On November 19, Google Stadia will make its official debut. With it comes high expectations for streaming technology, as Stadia hopes to bring console quality games to a whole range of electronic devices. In theory, gamers can start up Destiny 2 in the comfort of their homes, then boot up the same game on their phone when they leave the house. That begs the question — will console games actually be fun to play on mobile?
The answer to this question relies on multiple factors. First and foremost is how well the technology works. Thankfully, early reports are that this is one of the best streaming platforms around, so hopes are high that Stadia will offer up a lag-free experience.
However, Stadia will require a Wi-Fi connection at launch — cellular data won’t cut it. That immediately limits the appeal of the platform for mobile gamers. This likely means no gaming while taking public transit into work, and you might even be limited once you find a Wi-Fi hotspot to connect to, as Stadia recommends a connection of 10 Mpbs or greater. To put this into perspective, Netflix recommends 3 Mbps for a standard quality stream and 5 Mbps for an HD stream. Finding a place to play on the road might be easier said than done.
Once you’ve found a suitable place to game, we have to imagine your experience will vary by title. Some games that require precise controls probably aren’t the best fit for the small screen. Sniping an enemy that is hundreds of yards away won’t be an easy feat on a tiny 5.7 inch Pixel 4. Of course, the Nintendo Switch has proven that console games are perfectly playable on a small screen — even if that screen is marginally larger than most cellphones.
I’d argue that mobile Stadia users will probably be easy pickings for their big screen counterparts in competitive multiplayer, making it a less than desirable way to play those games. Solo ventures, on the other hand, should be thoroughly enjoyable regardless of streaming device.
Only time will tell if Stadia becomes a viable platform for mobile gamers. We’ve got a lot of questions about the service, and even more concerns regarding portable play. Answers should arrive on November 19, but it might take Google awhile to work out some of the kinks.