The Problem With Google's Stadia Connect Presentations

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#1 Posted by JigglePhysx (30 posts) -

I'm curious as to whether anyone else watched the recent Gamescom Stadia Connect (or any other coverage) and are more or less excited about getting in on it now?

Regardless of the whole service not actually being announced for Australia (where I live) yet I feel the more that Google talk about it the less I want to invest in it. This most recent Connect announced a bunch of new games coming to the platform, nothing surprising and honestly if the some of the big name games (Cyberpunk, Watchdogs, Doom, etc) weren't coming to the platform then they shouldn't even bother launching the service to begin with.

Ignoring all the other business stuff around digital rights ownership, their current business model and Google's willingness to kill services left and right, the single most important thing that is the backbone of this whole platform being able to work is whether the streaming part actually works. It doesn't matter that all these (potentially) great games are coming to the platform if the tech doesn't work.

Obviously the biggest problem that Google face with this product is that it relies completely on networks that they have zero control over. Having a connection with low latency and high bandwidth is so crucial to having a good experience and without including data caps too (yes I know I am ignoring a lot of real issues that seriously threaten the success of Stadia) Google's reassurances of basically "ISPs will sort themselves out" give me no confidence in the product. I don't need to be reminded again and again that your server hardware can play all the games at 4K on the highest graphics settings, its ok I believe you there!

I get that its probably impossible to actually show in a believable way that the tech really works the way they say it does in a video but I feel that's really what they need to be demonstrating now. I know there have been opportunities for hands on demos at events in the US and Europe but it seems like they are set up in pretty controlled environments and not real world situations (apart from that Assassin's Creed/Project Stream demo thing they did).

In theory, I am fortunate enough to have good enough internet that I should be able to easily play at 1080p, probably even 4K, but at this stage I won't be buying in until there is enough real world evidence that it works... but who knows Google may just kill the whole thing before that can become a reality here in Aus anyway.

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#2 Posted by Jesus_Phish (3915 posts) -

I think it might've been on the Beastcast, but the whole presentation they have is incredibly sterile and robotic. The presenter in the most recent one made me uncomfortable with how much she was trying not to blink or show any non-approved emotion. The way it was shot, it was like they looked at the Nintendo Directs and just missed the point of why people like those.

And regarding their presentations, they're streaming them via Youtube, but I still hit snags once in a while, bit of lag here or there, some stuttering. If they really want to sell me on this, they should be letting me watch through a free service that's leveraging the Stadia technology. Every single time there's a hitch it makes me less likely to want to give them any money for the service.

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#3 Edited by MrGreenMan (253 posts) -

As someone who lives in a area where the best I can get is 3Mbps for like $100 a month, unless Google is willing to put out infrastructure or pay for a absurdly high internet bill to just play video games this will not work is most of rural america like at all. I get better internet from my cell phone provider than I would from the single ISP I have out here. That isn't even including Satellite internet, that has a very very low bandwidth caps, way over priced, and has massive amounts of lag not allowing any kind of online gameplay. The only good thing about Satellite internet is it's faster than anything else out here, but having a 15-40GB cap makes its completely useless.

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#4 Posted by TheRealTurk (597 posts) -

I have been a naysayer about Stadia from Day 1. In addition to the presentations being extremely poor, it just feels like Google has absolutely no idea how the internet practically works for most people or the any of the issues with ownership that are currently working their way through the industry.

I don't know how things work at Google, but in the real world, a lot of people have data caps that will limit their ability to stream whenever they want. And Google's hand-waiving of the issue isn't helping them. Saying "ISPs will figure it out" feels laughably detached from reality. What makes them think that ISPs are going to suddenly remove data caps because some small segment of gamers wants a marginal upgrade in convenience? If anything, the opposite is true - ISPs will have more aggressive or expensive data caps to take advantage of people suddenly gobbling data to use Stadia.

Then there's the whole issue of who this service is supposed to be for? The whole pitch is supposed to be "play anywhere on any device" which sounds great in theory, but again, ignores the practicalities of the real world. Even if you are fortunate enough to not have data caps and have a reliable connection, you still need sufficient bandwidth to pull off streaming at any kind of acceptable quality. Does Google really think the local Starbucks is going to provide that?

Personally, the only places I would have the bandwidth to actually play games on Stadia are (1) Home and (2) Work. I don't need Stadia at home because I already have a PC and a console, and I'm not going to spend my day at work playing games, so . . . why would I buy Stadia?

And all of this is before we get into the issues of privacy that naturally come with anything online these days - issues I would note that so far Google has conspicuously failed to address.

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#5 Posted by ThePanzini (752 posts) -

If your internet isn't good enough or you don't live close to one of Google's data centres Stadia is going to be a total non-starter, but Google can't really do anything to change that all they can say is it's someone else's problem. The fact is Google thinks enough people will be able to access Stadia to launch now, Google has many challenges ahead but your internet being rubbish isn't one.

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#6 Edited by Onemanarmyy (4589 posts) -

I think Stadia could be pretty huge at the free tier that gives 1080P streaming + stereo. Naturally, if you're into games already, you probably have a new system at home that can play the latest games. But don't underestimate the amount of people that sit at home looking at their 2013 PC / chromebook that can't run the latest games anymore. You give these people the chance to play Cyberpunk with a little bit of latency for 60 bucks over having to upgrade their entire system to play it and a fair amount of people will give Stadia a shot at that free tier.

But yeah, if you have datacaps or crappy internet, google is straight up not going to give you a good experience. And it's a service that puts yet another company in between you and your game licence, which only makes it less & less likely you'll retain access to these games over time. So if you are somewhat of a game enthusiast with access to a current system to play games on, you'll probably wouldn't want to get in on stadia. Unless the portability of throwing games around different devices is something you get a lot of use out.

