As Google barrels forward toward streaming gaming with Monday’s planned launch of Stadia, the company is talking about the many promised features that won’t be available to Founder and Premier pre-order purchasers on day one.
In a wide-ranging Reddit AMA Wednesday, Google employees said that missing features will “start popping up as soon as one week after launch.” Director of Product Andrey Doronichev defended this by saying that Google products “always start with nailing the key user-journey and then proceed with releasing extra features. YouTube started with ‘watch video.’ For Stadia it’s ‘Play the Game on your biggest screen.'”
Game platforms often launch with limited feature sets that get expanded via firmware updates over multiple years. That said, the list of promised features that won’t be ready when Stadia launches next week is surprising in its breadth and variety.
Here’s a brief rundown of the limitations early adopters will face on day one:
- “On day 1, PC Chrome gameplay won’t support 4K, HDR, or 5.1 Surround Sound.” Those features will be added in 2020 for PC players.
- Stream Connect, which allows one player’s Stadia viewpoint to be integrated with another player’s stream, will not be available in any launch games. The first game to use it is expected to launch by the end of the year.
- State Share (which lets users share save files via links) and Crowd Play (which allows for quick jump-in multiplayer through a YouTube stream) won’t be integrated into games until next year.
- At launch, Google Assistant integration will be limited to the ability to turn on the TV and start a game. Soon after launch, the Assistant button on the Stadia controller will work on Chromecast’s Stadia homescreen. Assistant support on PCs and phones and during gameplay will come sometime after that.
- Family Sharing (which lets you buy a game once and share it with accounts held by family members) “is not supported on day one, so you’ll have to buy games for your child’s account.” The feature is planned for addition “early next year.”
- There is no Stadia UI for Achievements or Achievement notifications on day one. But if you happen to perform an in-game feat that would earn a specific Achievement, it will show up when the feature is rolled out “shortly after launch.”
- Chromecast Ultra units included in the Founders/Premiere bundles are the only ones that will work with Stadia on day one. Other Chromecast Ultra units will be able to play Stadia games after an over-the-air update “soon after launch.”
- The “Buddy Pass” that lets early adopters offer a free three-month Stadia trial to a friend will be sent “about two weeks after you receive your bundle, barring some unknown unknowns popping up.”
- Currently, “the phone is needed for initial setup and buying games.” Buying games through a Chromecast Ultra or the Web is not supported, and the AMA gave no indication if or when it would be added.
- As previously discussed, mobile support will be limited to Google Pixel phones and ChromeOS tablets at launch. A timeline for general iOS and Android support is still to be determined, but Pixel will likely be the only mobile support “this year,” according to the AMA. Google says it “want[s] Stadia to run on every screen eventually.”
- As previously discussed, the Stadia Controller’s wireless functions will only work with Chromecast Ultra at launch. To use that controller with a phone or tablet, you’ll need to plug it in with a USB-C cable. Generic USB controllers will also work with Stadia on PC or phones, but not on Chromecast.
- As previously discussed, only 12 titles will be available for purchase on Stadia at launch, with 14 more promised by the end of the year. A handful of other previously announced “launch window” titles on Stadia are planned for early 2020.
Some other interesting tidbits from the Stadia AMA:
- At the highest visual quality, the Stadia app warns that “data usage might reach 20 GB/hr.” That’s above some previous estimates that expected 15.75 GB/hr for a 4K HDr signal with 5.1 surround sound. Limiting the stream to 720p stereo quality via the app caps data usage at 4.5 GB/hr.
- “You should expect regular games” as freebies with your $10/month Stadia Pro subscription, but Google can’t commit to a solid schedule for their availability yet (beyond Destiny 2 at launch). Similar services from Sony and Microsoft offer multiple free games per month.
- A personal Stadia stream will continue to run for ten minutes after you shut down on one screen, allowing you time to switch to another device and pick up where you left off.
- Stadia will use letterboxing to fit the game image on screens that are not set to the standard 1080p or 4K aspect ratios.
- Google and PowerSupport have developed a Stadia controller grip, called the Claw, which holds a Stadia phone “centered and ‘floating’ over the controller,” unlike generic phone/controller grips. It won’t be included in pre-order bundles but will be available for purchase in the GStore “in the coming weeks.”
Listing image by Kyle Orland