Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
Stadia isn’t new. The streaming service has been around for a while, but I hadn’t found any compelling reason to check it out. I have games on PC through retail and publisher services from Steam, EA’s Origin, Epic’s game store, GOG, Humble Bundle, Blizzard-Activision, Ubisoft, and Microsoft’s Xbox, among others. If I wanted to play on the television I had consoles, or I could connect a laptop with an HDMI cable. Stadia can stream to a Chromecast, and going wireless is nice, but it isn’t a deal-breaker.
Mainly, I’d been less than impressed at other attempts at streaming. The PlayStation Now service had been intriguing, but when I tried it out in its early days I experienced a lot of latency issues. Latency, also known as lag, is when a computer’s or other device’s download speed is slowed down so significantly that the download can’t keep up with the pace of the game or program. The device basically can’t receive content as fast as it needs to. This can occur for a number of reasons. It could be the device, or it could be the internet service. In rural areas, it’s more likely to be the internet service. So, the fact I didn’t live in a city made a difference in my eagerness to jump on the streaming game bandwagon; especially since my lackluster experience with PS Now happened when I lived in Denver, with really good broadband.
I have a friend, though, who has been a Stadia user from the beginning of the service. Josh has had nothing but good things to say about his Stadia experience. I understand early adopter enthusiasm though. I’ve had it myself (*cough*OUYA*cough*) and we have the ability to overlook legitimate issues – especially if they don’t impact our gameplay experience. If we don’t experience it ourselves, it’s just anecdotal.
And he lives in town.
But – and this is a big but – he still doesn’t have the greatest of internet services. He lives in town, true, but it’s a town in Appalachia where options and competition are limited. He gets good speed, but it isn’t Google Fiber speed.
Since I wasn’t completely disillusioned with the streaming when I tried out Amazon’s Luna service, I decided to give Stadia a try recently. I made the choice after reading an article about just how much attention Google is paying to the streaming architecture. Even if they abandon the Stadia service in the future – and for the sake of those who purchased games from the service I hope it never happens – they are positioning themselves to host or provide the infrastructure for others who want to have their own streaming service.
Remember all those other services I can download games from? Google would LOVE to host their streaming for them. They already have the ability to subscribe or link to your paid Ubisoft+ account through Stadia. (Amazon’s Luna does as well.)
My initial thoughts? Josh’s enthusiasm is justified.
Now, granted, I wasn’t streaming during peak hours, when demand on broadband is high, but I had no significant streaming problems with Stadia on my modest laptop. Even when Stadia gave me the warning that I might want to save because of connectivity issues, I noticed no significant changes in my gameplay, and I never lost connection, which isn’t somethng I could say about the Luna service. The biggest change I noticed was a slight loss in resolution, but that’s a fair price to pay for connection stability.
I’ve spent most of my time in Stadia playing Journey to the Savage Planet, one of the titles you have access to for “free” with your Stadia Pro subscription. Like with Xbox Gold and PlayStation Plus, Stadia’s subscription service gives you access to a number of titles each month that stay in your library as long as you are a subscriber.
There’s a decent mix of small studio content and established franchises, but if you want to play a title that hasn’t been released yet, or that released before you subscribed, you can directly purchase titles too. Like with the other services, these purchased titles are yours to access forever – or at least as long as the host maintains the service. There are sales just for Pro members too, with significant discounts, just like with Plus and Gold.
Overall, it was an enjoyable experience, and proof that game streaming is viable. It isn’t just for urban dwellers and early adopters anymore, or at least it doesn’t have to be.
There are still the same issues that you have with any streaming service. In the event of an internet outage, you won’t have access the way you will with physical game discs or even downloaded games. Your connectivity and access while traveling may vary too.
There are still reasons to purchase and download content, and if that is your preference there is still Steam, or – better yet – GOG for even more flexibility. If it hangs around, I may consider subscribing. I’m even more intrigued by the idea of Stadia’s guts powering the branded store fronts of publishers I’ve already purchased games from, though.
One thing’s for sure, though, streaming games are here to stay, and Stadia is a good introduction, with an intuitive interface, if you’re ready to dip your toes in the pool.
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