I do have to chuckle a bit at the fact that they had some severe lag issues on both connects so far. This is only video, not even a game! I also feel like they still need to talk about bitrate. 1080P & 4k streaming sounds great, but that doesn't really tell you what kind of quality you can expect. What is the bitrate of the stream they will send over to you? How does that compare to the quality of local 1080 & 4k?

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#7 Posted by dudeglove (13792 posts) -

I've hated Stadia since they announced it. It has all the hallmarks of a boondoggle and it doesn't actually matter if it works or not - only that people buy into it. There's a far far longer rant I could go on about how this is the last big gaping hole in the current market that Google doesn't really have its tendrils in, but I'd much rather you read Surveillance Valley by Yasha Levine instead.

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#8 Posted by Brackstone (961 posts) -

The thing I can't get past is that Stadia is going to be expensive for a lot of people once you factor in things like internet speeds, internet costs and multiple person households. Going to a store and buying a box is absolutely going to be a cheaper option if you don't already have the necessities for the service to run well. And if you do already have the necessities, you're also probably the type going for the 4k tier which is still going to cost you enough money to make the value poor compared to just buying a box.

Compare it to Microsoft's pitch, streaming as a supplementary feature for those that can use it. I could be completely wrong on this, but I kind of want to compare it (negatively) to Netflix. People might forget, but Netflix wasn't/isn't just a streaming service, it was founded on subscription based dvd rentals. And they still do it. They didn't dive head first into an untested market (movie streaming subscriptions) for their sole source of income, they slowly transitioned and leveraged an existing base of subscribers. That's the position Microsoft has. They'll keep putting out their boxes and keep running their online storefronts, maintaining their audience, and if the market shifts toward game streaming, they are perfectly positioned for it. Until then it's a supplemental option rather than the primary product, they can afford to wait until the time is right and they'll be able to know when the time is right because they have an existing user base to collect data from, just like Netflix.

Google has no other real gaming ventures, they're all in on game streaming from the get go. I think they're too early, and I think that if they are too early, Google won't want to sustain the endeavour until the time that game streaming does actually become relevant in the way they are hoping. Not to mention they have to do it all while building a base of subscribers from the ground up, they can't leverage an existing base of subscribers like Microsoft can. And that's before you get into the part where Microsoft is at the very least on equal terms with Google in terms of infrastructure.

I think streaming is coming, but not yet and Google's not going to be the one to strike gold.

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#9 Edited by ThePanzini (752 posts) -

@brackstone: Starting from zero is also a major plus for Google and Stadia.

MS may have the infrastructure but they need to support legacy hardware, MS are building server racks using Xbox One hardware as their base for compatibility.

One major aspect of cloud gaming is latency the lower the better, higher frame rates and being closer to the data centre creates a much better experience for the user, but alot of XB1 games run at 30fps the 1 to 1 experience compared to Stadia would be poorer as their games a running at a higher baseline 60fps.

Also having high end CPU in your data centres is not a big loss if Stadia doesn't work out but for MS and xCloud the XB1 server racks would be usless so they may not be inclined to expand as fast.

Stadia has many advantages they could create games only possible on cloud, MS and Sony simply can't do because they have to also support hardware.

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#10 Edited by Brackstone (961 posts) -

@thepanzini: Not sure I understand your point. Yes Stadia is starting with higher end hardware, but Microsoft can and will scale it up anyway, they're in the data centre game, improving their servers is something they'll do anyway regardless of video game streaming. If streaming looks viable to them, it just changes how they'll upgrade their data centres. Not sure why you're saying they can't both expand and keep their current servers intact, since they don't really preclude one another. Google already had data centres before they started Stadia, and have had to upgrade them for gaming, there's no reason Microsoft can't do the same.

In terms of data centres, neither Google nor Microsoft are starting from scratch, they build off existing infrastructure. It's not like Stadia is being held back by all of Google's other cloud services, why would Microsoft's servers be held back by supporting the Xbox One? If you mean in terms of game design, well Microsoft's got a new console on the way anyway, so it's not like all Microsoft's streaming games have to be compatible with the base Xbox One, at least not for very long. And ultimately, they can just go "hey this only runs on our streaming service" just like google. If they've got a good thing they're not going to let their consoles hold them back, they will make streaming exclusive games if it makes sense for them.

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#11 Edited by cikame (2952 posts) -

Didn't watch it, but i just skipped through and it was just a bunch of game announcements and talking?
I was kinda hoping to see a real physical demonstration to confirm again how bad the input lag is, the Assassin's Creed and DOOM demonstrations were really bad if you look closely.

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#12 Posted by Gundato (367 posts) -

Not going to get into "it actually mostly works. for a large percentage of the audience Just ask everyone who got a free AssOdd last year"

But regarding "google can't address the infrastructure issues": You are right, they can't, Or more pointedly, they shouldn't.

Like it or not, Google and MS and Amazon (you know they are doing something like this too) are massive companies with armies of lawyers and shell company insulated lobbyists. They're already talking with the ISPs and lawmakers to push for subsidies and what not to encourage the infrastructure improvement we have needed for years (decades?).

But what should Google say? "Hey, we finally reached the tipping point where we want to stream bigger stuff to you so we finally started working with ISPs to increase the current caps and what not. But don't worry, we figured out that we can keep fucking net neutrality in the ass and make this mostly work by giving us an exception that will keep anyone else from getting involved. So... Jade Raymond, huh?"

The monetization model and who exactly this is targeting are still very open questions. But infrastructure is almost guaranteed to work (for a given definition of "work") within the decade.

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