Initial reviews of the Google Stadia cloud gaming system aren’t great

For just £119 you can buy a controller and a three-month subscription to Google’s new games streaming service, but is it worth even that?

We haven’t had a go on it yet, but it’s worth a look at what those who have are saying about it as a thriving cloud gaming industry could have significant telecoms implications. If, as has happened with music and video, people increasingly access games from the cloud rather than local storage then that will be another significant strain on networks, but possibly also an opportunity to upsell premium connectivity.

There’s no reason anyone should buy into Stadia right now,” advises The Verge. “Google has made sure of that, partly by underdelivering at launch and partly with a pricing scheme that sees you paying three times (for hardware, for the service, for games) just to be an early adopter.”

“Many Stadia-exclusive features that were supposed to set the platform apart also aren’t ready in time for launch, despite being discussed publicly since March,” laments Ars Technica. “Maybe one day these features and more will put Stadia at or above par with other game platforms. Right now, across all three hardware use cases, the platform itself feels a bit half-baked.”

“Ultimately, the only real benefit of the system is the absence of that box under the TV,” scoffs the Guardian. If your impeccable sense of interior design values that above game selection, price, offline play or community size, go for it. Otherwise, stick with a home console if AAA games are where your heart lies, or pick up Apple Arcade to see what a revolution looks like when it focuses on the games and not the technology.”

“Until Google finds a way to loop in YouTube and develop truly unique competitive large-scale games, Stadia isn’t worth your time yet,” sighs Cnet. “Yes, the future is possibly wild, and you can see hints of the streaming-only cloud-based playground Stadia wants to become. But we’ll see what it shapes into over the next handful of months and check back in.”

What’s remarkable is how unsurprising this is. Google is terrible at product launches to the extent that they have an almost apologetic feel. This is clearly a very early version of the service that Google is hoping a few compulsive early-adopters will provide unpaid beta-testing for. The main problem with this approach is how to relaunch it when you think it’s finished and might actually be worth bothering with.

Nvidia brings its cloud gaming to Android

2019 was already looking like a promising year for cloud gaming and now Nvidia is bringing its own service, GeForce NOW, to Android, the streaming scrap is heating up.

Specifics on timing have not been released just yet, neither have pricing details, though Nvidia has said its streaming service will be available on Android devices over the coming months. With the service already available on PC and Mac devices, entering the Android world adds the potential of another two billion devices.

“Already in beta to the delight of 1 billion underpowered PCs that aren’t game ready, GeForce NOW will soon extend to one of the most popular screens in the world, Android phones – including flagship devices from LG and Samsung,” the team said on its blog.

“Just like on PC, Mac and Shield TV, when the Android mobile app releases it’ll be in beta. We’ll continue improving and optimizing the experience.”

The move into Android will take Nvidia into direct competition with both Google’s Stadia and Microsoft’s xCloud. There are of course pros and cons for all the available services, though a couple of bonus’ for Nvidia will gauge the interest of some gamers. Firstly, second purchases on titles will not be needed for the cloud gaming service, while the GeForce RTX graphics performance will be introduced soon enough.

Google was the first to plug the potential of cloud gaming back in March, promising users they will be able to access their games at all times, and on virtually any screen. The initial launch will be for £8.99 a month, though the team does plan on launching a ‘freemium’ alternative soon after. As you can imagine, Google is always looking for ways the complex data machine can offer content to users for profit.

It didn’t take long for Microsoft to launch its own alternative following the press Google collected. Hyped as the ‘Netflix of video games’, Microsoft will charge $9.99 to access a range of Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles on any screen. Like Stadia and GeForce NOW, a controller would have to plugged into Android devices.

There are some ridiculous figures which are being banded around concerning the percentage of traffic cloud gaming will account for during the 5G era, it is a segment worth keeping an eye on.

Google fleshes out its Stadia cloud gaming platform

Having teased a new cloud gaming platform earlier this year, Google has finally got around to launching it properly.

Stadia offers games that are 100% hosted in the cloud, which means you don’t need a console, don’t need to install any software and can game on any screen with an adequate internet connection. Right now Google is only launching the premium tier, which offers 4K gaming but requires a £9 per month subscription and a 35 Mbps connection.

A freemium tier will follow in due course that won’t change a subscription fee but will offer reduced performance. It looks like both tiers will charge full-whack for individual games, although the premium one will chuck in a few freebies to sweeten the pot. Among the games announced by Google is a third version of the popular RPG Baldur’s Gate.

To seed the market Google is urging early adopters to by a Founder’s Edition bundle that includes a controller, a Chromecast Ultra dongle and three months subscription to the ‘Pro’ premium tier for £119. Here’s what you get for Pro versus the basic package.

stadia pricing

The main telecoms angle here is bandwidth. Google reckons you still need a 20 Mbps connection even for 1080p gaming, which a lot of people, even in the UK, still struggle to reach. But the real strain on networks will come if people start using stadia via mobile devices. This is unlikely to really take off until you get games developed specifically for mobile, probably with a location and/or AR element to them, but when they do we might finally see a killer consumer app for 5G.