The Google Stadia controversy train shows no sign of slowing down. Now Google is under fire for the discrepancy between how games are performing on Stadia and what was originally promised during the service’s reveal. Now a lot of gamers are trying to figure out whether Stadia lied about 4K gaming.
The Power of Stadia
Google Stadia was first shown off publicly at GDC 2019 on March 19. At this presentation Google demonstrated the powerful difference that their platform would have over the current video game competitors. To illustrate this they pitted the power of Stadia, in numbers, against the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X. The GPU power in teraflops for Google Stadia is 10.7, more than PS4 Pro and Xbox One X put together. The potential this power could unlock, mixed with Google’s streaming strategy, was very exciting for a lot of gamers watching. Then Google made the first push targeted at consumers with a Stadia Connect presentation on June 6, 2019.
In this Stadia Connect they discussed titles that were coming as well as how pricing would work for the Pro subscription. They talked about 4K streaming with the best quality graphics and no need for a console. This again had fans of this new service very excited. However as the launch date approached there was more and more news of Stadia features that wouldn’t be available on launch day. But Phil Harrison confirmed in a tweet on October 8 that “all games at launch support 4K.” This was good news for Founders because the only way on day one to play in 4K was with the supplied Google Chromecast Ultra and Stadia Controller.
Lackluster first impression
Once Stadia launched it became obvious to gamers that the visual quality just wasn’t there. We noticed in our review of Stadia that the games looked low resolution and the equivalent of settings set to medium on a PC. And it turns out there is more to that. Destiny 2, the game given away to all Stadia Founders on launch, is only being rendered at 1080p and then upsampled to 4K according to Bungie in an interview with The Verge. Now the stream through your Chromecast Ultra is 4K, but of an upsampled image. And the final result is not exciting.
The website 9to5Google wrote an article about Stadia’s 4K performance calling Google’s initial claims “exaggerated”. Google then had a response to these accusations. In the response from Google they say “We give developers the freedom of how to achieve the best image quality and frame rate on Stadia and we are impressed with what they have been able to achieve for day one.”
Did they lie?
This isn’t what gamers expected when Stadia was boasted as more than Xbox One X and PS4 Pro combined. That combined with Phil Harrison saying that “all games at launch support 4K” doesn’t put Stadia in a positive light. Whether this was on purpose or not, it isn’t a good start for Stadia. Going forward don’t be surprised if a lot of Stadia announcements are met with cautious optimism.
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