Google Stadia Expands Across Android Devices

It’s taken a while, but Google’s potentially game-changing ‘Stadia’ video game platform is finally becoming all the things that gamers hoped it would be when it launched at the end of 2019. It’s overdue, and it might be too late to engage some of the potential customers who turned their nose up at the product last November, but it’s clear that Google hasn’t given up on its expensively-assembled project just yet.

One of the chief criticisms that were directed at ‘Stadia’ when it was brand new was that it didn’t appear to resemble the advertised product. Based on promotional materials, gamers had been briefed to expect the video game equivalent of an online slots website. You don’t need any special hardware beyond an internet connection and a screen to access a new UK slot site. So long as you have the connection, a screen to view the games on and either a mouse or another means of telling the game to spin the reels, players can play online slots no matter where they are in the world, and how powerful their hardware is. That’s because all of the hard work – the processing of the game – is performed at the other end of the connection, and streamed back to the player. ‘Stadia’ could and should have done that with video games when it launched, but it fell short.

Almost immediately after the November launch of Stadia, players began reporting discrepancies between what they had and what they thought they’d have. Far from being available on any device, Stadia only worked on a handful of mobile phone handsets designed by Google themselves. Other Android devices had no Stadia functionality, and iPhones were out of the question. Furthermore, even the phones that could support Stadia only did so with an attachment, and with a controller attached. There were connection speed issues, difficulties in obtaining 4K resolution through some laptops and Smart TV connections, and a disappointing lack of games. Had the product been launched by a company that didn’t have Google’s enormous financial resources, it might have been dead on arrival.

Fortunately for Stadia’s small-but-dedicated base of customers, Google decided to stick it out and work on improving Stadia’s proposal. Now, finally, the doors have been opened a little wider to allow more players in. Effective immediately, anybody who has an Android mobile phone handset will have full access to Stadia and can enjoy any video game the platform currently offers. Along with the phone updates, Stadia is now fully operational on all Android television devices. Google has also done away with the need for an external controller to play games, as players can choose to use on-screen buttons instead. Given the complexity of some modern video games, the on-screen controls may be cumbersome to the point of being impractical in some cases, but for more simple games it provides greater ease-of-use for gamers who want to indulge in their hobby while on the move, for example when they’re playing on a train or a bus, or as a passenger in a car.

Another key update is that Stadia will now remember your resolution preferences for any device that you use to log in to the platform. This means that you can enjoy all the benefits of high resolution when you’re playing at home, but you can reduce the risk of drag or bandwidth issues while you’re outside the home by having a lower resolution on your phone. In the past, Stadia has attempted to sync resolution across all devices and has therefore struggled to run properly when bandwidth is reduced, or connectivity is less reliable. At the peak of its performance, Stadia can now stream in HD with full 5.1 surround sound if you have a home setup capable of sustaining such a high level.

Insiders at Google are hopeful that these latest changes might help the platform to survive and thrive after a slow start in terms of take-up and popularity. This follows on with the launch of Stadia’s ‘free’ tier, which took place in April and has successfully attracted a few players to the platform who were previously reluctant to pay for the service during its early rollout. Before the free tier launched, Stadia was only available to players who had paid for the ‘Founders Edition’ kit, which cost upward of $100. Players can still only play for free for a maximum of two months before they’re required to subscribe at the cost of ten dollars per month, and only have access to fewer than twenty games without paying for the privilege of buying more, but it’s still a good way of finding out whether Stadia is ‘for you’ before having to spend money on it.

Even with these latest tweaks, there’s still a lot of work to be done before Stadia can be considered a serious rival to the more established platforms, and the bigger-name consoles on the market. No matter how accessible Stadia becomes in terms of hardware, it’s still limited by its demand on bandwidth and internet connections. While connectivity and internet speed might not be an issue in large cities, rural areas and less developed countries still struggle to provide the kind of connection that Stadia needs to run properly. There’s also the question of bandwidth caps to answer. Although many modern home internet packages don’t include bandwidth caps, some do, and that can be brutal for Stadia users if they exceed their monthly allowance and have to pay for more. As an example, a single hour of playing time on Stadia is likely to burn through 20GB of data. If you have a monthly cap of 500GB – which is the standard for some providers – you could meet and exceed that cap within a week if you’re a hardcore data.

The launch of Stadia was always likely to be a risky move, and in many ways, the platform should be considered ahead of its time in terms of how players interact with video games. One day, it’s likely that all video games will be played the way that Stadia provides them. Whether Stadia, as the originator of the format, will still be around to see that day will depend upon constant upgrades and ease-of-access adjustments, and the willingness of players to take a chance on them. If Stadia sticks around, Google will have to make a decision to stay in the game for the long haul.

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