDR at 60fps. Even though you’ll still have to buy games individually, $10 per month isn’t bad for essentially leasing a high powered gaming PC.

Unfortunately, the free version of Stadia won’t launch until some time in 2020. If you were on the fence and hoping to give it a try before subscribing, you’ve gotta wait.

It would have been fantastic to have access to the free version at launch. Instead, early adopters will have to pay for the privilege and most likely encounter a few bugs that weren’t worked out during the Project Stream test.

Final Stadia Thoughts

The premise behind Stadia is fantastic. No longer will you be forced to chase the latest PC parts or plunk down large sums of money for the latest console. Not only will it theoretically save you money, but you’ll also have the freedom to game where you want and when you want.

However, it seems Google and the data providers both have some catching up to do before the Stadia dream can be fully realized.

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