Google Stadia's Claims For Streaming In 4K Seem... No, Just No

from the like,-really-no dept

Google's Stadia product, the company's bid to get gamers to give up their consoles and PC rigs and instead partake in Gaming as a Service, has had a rocky rollout to say the least. The service was already up against America's pathetic broadband coverage and usage caps. Add to that the quite muted applause that came from press and public reviews, not to mention the Obamacare-like rollout of the product, and you have to wonder if this is the kind of hit to a product's reputation that is at all recoverable. It's nearly as though Google developed a list of things that are important to gamers specifically and went out of its way to ensure it would get failing grades on each item.

The latest issue is no different. To combat concerns about how streaming games would behave in terms of quality, Google made claims that the service would stream games in 4k resolution and at 60 frames per second. Reality, it would seem, doesn't line up with those claims.

Google’s Phil Harrison explicitly said that all games will be running at 4K 60fps, but Destiny 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 simply don’t. Rather, they’re upscaled to meet that. Worse yet, there was a tweet that seemingly confirmed Red Dead Redemption 2 would run at 4K, but that tweet was swiftly deleted. Presumably Google was quick to prevent what would have been a blatant lie from being on its account knowing that the game was at a lower resolution.

Since the first reveal of Stadia, Google has bragged about the powerful hardware running the service and how it can handle 4K at 60fps without breaking a sweat, even leveraging multiple instances to better improve the quality. So far, though, we’ve yet to see Stadia actually pulling that off. If the company had said that some games ran at lower resolutions and relied on upscaling or even pushed the underlying hardware prowess less, this would be less of a problem. The same would apply if the settings these games run at on Google’s end were disclosed more obviously.

After the post was initially published, Google reached out to them to clarify the whole situation. That clarification amounted to Google again stating that Stadia can run games at 4k and high frame rates, but that Google also gives publishers flexibility on how to deliver the streamed game to allow for the best experience, similar to how other streaming game services do.

There are a couple of problems with Google's pushback. First, it was Google that made the blanket claim about the resolution and frame rate Stadia would run at. To now clarify that by stating that developers can stream their games in other resolutions, or upscale them to 4k, deviates from that selling point. Disappearing tweets with similar claims only adds to the impression that all of this amounts to false claims to generate sales.

Second, whatever the specifics in Google's clarification, games that were promised in 4k instead look like muddled heaps of trash.

There is a great deal more in terms of images on Twitter comparing on-prem and streaming graphics. This, again, is another one of those things you cannot get away with when it comes to serving the gaming public. It's not as though it were some kind of secret that gamers really, really care about graphics and production values. A pitch to ditch a console or PC for versions of games that run more slowly and at lower graphical quality is a complete non-starter.

Much of the press for Stadia seems to conclude that game-streaming of this kind is a great idea that will eventually be awesome, but that Google is probably a handful of years too early with all of this. The real question, it seems, is whether Google has torpedo'd its reputation in this market to the point that it won't be able to sell this product even when it is ready.

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Filed Under: 4k, stadia, streaming, truth in advertising, video games
Companies: google

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Nov 2019 @ 1:42pm

    5th place in a two horse race

    As far as game streaming goes Google is in a pretty lackluster 5th place after Sony, Microsoft, Valve, and Shadow. And that is just who I am aware of doing streaming.

    Sony has been game streaming for about 5 years and has a product that works well, is not overselling what it is capable of, and has a catalog of hundreds of games (53 beginning with A) all of which are included in the monthly price.

    Microsoft's project xcloud is in preview with around 50 titles streaming for free during the preview. Microsoft also has a separate preview program that allows direct streaming of games from a console you own to your phone including games obtained through their game pass program.

    Steam does not directly provide a streaming service, but instead allows streaming of games you own from one computer you own to another, Still a much richer service than Stadia.

    Last on my list is Shadow which lets you rent a gaming PC in the cloud, install games that you purchase on it and play remotely. This seems closest to the Stadia experience at a higher price, but since shadow is renting a full pc, you can also use it for business tools such as Photoshop or Word.

    None of these systems have promised more than they can deliver, none of them promise 4k60 performance across the board, and only shadow lacks a track record to indicate that they will be around for the long haul.

    Also both Microsoft and Sony offer download options for console owners in case you do not have reliable high speed internet access.

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