This week headlines were all about Google, and for good reason. The firm released, in our mind, its most interesting smartphones in years, returning to the mid-range market it once dominated with the Nexus series with its new Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G.
But for me, despite how awesome its mobile offering was, the event still struck a sour note when Google talked about its hotly anticipated new Chromecast with Google TV.
This isn’t because it’s bad. 4K, 60fps, HDR playback, check. Easy setup, check. Upgraded physical remote and software, check. Instead, it’s because Google somehow managed to once again completely miss the mark in one key area: gaming.
Despite loading the Chromecast with all the hardware it needs to be an ideal entry point to Google’s Stadia, for reasons beyond me, the new dongle won’t support the service at launch. You’ll have to wait until next year for that treat.
Related: Google Stadia vs Project xCloud
For those that missed it, Google Stadia is an, on paper, awesome subscription service that lets you stream triple-A games at high frame rates and resolutions up to 4K over the cloud. This means you can in theory get PS5/Xbox Series X and PC level gaming experiences without having to invest in expensive hardware if your internet connection is fast enough.
During testing we found one of the biggest issues we had with the service, despite it running well, was that it only worked with select devices: Pixel phones, PCs with Chrome and the Chromecast Ultra. Which is why the thought of having it run on the new Chromecast was so appealing.
Coupled with Google TV, a new UI that pulls in content from every service you’re subscribed to, the new Chromecast could have been THE best way to turn your TV into an all-in-one entertainment centre. It would also give Google a one up on rivals like Nvidia GeForce Now and Microsoft xCloud, which are tricky to get running on TVs at the moment without a PC or laptop.
Related: Google Stadia vs Nvidia GeForce Now
Without it, the Chromecast feels a little half baked product and yet another sign Google really doesn’t know what it’s doing with Stadia and gaming in general. Having to purchase games individually and pay a subscription only hurts it when compared to the likes of Xbox Game Pass, too.
This is especially true considering how much better Amazon’s handling Luna, which is effectively a carbon copy of Stadia.
Amazon Luna’s confirmed to run on the entire range of new Fire TV sticks when it launches and features a significantly more compelling purchase path via its natural link to Amazon Prime. If that wasn’t enough, Amazon’s also at least trying to get original IP, having invested in making its own games, like New World.
This all adds up to make me thing Google’s not just missing every open goal on offer with Stadia, it’s not even bothering to take a shot.