After its impressive reveal back in March at GDC, if albeit lacking in information in some areas, and the promise of more info coming in the summer, Google finally lifted the wraps of when we’d be playing Stadia and what we’d be playing as part of launch and further down the road.

This came part of what it called a ‘Stadia Connect’, a sort of Nintendo Direct-like effort presented for the most part by Stadia boss Phil Harrison.

It was not great.


‘An Error Occurred’

Google had everything to prove despite that aforementioned GDC reveal. For a cloud platform, it had to show that its infrastructure could hold up. And yet when some of its services were crashing last weekend on the cusp of the reveal, such as YouTube, it didn’t provide a massive sign of confidence.

But whatever. Probably an isolated incident. Except when it came to stream time, Google’s own official stream on the video service it owns kept collapsing several times to the point I had to see if I could find a different stream.

Put it like this: when GameSpot’s restream of your broadcast is as (mostly) stable as the actual official stream by Google, that doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence for a platform like Stadia and whether its infrastucture can actually hold up. It’s not a good look at all.


Gatekeeping

The only way you’ll be able to play Stadia this year is with a £120 Stadia Founder’s Pack that releases in November. It’ll come with a Stadia Controller, three months subscription of its sub service Stadia Pro and Destiny 2, which itself is going F2P from its launch and Year One content going forward, although this bundle will contain all content released, including new expansion Shadowkeep.

Otherwise, you’re shit out of luck until 2020 at least.

Except, what if you already have a Chromecast Ultra? It just feels like unnecessary tat. And Stadia Pro will be the only way to play in 4K resolution, with non-sub plebs only able to play at 1080p. And there’s something about that which rubs me the wrong way. Even now, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it just does. Playing in 4K should be a feature for everyone considering the adoption rate for 4K is expected to reach 108 million this year, with half of the US expected to have a 4KTV by the end of the year.

Needless to say, not a fan of putting this behind a sub model.

Newer games will also not be part of Stadia Pro, meaning if you want to buy new games, you’ll have to buy them a la carte. Fragmenting the business model like that is not a great look and shows a scatterbrain mentality.


Other Points

– Announcing Baldur’s Gate 3 from Larian Studios is an impressive get for Google. I’ve never played the original two besides, I think, a demo of one of the games on PS2. No date, but more news coming throughout the year. Coming to PC as well as Stadia.

– Google had a few third-party announcements during the course of the reveal, including the first trailer of Destiny 2’s new expansion Shadowkeep and the aforementioned BG3 reveal, but only had one game revealed that was first-party. Teaquila Works’ Gylt focuses on a character named Sally looking for her cousin Emily in an adventure game with hints of horror and undertones of bullying. It looks good, but was that all Google could conjure up from Stadia’s first-party arm? It felt like it was too reliant on third-party.

– Ubisoft had its own segment featuring a new trailer for the just-announced Ghost Recon: Breakpoint and confirmation that The Division 2 was coming to Stadia. It also confirmed in a b-roll as the broadcast was ending was Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Just Dance 2020 and Trials Rising would be coming to the platform as well.

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep looks cool, but that’s less on Google and more on Bungie. Its stream afterwards, announcing the future of game, gives me massive hope for it and Bungie. But again, that’s less on Google and more on Bungie.


Here’s the thing. I want to be convinced that Stadia will work and will succeed – I thought its GDC reveal was impressive – but this did nothing for me. Content wise, it mostly fell flat besides three games (one of which was just an expansion) and, more importantly, questions regarding its tech now more prominent than they were yesterday.

But the fact some of the biggest publishers have committed to it in a big way suggests there is something there. The onus is now on Google to do a better, convincing job to me on why I should play games on Stadia.

Not to mention, Microsoft will be heavily on their back with xCloud, which we’ll hear more about on Sunday during its E3 press conference. And that’s to say the least of Sony’s efforts to expand PlayStation Now.

Do better, Google.

4/10

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