Parents' Guide to

Google Stadia

By Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Tech issues bring storms to cloud-based gaming platform.

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When this cloud-based service works, it's an impressive achievement, but there are plenty of storm clouds on the horizon in the form of technical issues and hiccups. On the positive side, when you're connected to a stable network, Stadia works incredibly well. Much better than previously released cloud-based services, Stadia loads up and plays content quickly after you launch a game. Having a wired connection to a device -- such as a computer or a Chromecast Ultra with an ethernet cable -- is preferred, because that ensures that the graphics and game commands are, for the most part, streamed as clearly as possible. That's vital for launch games like Mortal Kombat 11 or Destiny 2, in which instantaneous responses are crucial to success. There may be some hiccups or textures that fade in or out, but these are more of the exception than the rule depending on your network. Wireless connections for a phone do work, but they're not always perfect. It's also impressive to switch from a phone to a computer and find that your progress hasn't been lost. This has been gamers' dream for years, and Stadia comes close to fulfilling it.

Unfortunately, while Stadia has lots of promise, it's shackled by many missteps and technical issues. Many of the launch titles are older games that players have already finished on other systems. What's more, several of these titles (apart from some discounts at launch) are being sold at full price in the Stadia store, which could turn away some players. It's a tough sell to charge these prices when the same games are available for $20-40 cheaper in stores and online. Similarly, Stadia is launching without many features that Google promised. Those include lacking achievements in games or even supporting Chromecast Ultras that aren't included in the Founder's Kit bundles for the service. Other vital elements of the multiplayer experience -- like Crowd Play for streamers to interact with their communities or State Sharing key moments of games -- don't even launch until 2020. But perhaps one of the largest issues is the fact that you're streaming data and eating up huge amounts of your monthly internet data cap during each session. An hour-long session of Destiny 2 at 4K will tear through almost 16GB of data, meaning that the 1TB/month cap that many ISPs have established will be burned through in less than three days of gaming time. That sticker shock is something that gamers, and parents in particular, probably won't expect until they open a larger-than-expected bill in the mail. That, plus no current iOS support, wireless gameplay that only works with TVs, and other issues, and there are some pitfalls with the service that gamers need to be aware of -- or at least do their research on. Google Stadia could have a significant role to play in the future of gaming, but it's got a lot of issues to fix before it demonstrates its full potential.

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