Gaming has changed quite a bit from the golden age of arcades. It’s not just Nintendo anymore, but a crowded field of heavyweights including tech giants like Microsoft and Sony. New game consoles can run hyper-realistic graphics in a package no bigger than a standard PC, and online play makes it so you don’t even need a Player 2 anymore. With how far games have come in the past few years, what could possibly be left for game designers to innovate?
Surprisingly, YouTube has some ideas. As Google’s streaming video division, YouTube has a good deal of experience when it comes to running an online platform. With its wealth of knowledge on the subject, it’s putting together a system of its own that may give the titans of gaming a run for their money: a high-definition, cloud-based game streaming platform.
As a newcomer to the world of video games, Google’s Stadia platform boasts a hi-def streaming advantage that its competitors just haven’t cracked yet. However, the sheer amount of data required to run these games can quickly add up. Will using Google Stadia push you over your monthly internet cap? You won’t believe just how much data it uses!
What is Google Stadia?
Back in March, Google made headlines when it announced Stadia, its new game “console,” at the 2019 Game Development Conference. Unlike traditional consoles, there is no physical hardware — at least not locally.
What Stadia does is run your games remotely on some of the most powerful computers in the world, bringing them to life with cutting-edge graphics and audio. These games are then streamed directly to users’ computers, TVs, or smartphones.
Because of the system’s streaming design, your personal devices no longer require insane hardware specs to run top tier games. What’s more, Stadia runs parallel with YouTube as both a gateway to the platform and a “spectator area,” where you can watch gamers play at your leisure.
Its price point is competitive too, starting at $129.99 for access and a controller with a $9.99 monthly subscription fee. The next-cheapest hi-def game console, the Nintendo Switch, starts at $300, which puts Stadia in a highly competitive zone for parents and students.
The dark side of digital downloads
Despite how promising the platform seems to look, analysts are already raining on Stadia’s parade by looking at its system requirements.
While a computer or mobile device won’t need any high-end graphics cards to run Stadia, the platform eats up an incredible amount of data to bring you games in the quality Google is promising.
Just take a look at Google’s suggested specs: The company says that you’ll need to have 35Mbps internet in order to run the console at maximum settings. This allows for 4K quality gaming with a higher framerate and HD audio. If you do the math, this eats up an insane 16 gigabytes of data per hour.
If you have a monthly data cap of 1 terabyte from your internet provider, this means you’ll use it all of it up in under three days of gaming.
The problem isn’t only found in the highest quality settings, mind you. On lower resolutions, Stadia is still capable of using up to 9 gigabytes of data, which can quickly deplete a monthly internet data cap in a matter of a few weeks or less!
Is Stadia worth using up my monthly data?
This depends on how much you value gaming, or if you’re lucky enough to have a high or unlimited cap on your internet data. Early reactions to the console at the E3 gaming tradeshow have been extremely positive, with reviewers praising the system’s ease of use and quality visuals.
They did, however, criticize some lag that appeared during particularly intense sessions. It bears stating that with Stadia, your experience is very much at the mercy of your internet connection.
If that weren’t enough, Google won’t even be the only player in the streaming game in the near future. Microsoft itself is planning to launch a subscription service called xCloud, which would integrate with its existing Xbox platform.
According to preview data, xCloud would give gamers access to their library of titles — including titles they’ve physically purchased — as a streaming option for on the go play. No pricing has been announced just yet, but considering the pull-power that some of Microsoft’s flagship titles like Halo have, it could give Stadia a run for its money.
Ultimately, the choice comes down to whether you think cloud-based gaming is the future or not. With games over stream, you no longer need to invest in a high-end PC to render the best that game design has to offer. What you may have to do instead, however, is fork over more money each month to your ISP for the privilege of higher data caps.