T.that Stadium is nothing less than revolutionary. Its core technology has been promising for decades: producing a quality console, without a console. But revolutions have unpredictable outcomes, leave a trail of destruction ahead of them, and tend to destroy those who start them. Will Google be able to see this through?
Functions! For some, that's all that matters. Once the Stadium is up and running, the system is almost different from playing a game on the console that sits beneath your TV, unless there's fan noise, no downloads or discs, and, well, no console.
I spent most of my time at Stadium with the system in traditional TV mode. That means the Stadia controller connects to Google servers over WiFi, and the Chromecast Ultra plugged into the back of my TV does the same. For "best performance", Google recommends wiring the Chromecast to the LAN, but it feels like too much work. Only once did I experience something that looked backward (when sending a picture message to my partner); every second time, it was perfect.
This applies not only to visual quality but also to lagging input. In a bold show of confidence, the Stadium reviewer set includes not only Destiny 2, a fairly fast shooter, but also Mortal Kombat 11, a fighting game that is a genre where fans view individual frames of advantage. Undoubtedly, in the hands of a professional, time lag is important. But for me, with the reflexes of a short-sighted journalist approaching 30 years old, I couldn't tell the difference.
There are warnings. I have a pretty good internet connection (100Mbps fiber to my home) and a pretty old TV (1080p, no HDR and 5.1 setup). Google recommends a connection of at least 10Mbps for visual switch quality – 720p stereo output – and 35Mbps for full HDR 4K. I also don't have a wide bandwidth cap on the Internet, which is best because you can expect to churn at least 10 GB per hour if you stream the highest quality.
Things are also tougher if you move away from Chromecast. Mortal Comat was stuttering when playing in manual mode.
Only two pieces of hardware are in the box: the Chromecast Ultra and the Stadia controller. Ultra is not new and it's pretty solid streaming on its own – which is good because you have to use it for Stadia to stream to your TV. In fact, you must use the one in the field because it runs a special firmware. The rest comes with software updates, say Google.
So when it comes to hardware, the stadium is his controller. And it's good. It looks a bit like a fake prop knocked out for a BBC TV show, which was a little too strict about the rules for product placement, but the triggers feel good, the buttons click and don't stick, and they don't spend resources on tricks such as motion sensitivity or an amazing big keyboard. Instead, the controller's notable feature, in addition to standard game buttons, is a pair that offers close integration with other Google services: one that launches Google Assistant and one that can be configured to share live streams on YouTube immediately. .
Except, not yet. None of the features actually existed in the reviewers' units. Google says it is coming with software updates that should enable them.
The stadium opens with a lonely exclusive: the charming but inexpressible Guilt, which looks like Coraline and plays as a Metal Guard Solid. The rest of the lineup is games released in 2013, 2015 and 2016, three from 2018, one this spring, one this summer, and four that can probably be described as new: Indie Picker Kine, Just Dance Dance Game In 2020, he restarted fighter Samurai Hodown, and full Destiny 2, including a September expansion in Senkakip.
The last two are effectively free with Stadia, for now, as they are the first games to come with a subscription to the Stadia Pro console, a £ 8.99 per month service offering free games (well, play), and you need to are transmitted at a higher resolution. On the other hand, Stadia Pro is free for three months for every buyer of the Stadia Founders edition, the £ 119 box set that is currently the only way to buy Stadia at all.
Google must know that the launch lineup is rare. On Sunday night, just three days before launch, it announced that 10 more games would be available for release. More impressively, all but three came out this year.
Every other game can be bought at full price, just like the home console. And, I think complete: you might not buy anything except on Google servers, but there is no saving to be found here, with the Legendary Edition of Mortal Kombat 11 knocking down the charts at a whopping £ 69.99.
Where the Stadium is supposed to make up the lost ground is in the flexibility it provides for the revolutionary approach and the new features and capabilities it provides. But in practice, there is little that can be seen here.
On startup, Stadia supports three game modes: you can physically turn on the controller on a PC or Mac and load the Stadia website; physically plug the controller into a Pixel phone and play the app; or connect to your Chromecast wirelessly and play on TV. But the connection requirements are stringent enough that it's hard to see that it's ever used outside your home. You can't (currently) take it to a friend's house unless they also have a stadium and even then, connecting to a new Chromecast is a feud. The service is not recommended for anything other than a home WiFi network, to avoid complex setups, so games at your lunch break are not limited. And, of course, you need a connection, so even if you mount your Pixel phone (you have a Pixel phone, yes? Because – for now – that's all Stadia supports), it's not all use as a portable console.
What about exceeding what we expect from consoles? A continuation of features, designated as Stream Connect, State Share and Crowd Play, allows Stadia owners to jump straight into a YouTube video game, load the exact moment shared by a friend, or play a game with the person just watching. Except – there's that word – at the moment they don't exist. The first games that support the features are due out next year.
The stadium nailed the impossible, and then failed. The single most important challenge Google faces – getting video playing through local game video – has been flying colors.
But for all else, the company's approach is confusing. Some aspects suggest a hasty launch, with the company being extremely comfortable in its ability to push software updates down, failing to appreciate the importance of giving early adopters – the busiest, impatient fanbase – something to their loyalty. Yes, within six months, many of the problems will be resolved. But the lack of quality approach is worrying and we can only look at what we already have.
The main concern is that it does not seem clear who it is. Streaming is a technical miracle, but if that doesn't bring about material advantages, what's the point? It's a bit cheaper than the home console – £ 119 for the Founders edition, compared to the £ 200 start-up Xbox One S or £ 220 PS4. But pick up some background games at used prices and the savings will soon be gone. They go a little faster, though, if you compare the 99 6.99 PS + or the Xbox Live Gold to the Stadia Pro.
After all, the only real benefit to the system is the absence of that box under the TV. If your impeccable sense of interior design values are beyond game choice, price, game attendance, or community size, ask for it. Otherwise, stick with a home console if the AAA games are where your heart lies, or pick up the Apple Arcade to see what a revolution looks like when it focuses on games, not technology.