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Google Stadia

App review by
Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media
Google Stadia App Poster Image
Tech issues bring storms to cloud-based gaming platform.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Ease of Play

Gamers need to use the app to set up their controller and Chromecast Ultra, to play games on an Android phone, or purchase games. Successful syncing of the controller on your network depends on the strength of the wi-fi signal, although it sometimes struggles to recognize devices. Visual fidelity of games depends on your network, although home networks easily work best through devices with wired connections over wi-fi.

Violence

Conflict and violence varies from game to game. There's a range that are free of any violence, such as dancing games, sports sims, or puzzle titles. But some of the mature big budget action games are packed with blood, gore, and other mature scenes.

Sex

Scenes of sexuality range based on the title itself. This can be everything from suggestive clothing to nudity and implied sexual scenes.

Language

Language may vary from game to game. Some games are clear of any swearing, while others are packed with profanity of all kinds.

Consumerism

While some games have branding inserted in the game or downloadable content attached to their individual title, the service itself doesn't promote external advertising or content unrelated to Stadia itself.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Not every game features drinking, drugs, or smoking. The ones that do range from slight instances of smoking, drinking, and drug use to scenes of inebriation.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Google Stadia is a streaming gaming platform that's currently available for Android devices, as well as Chrome browsers and Chromecast Ultra streaming devices. Unlike game consoles, the platform consists primarily of a controller and a Chromecast Ultra to connect to TVs, as well as an app to pair up devices and make purchasing decisions. Players can also access content via Chrome browsers, with progress syncing across all devices. The ease of that syncing depends upon the strength of your network signal, and there's sometimes a struggle to recognize devices. Content varies wildly from game to game. Some titles in the library have limited/no violence, sex, language, or substance use, while others have significant amounts of that kind of content -- so paying attention to game ratings is vital to avoiding unwelcome surprises. While the Stadia service doesn't feature any ads, some games do feature product branding and support downloadable content.

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What's it about?

GOOGLE STADIA is s cloud-based gaming service designed to give players access to a stable of top-rated titles. With a Chromecast Ultra, a Google Stadia controller, and the Android app, players can stream games in up to 4K resolution on a compatible television. Players can also take these titles with them on the go by streaming them through a wireless connection on an Android phone or tablet -- or even access titles through a Chrome browser on a computer. Progress is synced on Google's servers, so you can start a game on your phone, for example, then continue your progress on a browser at your desk, then possibly take the game with you on a tablet for a separate screen experience. The service will launch with 22 titles, with titles like Mortal Kombat 11, Destiny 2, and Just Dance 2020 leading the charge and plans to add more through the rest of the launch window. iOS support is planned in future updates.

Is it any good?

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Google Stadia can be played on virtually any device you can access the service from, so how do you put down games when all you have to do is launch a browser or open an app?

  • Do you think that streaming is the future of entertainment? Is it better to not have to own a media player, console, or other device, or do these machines serve their own purposes for a reason? Do streaming services make you want to eliminate these devices in favor of always-online internet entertainment?

App details

  • Device: Android
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Subscription price: App is free, service costs $9.99/month
  • Release date: November 19, 2019
  • Category: Action Games
  • Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures
  • Size: 73.00 MB
  • Publisher: Google
  • Version: 1.45.279195397
  • Minimum software requirements: Android 6.0 and up
  • Last updated: November 21, 2019

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