I have to admit, I didn’t really expect to say it, but Google Stadia is the most “next-gen” console out there.
When I first reviewed Google Stadia, it was a mixed bag at best. Now as I review my line of expensive, storage-confined next-gen products (okay, current-gen now), I can’t help but see it. Stadia is by far the newest generation of the group.
It was a surprisingly great experience with Cyberpunk 2077 which compounded that awareness, although I had tried Stadia more and more before that, including a remarkably good-looking and performing Destiny 2 incursion.
As I’ve noted elsewhere, Stadia is probably the best place to play Cyberpunk 2077 although it’s not as rich an experience as a high-end gaming PC. The game still performs the best and looks almost as good on Stadia. It’s leaps and bounds better than PS5 or Xbox Series X, where a latest-gen version of the game runs on new hardware.
But that’s not all. My PlayStation 5 came with less than 700 GB of storage space which was almost immediately consumed by Call Of Duty: Cold War Black Ops and Warzone and a handful of other games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon souls, these two fantastic offers that you won’t find on Stadia.
My Xbox Series X had a bit more space, but I’ll always fill the stuff ASAP. 1TB only goes so far when gaming installations typically exceed 100GB these days. Sooner or later I’ll have to expand my storage space on both systems, although for now I can use my old expansion drives to play next-gen games, sacrificing some of the loading speed that I have. ‘appreciates internal SSDs in the process.
I will never have to worry about expanding my Google Stadia storage. In fact, I now have two Stadia setups since I purchased Cyberpunk 2077 when Google offered a Stadia (packed with Chromecast Ultra and a Stadia Gamepad) with the game. Since every game streams, you never need to download and install them on a player. You never have to worry about fixes or updates. You never have to choose which game to delete to free up storage space. It is incredibly convenient.
It’s also handy that I can play Stadia seamlessly on my TV, computer, and phone, switching between screens in a relatively easy way. (It can be boring to set up a controller with a Chromecast first, and even more annoying if you replace your router and have to restart everything on a new network. Hopefully Google fixes these irritations). I mostly play Stadia on my TV, but I can easily switch between the TV in my living room and the TV in the bedroom.
Then there is the price. A PS5 – if you can find one – will set you back $ 399 for the digital edition and $ 499 for the disc one. An Xbox Series X costs $ 499 while an Xbox Series S (with half the storage space) costs $ 299.
A Stadia Premiere edition, which includes the gamepad and a Google Chromecast Ultra and comes with three months of Stadia Pro for free, costs just $ 100. That’s a third of the price of the cheapest next-gen console and it’s playing Cyberpunk 2077 better than any of them.
There’s also the Nintendo Switch, as next-gen as any Nintendo console right now, although a Switch Pro could be in the works. Along with its vast, exclusive game library, which Stadia can never match, Google’s offering does a lot of what the Switch does for less money and with better graphics. He also doesn’t suffer from exasperation – really exasperating-Joy-Con drift issue that impacted so many Nintendo consoles.
There are caveats, of course. Online multiplayer games can always seem less crowded than on PlayStation, Xbox, or Steam. This is an issue with a still relatively new platform like Stadia (and another big argument for cross-platform play that benefits players on every platform).
Meanwhile, your Stadia’s performance is even more dependent on a fast and stable internet connection than normal online gaming. Even single-player games without an online multiplayer component require internet with Stadia. If your connection isn’t great, your Stadia experience won’t be either. Then again, a big chunk of gaming is based on the internet these days, whether you’re on consoles, PC, mobile, etc.
Stadia also can’t compete with its traditional console rivals when it comes to gaming exclusives. Google needs to step up its efforts here with big must-see exclusives on par with Halo and God of the war. Right now, there’s nothing quite like these great franchises on Stadia.
Finally, Stadia Pro could be more robust. You get free games with the subscription service and access to 4K game streaming, but you still have to buy most of your games at full price. I’d like to see a more robust subscription offering here, and cheaper games overall.
Another point to mention: Nvidia offers its own game streaming service GeForce Now (I’ll come back to this in the near future). It’s a fantastic service for many reasons, including the price.
GeForce Now does one thing much better than Stadia – it lets you stream the games you already own on platforms like Steam and the Epic Game Store and GOG.com to any machine. So your not-so-great laptop can stream demanding games like Cyberpunk 2077 or even titles like Fortnite (not on Stadia) and you can choose between a subscription or one-hour free trials.
It’s not exactly a “next-gen console” in the way Stadia is, but it’s a great no-cost alternative if you already own a bunch of PC games.
Stadia might not be the most exciting new console. It’s not even really a console at all. It doesn’t have a physical unit other than its gamepad, and you can actually play Stadia games on some devices with other controllers, which means you don’t even really need a setup. Stadia to start (again, lowering the barrier to entry for the price).
But it looks more new generation than the newer systems from Sony or Microsoft. Don’t get me wrong, I still think the PS5 and Xbox Series X are great machines. But I like that I can start any game in my library right away, when I want, without having to wait for a download or an update. I love the portability of a Nintendo Switch paired with the graphics of a next-gen console or gaming PC. I love the simplicity of it all and I really, really like the price.
Google Stadia gets my award for the best next-gen console (at least for now) even though it released in November 2019, a year before the PS5 and Xbox Series X. It’s cheaper, performs great, and its list keeps getting longer. games to play, ranging from online shooting games like Destiny 2 action-adventure games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla to indies like Hotline Miami. It plays the most controversial release of 2020, Cyberpunk 2077, better than any other platform and I have high hopes for Stadia’s success stories down the road.