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Google Stadia should have stayed in beta

Google Stadia should have stayed in beta


It’s only good for people who know exactly what they’re getting into

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

I have been playing a lot of Stadia lately — not because I think Google’s game streaming service is amazing, but because, in order to get anything out of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (about which I have many thoughts), you have to play a lot. It’s a long game.

I have put in enough hours in enough conditions to say that this is a beta product, and Google should have labeled it as such and launched it differently. Because even in the best conditions, this ain’t the best. I have what I think is probably the most ideal connection imaginable: Google Fiber (technically Webpass) in Oakland, 500 up and down with very low latency, and I still get weird internet lag jitters sometimes. Woof.

Woof, but also, shrug? I find that, by and large, it works well enough for me, and I love that I can play it on many different devices (including a Surface Go!). I still have faith that the technical / bandwidth issues are solvable.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that, as with the Xbox One launch, the biggest problem with Stadia is simply the size of the game library.

So while I’m happy that Google Stadia finally kept a promise with three new games and its first exclusive feature, I think it’s way too little — though not necessarily too late. If Google can do even half of what Nintendo achieved in terms of growing the Switch library, it has half a chance.

All of the Games Of The Year lists are coming out (here’s ours), and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “Huh, I might want that on Stadia rather than PlayStation,” and realized, “Haha no, Stadia is still a beta product with a beta product-sized library.”

Stadia’s second biggest problem is the one that has been so well-documented at this point that I feel like I hardly need to mention it: a near-majority of its promised features just aren’t ready yet. Google is offering Stadia users “Buddy Passes” that make it available to friends for free for a few months, and I’m actually embarrassed to offer it to anybody, given the state of the service.

Google has thus far failed to ship a hunk of plastic that helps you attach your phone to a controller — a thing that should have been packed in with the original controller, a thing that costs $15 for some reason, a thing that is nothing more than molded plastic and a spring. So, you know, execution still not this division’s strong suit. That’s also in beta.

The thing is, Google has asked for and received Real Money from people, so treating Stadia like a beta isn’t just embarrassing; it’s irresponsible. Google should have tried an entirely different way of launching this service: call it a beta for real, make it an invite system to have it seem more exclusive, and don’t charge money for it until it’s out of beta.

But hindsight is 20/20 (or maybe it’s 4K with low latency). All we can hope for now is that Google will fix it quickly. Maybe by the time I get through Assassin’s Creed, it will be better. That’s probably too long to wait, though.

Disclosure: my wife works for Oculus, a division of Facebook. My ethics statement is here.

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