Opinion: Google Stadia’s blown off Steam – and that’s a huge problem
I was more optimistic than most when Google Stadia was first revealed.
Being able to play AAA video games on a smartphone or a low-powered laptop, as long as the Wi-Fi could handle it, sounded like a dream come true. The idea of being able to jump straight into a game whether I was holed up in a hotel, on the train, or at a holiday cottage without the need for beefy hardware was (and still is) immensely appealing.
But while I’m completely sold on the concept of cloud-based gaming, Google Stadia currently has a few key flaws which now makes me sceptical that the service will ever be a success.
Related: Google Stadia
“You won’t be able to import your games from Steam to Stadia”
The first flaw is a biggy. Google Stadia isn’t solely looking to be a cloud-streaming service, but also a video game digital store. As things stand, you won’t be able to import your games from Steam, Epic Store or EA Origin to Stadia – you’re locked into Google’s dedicated store. This means there’s not much flexibility on prices, as you’re forced into paying whatever Stadia demands.
The bigger problem for this, though, is that you’ll be forced into building your game library from scratch. This isn’t so much an issue for newcomer gamers, but what about those of us who already have well over a hundred games on Steam or Epic?
Plus, while Google is doing a splendid job of populating its service with modern titles including Metro Exodus, Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Destiny 2, while also promising future hits such as Cyberpunk 2077 and Marvel’s Avengers, there’s a lot of uncertainty regarding games released a number of years ago.
Related: Gamescom 2019
“GeForce Now has 400 games already compared to Stadia’s 40”
The bigger blow for Google Stadia here, is there’s already a rival cloud-gaming service that doesn’t suffer these drawbacks: Nvidia’s GeForce Now. Nvidia allows you to import all your games from the likes of Steam, Origin and Epic Store, so you can play many of the games already in your library via the cloud for no additional fee other than the service’s subscription cost.
Because of this, GeForce Now naturally has a larger library of compatible games, with over 400 already on offer compared to Stadia’s 40. Not every one of those 400 titles are configured with Optimal Playable Settings to ensure a high-level performance, but non-optimised games are still perfectly playable via the cloud.
So while GeForce Now not only supports modern and upcoming games, it also has a huge back catalogue of older gems including Batman: Arkham Asylum, Chrono Trigger, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and plenty more.
There’s nothing stopping Google Stadia adding these titles to its service in the future, but at launch, its catalogue pales in comparison to what’s available with GeForce Now.
Related: Nvidia GeForce Now
“If Stadia were to shut down, every game purchased could potentially disappear along with it”
Another whopper of an issue with Google Stadia is that any games purchased on the platform will only be playable when you’re hooked up to the internet. If the internet goes down one day, or you’re staying somewhere with internet that has dismal download speeds, then you’re out of luck.
With GeForce Now, you obviously won’t be able to use the service without a secure internet connection, but if one day the internet did go down, you’ll be able to switch back to Steam or Epic Store and play your games offline the old fashioned way.
This flexibility also eases concerns regarding game ownership. If Google Stadia were to be a failure and shut down, every game purchased on the service could potentially disappear along with it. With GeForce Now though, your games aren’t locked to the cloud-streaming platform, so you would still own and have access to your game library even in the unlikely scenario of Nvidia closing GeForce Now down.
Related: Best PC Games 2019
“GeForce Now looks to be the superior option for cloud streaming”
Most of the flaws I’ve accused Google Stadia of can of course be fixed. Partnering with Steam, Epic Store and the like would sort the majority of issues, giving users a larger catalogue of games to play while also addressing concerns of ownership.
Whether Google would be open to such an idea remains to be seen however, as it would likely see Stadia miss out on a huge cut of game sales profits if users decided to stick to their current favourite digital video game distributors.
One thing I do know, is that if Google Stadia refuses to allow support for the likes of Steam, then GeForce Now currently looks the superior option for cloud streaming.