Since March, Google has been promising that its streaming Stadia platform would be capable of full 4K, 60fps gameplay (for users with a robust Internet connection and $10/month Stadia Pro subscription). But technical analyses since launch have shown that some of the service’s highest profile games aren’t hitting that mark.
A Digital Foundry analysis of Red Dead Redemption 2 on Stadia, for instance, found that the game actually runs at a native 2560×1440 resolution, which is then upscaled to the 4K standard of 4096×2160 via the Chromecast Ultra. And a Bungie representative said that the Stadia version of Destiny 2 runs at the PC equivalent of “medium” graphics settings and that the game will “render at a native 1080p and then upsample [to 4K] and apply a variety of techniques to increase the overall quality of effect.”
As we noted in our review, at normal TV viewing distances, Stadia’s apparently upscaled 4K images can look relatively comparable to a native 4K image from a high-end console (Stadia’s PC and mobile resolution is currently limited to a disappointing 1080p). But with Google claiming server instances that have a console-beating “10.7 GPU teraflops” of polygon pushing power to devote to a game, many Stadia customers are wondering why they aren’t getting the full native resolution that the company has long promised.
Over the weekend, Google issued a statement to 9to5Google that essentially places the blame for this situation on Stadia developers themselves (emphasis added):
Stadia streams at 4K and 60fps—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.
This answer is a bit unsatisfying, since games like Destiny 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 are already running at 4K resolutions on home consoles and PCs. If Linux-based ports running on Stadia’s high-end servers can’t achieve that same native performance at launch, it’s concerning to say the least.