I’ve been around the block more than once. I’ve personally witnessed the rise of titans. Consoles that started from nothing and rose to fame and legend. But I’ve also seen the failures.
It all begins on launch day. A console’s birth into the world. That’s its introduction to gamers. The most important day in a consoles life.
Companies plan this one single day for months, even years. So many moving pieces have to fall into place just so for the launch to go successfully. If they pull it off it could mean years of profit and fame. But what if the pieces don’t fall into place?
Well folks, as far as I can see we just witnessed what I would consider to be the worst video game platform launch of all time. And today my friends, we’re going to be exploring that very launch. Google Stadia.
The first announcement of Google Stadia was during the Keynote address at GDC 2019. A lot was discussed while not really discussing anything you could hang your hat on. The worst example of this is they didn’t address how the platform would actually work. Was it a games as a service platform like PlayStation Now? Was it a game store like Epic Games Store? Who’s to say!
Three months later we got our first Stadia Connect presentation. Here they finally touched on how Stadia would work. You would buy your games from Stadia and stream them at no extra cost. Unless you want to play in 4K. That is locked behind a service called Stadia Pro for $9.99 per month. After the presentation the impression was that subscribers to Stadia Pro would have access to a library of content for their monthly fee. But then in the Stadia FAQ it became obvious that no, Pro members would still have to buy their games at full price. Pro does give a monthly free game, but you have to keep paying each month or you lose access to those games. Great.
Shed the restrictions of consoles
We also found out in this presentation that to play Stadia on day one you’d need the Founder’s Edition. For $129 you would get a limited edition Stadia controller, a Chromecast Ultra (which you NEED to play on a TV) and 3 months of Stadia Pro. So that means this play anywhere on anything service at launch actually has a cost to it that requires you to have purchased physical hardware. So that makes this cloud based non-hardware reliant service actually a hardware based console release. Imagine that!
The months passed and as we approached the launch day we learned some troubling news about Stadia. The worst being that Stadia’s long list of features wouldn’t be available on day one. Want to play your new Stadia games in 4K? Well you have to use the Chromecast Ultra on the TV. 4K for mobile and PCs was delayed to 2020. Excited to use the newfangled Stadia controller wirelessly? Again, only on TVs. If you want to use the Stadia controller anywhere else it has to be with USB. Oh you want to play on your phone? Well hopefully you buy Pixel! Ya know, the phone that Google makes that not everyone on the planet owns!? Stadia won’t be coming to any other phone platform until next year, if we’re lucky. KINDA GETTING LIMITED THERE AREN’T WE?
How the game plays
I’ve never had a consistent experience with Stadia. I’ve played it on multiple devices from multiple locations and it’s never once been reliable. I don’t care what excuses anyone makes for this. But they don’t work on me. I’ve played every major video game console that has ever been released, including rare and obscure hardware that failed to grab traction. Nothing I’ve ever played that was new had issues like this. It’s unheard of. And the big problem with that? Is you’ll likely find at least a few people online who have NOT had any problems. Because maybe they’ve got the right connection? Maybe they’re closer to the Stadia servers? Maybe they just have the exact right mix of everything to work!? Who knows! But not being able to guarantee that it will work for everyone every single time? INEXCUSABLE.
If you bought a brand new Nintendo Switch and it only played games sometimes. Wouldn’t you return it? Yeah? I thought so.
It’s obvious to see that this whole event was a train wreck. A massive series of problems that built to what can only be looked at as a failure of a launch. Despite the many players out there who have Stadia wounds, many others have had nothing but sunshine and rainbows. There will likely be a core group of people who stand by Stadia, considering it to be the best option for playing a whole bunch of video games. And that’s fine.
Sadly though, as much as I’d like to have a positive outlook on it, I just don’t think this platform will always work for everyone, at any point. Stadia depends on your internet connection being consistent and solid and fast enough to work all the time. There are only a privileged few who can claim such stability. And unless you can guarantee the light switch turns the lights on every time they use it, people will lose faith in the light switch.
I can’t give you an answer for the long term success of Stadia. Will Stadia blaze a brave new trail into the gaming history books? Or will it go the way of OnLive’s cloud gaming service. What’s OnLive you ask? Exactly my point.
But whatever the result, whatever might happen, whenever I think of Stadia I’ll always think of the worst console launch ever.
The Worst Ever series takes a look at the worst games and consoles ever to be released. These range from full fledged console releases with their own unique gaming library to more recent cash grabs through clone hardware. If you see it in this series, it really is THE WORST EVER.