Google has responded to criticism of its recently launched Stadia game streaming service. Last week, several tech publications pointed out issues with some titles, Destiny 2 running at an upscaled 1080p, and Red Dead Redemption 2 upscaled 1440p.
Google Stadia chief Paul Harrison said in October, “all games at launch support 4K”, but that's clearly not the reality. Stadia's site is more cautious, promising “up to 4K”, but either way some gamers feel misled.
According to Google's previous marketing, its data centers have hardware more powerful than the Xbox One X and PS4 combined. Such a setup should be more than capable of 4K 60fps, should the data rate be sufficient. So what's going on here?
In response to 9to5Google, a Stadia spokesperson suggested everything is there on Google's end to reach 4K. The onus, according to the company, is on developers to optimize for its platform.
“Stadia streams at 4K and 60 FPS – and that includes all aspects of our graphics pipeline from game to screen: GPU, encoder and Chromecast Ultra all outputting at 4k to 4k TVs, with the appropriate internet connection,” said the spokesperson. “Developers making Stadia games work hard to deliver the best streaming experience for every game. Like you see on all platforms, this includes a variety of techniques to achieve the best overall quality. We give developers the freedom of how to achieve the best image quality and frame rate on Stadia and we are impressed with what they have been able to achieve for day one.”
“We expect that many developers can, and in most cases will, continue to improve their games on Stadia. And because Stadia lives in our data centers, developers are able to innovate quickly while delivering even better experiences directly to you without the need for game patches or downloads.”
How Does xCloud Compare?
None of this excuses Harrison's promise of “all games at launch”. In fact, a now-removed Tweet from Stadia specifically mentioning running Red Dead Redemption 2 at 4K/60. It's a case where Google clearly over-promised, and you could argue that it should have delayed Stadia until it could ensure the developer's games met that goal.
Beyond 4K, which requires a more expensive subscription, some user's titles appear to run at 30fps at 1080p on a strong connection. Some reviewers have also mentioned issues with video compression artifacts.
Of course, the main competitor to Stadia is looking like Microsoft's xCloud, which hasn't made as ambitious promises. Indeed, its current mobile app only runs at 720p, but that's admittedly in free and in closed preview.
When the xCloud PC preview launches next year, gamers are likely to expect higher resolutions. Microsoft has hinted it'll be updating its server blades from three Xbox One S consoles to Project Scarlett, but has yet to give a timeline. Generally, it's going for a much more cautious rollout than Stadia, which could do wonders for its reputation.