Google Stadia is an ambitious project that, unfortunately, is off to a rough start, thanks to lofty expectations, head-scratching decisions, and annoying hiccups. However, looking past most of that, the biggest problem that Stadia currently faces is that Google has been heavily exaggerating about the quality of 4K games on the service.
Update 11/24: Google has since responded to this situation with further details about the quality of games on Stadia. A Google spokesperson tells us that Stadia streams at 4K 60FPS with developers working behind the scenes to “deliver the best streaming experience for every game.”
Stadia, like other platforms, employs upscaling and other methods to achieve the “best overall quality” and Google expects that Stadia games will be upgraded over time, pointing to the convenient lack of updates for the end user when those upgrades are available.
Stadia streams at 4K and 60 FPS – and that includes all aspects of our graphics pipeline from game to screen: GPU, encoder and Chromecast Ultra all outputting at 4k to 4k TVs, with the appropriate internet connection. Developers making Stadia games work hard to deliver the best streaming experience for every game. Like you see on all platforms, this includes a variety of techniques to achieve the best overall quality. We give developers the freedom of how to achieve the best image quality and frame rate on Stadia and we are impressed with what they have been able to achieve for day one.
We expect that many developers can, and in most cases will, continue to improve their games on Stadia. And because Stadia lives in our data centers, developers are able to innovate quickly while delivering even better experiences directly to you without the need for game patches or downloads.
Note: The article as follows has been updated to correct or clarify some details.
With reviews and now more users starting to jump on Stadia, it’s become apparent quickly that the visual quality of games isn’t up to par with other services. This could be partially to blame for the streaming nature of games, but it’s been proven already that this simply isn’t the case.
In its review, The Verge spoke to Bungie, the developers behind Destiny 2, and confirmed that Stadia’s version of the game isn’t the same 4K version as on other platforms. Rather, Destiny 2 on Stadia renders at 1080p and is upscaled to improve the quality. In other words, Destiny 2 currently never plays in 4K on Stadia.
The problem extends to other games, too. Red Dead Redemption 2, another big name for the platform, also doesn’t play in true 4K. Eurogamer confirmed that the game only renders at 1440p and is then upscaled to 4K on a Chromecast Ultra. The quality difference is also very obvious when you look at the game side-by-side with its 4K version on the Xbox One X.
Oh my lord, Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC looks so bad on Stadia.
It's absolutely no contest compared to the Xbox One X and it only uses 44% of the pixel count. Apparently Stadia is 80% faster than XB1X and yet it only runs at 1440p and 30FPS. pic.twitter.com/l2BkRnzaMX
— Pixelbuster (@Nitomatta) November 18, 2019
In the case of Red Dead Redemption 2, some of the blame is very likely on Rockstar itself since the PC version of the game, which Stadia’s copy is based on, has had many issues. However, it’s just another example of where Google is blatantly lying about the 4K quality of games on Stadia.
Google’s Phil Harrison explicitly said that all games will be running at 4K 60fps, but Destiny 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 simply don’t. Rather, they’re upscaled to meet that.
Worse yet, there was a tweet that seemingly confirmed Red Dead Redemption 2 would run at 4K, but that tweet was swiftly deleted. Presumably Google was quick to prevent what would have been a blatant lie from being on its account knowing that the game was at a lower resolution.
Since the first reveal of Stadia, Google has bragged about the powerful hardware running the service and how it can handle 4K at 60fps without breaking a sweat, even leveraging multiple instances to better improve the quality. So far, though, we’ve yet to see Stadia actually pulling that off. If the company had said that some games ran at lower resolutions and relied on upscaling or even pushed the underlying hardware prowess less, this would be less of a problem. The same would apply if the settings these games run at on Google’s end were disclosed more obviously.
Google clearly has the power to fix this, and I genuinely hope they do.
I can forgive Stadia for some of its shortcomings for now because, whether Google wants to admit it or not, the service is essentially in beta right now. In fact, as new as the service is, the quality of games as it stands is pretty decent. Stadia won’t matter for a year.
More on Google Stadia:
- Google launches Stadia, an ambitious streaming service that could change gaming
- How to get your Google Stadia code, set up, and claim your Stadia name
- Stadia Founders invite codes not arriving as promised, Google working on a solution
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