I wish more people appreciated how good Google Stadia actually is
This isn’t a Google Stadia fanboy write-up. I want to clear that up right away. I started out as a skeptic. With that out of the way, let’s get right to it. Google Stadia is very good and I wish more people appreciated this. You can point fingers directly at Google for how Stadia has been handled throughout its short life so far. Go ahead, I’m there with you. Point away. But the people actually working on Stadia, the product, should be very proud. It’s superb.
But Stadia is also troubled. From Google shutting down its first-party game efforts to shopping out the tech to third-party suitors. There is still an apparent commitment to Stadia, which is good. But this is Google. And Google has a penchant for canceling good products whether people like them or not. I still haven’t forgiven the Mountain View overlords for killing Google Reader, or the original incarnation of Google Podcasts.
Stadia is truly very good, though, and I feel it gets drowned in memes and negativity where it just isn’t deserved. Player counts probably aren’t the greatest, and I still have that nagging feeling Google will pull the plug sooner or later. But right now Stadia is alive and I love it. Here’s why, and why more should give it a chance.
Google Stadia’s tech is phenomenal
There are two aspects I want to touch on when it comes to the actual technology that makes up Google Stadia. The first is the Linux backend. In hindsight, this was probably a bad idea, and I love Linux. But here’s the thing. PC games are made for Windows, not Linux. The primary reason Linux gaming is as good as it is on hardware like the Steam Deck is down to Valve. And a thriving community of people working together to make it better so game developers don’t have to. Because they wouldn’t.
Google Stadia basing itself on Linux means it needs a dedicated port. By contrast, Amazon Luna is based on Windows servers with NVIDIA GPUs, so the process of adding games is less complex and more appealing to developers. Google, it seems, has seen the light on this, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and it should have used Windows, to begin with.
That can probably explain at least part of why the catalog of games on Stadia isn’t bigger. And without games, you won’t get people to use the service.
The front end of Stadia, though, the cloud streaming tech and the experience for players is truly outstanding. Compared to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass streaming and Nvidia GeForce Now, Stadia has been my favorite (I can’t compare it to Amazon because I’m not in the U.S.). Until recently I was limited to a 60/20 internet connection and Stadia is the one that handled that best. Where the others would struggle to let me game from the cloud on a regular basis, Stadia just powered through. Now I have fiber, it’s pulling 4K games down without breaking a sweat.
Stadia also pulls ahead of Microsoft, at least for now, because it supports a keyboard and mouse. For a game like Destiny 2, a keyboard and mouse are still the best way to play, and Xbox doesn’t give you that yet. GeForce Now does, but I’ve never been as happy with the overall performance compared to Stadia, even if visually it’s more impressive. That’s basically the tale of Stadia for me. There’s often a bit of a visual sacrifice, akin to a performance mode on a console, but the experience of streaming and playing games has been more reliable and of better quality than competing services.
Gaming on the TV with Google Stadia is just like a console
I’m at something of a loss as to why Stadia on the TV hasn’t taken off more than it has. Again, you can probably point fingers at Google somewhat. The latest Chromecast with Google TV didn’t even support Stadia at launch. What kind of message does that send?
Like, it seems most other Stadia players I know, I grabbed the Stadia Premiere Edition pack as a bonus offer on my YouTube Premium subscription. If little else it was a cheap way to upgrade to a Chromecast Ultra in the living room. But boy was I surprised by how good Stadia on the TV is.
The UI could use a spruce up and the controller certainly isn’t my favorite design, but the overall package has been every bit as good as the Xbox console that’s been sitting under the same TV for years. In fact, by using the cloud, Stadia is much faster to load than my old Xbox One X that I can’t part with. Until recently, my internet wasn’t good enough for 4K gaming, but that’s fine, what it could handle it handled with ease.
It’s been a particular favorite of my children. My son has logged 36 hours in Terraria to this point on Stadia and actually prefers it to the same game on his Xbox. It loads quickly, it virtually never stutters and it looks incredible. And thanks to Stadia Pro, I’ve been able to add a decent selection of child-friendly games to my library without having to buy them upfront.
I can’t live without a Chromecast, even with a smart TV, and building Stadia in was a nice bonus. I’ve traditionally used it as a secondary device, playing the odd hour here or there, but now I have fiber I’m seriously considering putting more time in on Stadia. I could even get back into gaming on the sofa.
Stadia Pro is such great value
I pay £8.99 a month for Stadia Pro, and even without using it heavily, I consider it a great value. Not least because that pretty affordable subscription has supplied me with many hours of keeping the kids entertained! Stadia Pro gives you the opportunity for exclusive discounts on buying some games, but its real value is the library of titles you can get from it at no extra charge.
Here are just some of the titles I’ve added to my library with Stadia Pro.
- Control Ultimate Edition
- Dirt 5
- World War Z: Aftermath
- Mafia III
- Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order
That’s just a handful of the 112 games I’ve added to my Stadia library with Pro. There’s a solid mix of AAA titles from big-name studios and indies, some that are definitely just for me and plenty my kids can enjoy. They don’t just disappear after a month like Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus, either. As I write this there are still 50 titles available to claim through Stadia Pro. And you get a month’s free trial to give it a go as well.
Stadia Pro really does have a pretty insane amount of gaming on offer for not a lot of money.
Play anywhere, anytime
The beauty of cloud gaming is the freedom to play anywhere, anytime. Well, as long as you have a data connection. The days of needing to lug around a heavy gaming laptop are getting closer to being over. Stadia games can be played on Android and iOS, on a Windows laptop, a Mac, Linux, or a Chromebook. You can enjoy games at home on a TV or on the road on a portable device.
I hope that Stadia sticks it out and ultimately gets some traction. It’s too good to simply wither and die, but I do fear still that will be the ultimate end.