Google’s new video-game streaming service is a lag-riddled, nausea-inducing disaster.
Stadia, which launched this week, aims to eliminate the need for expensive consoles and cumbersome hardware by letting users access Google’s ample processing power through the internet.
But the convenience of relying on Google’s servers to stream games is also what dooms it.
Why? With Stadia, your game-play experience is reliant on the strength of your wireless connection.
My apartment has a strong signal that has never given me any trouble streaming 4K movies or playing online Xbox games, but it apparently wasn’t good enough for Stadia.
The Wi-Fi-connected controller experienced a half-second of input lag, meaning that any button I pressed saw a delayed reaction on-screen.
That resulted in missed shots in shooting games like “Destiny,” broken combos in “Mortal Kombat,” and many, many deaths in “Tomb Raider.”
The lag was so bad in some instances that a friend who came to try it out with me ended up with a case of motion sickness due to the lagging in-game camera controls.
He stopped playing after just 15 minutes.
That’s not all. Stadia’s selection of games is paltry.
Beyond last year’s hit “Red Dead Redemption 2,” there’s nothing that makes Stadia a must-buy.
Indeed, I would sooner direct someone toward a PlayStation or Xbox on sale for $200 on Black Friday than recommend shelling out the $130 Google is asking for the Stadia Premiere Edition, which comes with a controller as well as a Google Chromecast Ultra.
My week with Stadia actually gave me a greater appreciation for the gaming console I already own, rather than making me think about selling it.
Still, Stadia is a glorious proof-of-concept, and it seems like the bones for a console-less future are there. Setup took just a few minutes, and only involved plugging in a Google Chromecast Ultra into my TV and downloading the Stadia app.
Adding games to my library was a matter of picking and choosing which ones I wanted, and prevented the hours of waiting required to download massive files on consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
I’m not writing Stadia off for good. Although Google has a well-documented track record of killing its pet projects, it has also turned Gmail and YouTube into juggernauts.
But Stadia still needs work, and is impossible to recommend to anyone who takes games seriously.
If Google can iron out the kinks and expand its library, Stadia will be a force to be reckoned with.
Until then, it’s just a mess.