Despite the adverse reaction on most online forums, I really liked the concept of Stadia from the unveiling.
No downloads or updates, no specialised hardware taking up space and play on any screen, anywhere?
Sign me up.
I convinced myself it was worth the money, so I pre-order the Founders Edition before the release in November 2019.
I cancelled the order before shipping, though.
That’s not uncommon for me, though. I often get swept up in the thrill of new technology and want to be the first in line to use it. And as I pre-order so far in advance, it gives buyers remorse time to set in.
Stadia succumbed to the latter, and I decided to wait for launch.
Initial reactions weren’t positive.
Reviews I saw told of lag, from controller inputs to frame rates, even on some of the fastest broadband I’ve ever heard of.
I breathed a sigh of relief at the money I’d saved.
As a father of two with a busy job and a writing habit, I don’t get much free time for gaming. I still love it, despite this.
My eldest son is getting to the age where I can play some Nintendo Switch games with him, despite his dislike of any games with enemies. He’s solid at Mario Odyssey but runs away from any Goombas in tears. He loves Luigi’s Mansion 3, and we’ve had some great sessions in co-op, though he hides from any ghostly interactions.
I get the chance to play on my own sporadically, mostly when I travel.
But when I crave a full-fat, big screen TV experience I have an Xbox One. I have it set to keep the games and software updated, so it limits the interference (a common gripe).
My problem is my indecision at what to play and making sure I have it downloaded. (Full disclosure – I’m all digital, even on the Switch).
Most games these days are massive downloads. The most recent Gears titles, GTA V, Halo MC Collection (although – that’s a lot of games) are around one hundred gigabytes or more with 4K texture packs.
In some cases I’ve downloaded these monsters patiently, only to dabble in them for occasional ten or twenty-minute sessions.
Also, I have to be on my TV in the living room.
All this meant somehow, despite the negativity, Stadia kept calling.
In a moment of weakness, I managed to get a Premiere Edition on a good deal with a Stadia Pro Pass for three months.
The first thing to note, free games from the subscription remain available for the most part. I signed up at the start of March, expecting the free games to be two Steamworld titles and GRID.
That was fine.
What I didn’t realise was that I could also ‘claim’ the February titles (except Farm Simulator), as well as January games and Destiny 2 from launch.
Having paid under the asking price, using just my Stadia Pro Pass, I had seven games to play.
Sitting at my laptop over lunch, in a room far away from our router, I decided to try Thumper. It seemed an appropriate choice with the laptop inputs.
The result was fantastic.
I played through a few runs on level one with barely a hiccup, on a thin and light laptop with no graphics card. No fans kicked on, no additional heat on my thighs, it was adding no stress to the device.
Later that day, I hooked up the Chromecast Ultra with Ethernet cable to my 4K TV. Destiny 2 loaded quickly, and I made my way to The Tower with no noticeable lag and only a frame rate dip or two in the most extreme action.
It felt just as good as a console experience.
The final test on day one was my personal Mac in the upstairs office. I played through the intro to Gylt (really enjoying that so far), a little more Destiny 2 and the start of Metro Exodus. The performance was high fidelity, smooth gaming on a Mac. It can be done.
I’m really impressed.
There are shortcomings, and for some, these would be dealbreakers.
It’s in the back of my mind that Google could pull the plug at any time, and it makes me reticent to put much money in. If you feel that way, or mistrust Google, I get it.
But I don’t see the Stadia Pro Pass as negatively as most. I’ve seen it is argued that it’s a paywall for 4K streaming, which is partly true, but it’s the same as the PS Plus or Xbox Live service. You pay money to get a service (in their case online gaming) as well as access to some free games.
As a huge Apple fan, not being able to play on my iPad Pro – let alone my iPhone, seems a huge miss. If this continues, my disappointment will grow.
Overall, however, I’m heartened by the first month or so.
I don’t have blazing internet, by the way, its around 40mbs download. When the free Stadia tier comes out, I would heartily recommend people try it, keeping my fingers crossed this doesn’t affect performance.
To me, it does feel like the future of gaming. If device support is rolled out, and the experience remains the same, I honestly think it would be my preferred way to play.