To say the launch of Google’s Stadia platform was “rough” is an understatement. A huge lack of games, miscommunication with eager early adopters, and more plagued the first few months of Stadia. Among those problems was game quality, specifically that games like Destiny 2 weren’t 4K on Stadia as Google had heavily implied. Now, Google may face a class-action lawsuit over 4K game claims on Stadia.

Update: This lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff in June of 2021.

A lawsuit originally filed in New York in October 2020 has recently been surfaced by as the suit moved to New York Federal Court. The case alleges that Google “greatly exaggerated the streaming quality and display resolution” in order to “juice subscription numbers” for Stadia ahead of the platform’s launch.

We addressed this issue* around the time of Stadia’s launch, talking about how Google was indeed exaggerating the quality of games. It’s true that Google did explicitly say all games would be streamed at 4K 60fps, but it was later clarified that some games would render at lower resolutions and be upscaled to hit the optional 4k60 stream that Google was originally referring to.

While Google’s claims were misleading, they boil down to miscommunication and mismanagement — seemingly a pattern Stadia’s leadership just can’t break. The hardware behind Stadia is, in fact, more powerful than PS4 or Xbox One as promised and games are playable in 4K. Destiny 2 lacks 4K on Stadia, but that’s not Google’s fault, it lies on developer Bungie’s choice to prioritize frames-per-second over resolution. At this point, roughly half of Stadia’s library can run at up to 4k60 with many others offering 4k30. Of note, Google still does not offer clear information on the resolution of a game purchased on Stadia before the point of purchase.

Suing Google over a lack of 4K on games on Stadia basically equates to suing Netflix because some movies aren’t available in 4K. You’re paying Netflix extra to unlock 4K and clearly, Netflix is capable of streaming that, but it doesn’t change the fact that some content simply isn’t available in that resolution, either by limitations of production or the simple choice of the publisher. Developers publishing games on Stadia have the same choices and potential limitations. EA, for example, offers Madden NFL 21 in 4k60 on Stadia, but limits Jedi: Fallen Order to 1080p60 with Google upscaling the final stream for its Pro subscribers.

If the lawsuit manages to go through, it seeks damages for anyone who purchased a Stadia Founder’s Edition, Premiere Edition, or paid for a Stadia Pro subscription based on the information that Stadia would support all games in 4K.

*Note: The headline of our original November 2019 coverage of the 4K issue was changed in response to clarification from Google, which provided valuable context about the situation and justified changing the headline and correcting points made within the article.

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Ben Schoon

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