With Stadia launching in less than a week, on Tuesday the 19th, all eyes have been on Google’s games streaming service. Between press circuits, tweets and presentations, the Stadia staff found one last opportunity to squeeze in an AMA, the infamous format for Reddit Q&As. In the midst of it, we learned about what features would show up in Stadia’s early access launch — and which features would be missing.
The AMA was conducted on the Stadia subreddit by Director of Product Beri Lee and Andrey Doronichev, who says his role is to “look after the Publisher experience.” And a lot of the answers were… well, typical PR stuff. There were very courteously-worded disappointments, as well as “hype” around what little does exist. It felt very sanitized and PR-y, like many of the questions were expected and they knew exactly what to say. But that’s PR! And they wouldn’t want to mess up their reputation so easily, so close to launch.
Lee and Doronichev did try a little authenticity, though. Possibly the most baffling part of the AMA was when Doronichev offered to come in-person and drop off a Stadia package. No, seriously.
“You know what? Here’s a crazy idea,” he said in a reply. “Let me personally deliver one. If you are in the Bay area and you are ok with me coming to your house at 9:00am on the 19th please DM me with your pre-order number, I’ll pick one person based on order received and how close you are to my house and drop by on my way to work, bring your order and we can even play your first game together! WDYT [What Do You Think]?” (“WYDT” can also mean, “Why you doin’ this?”)
Creepy, but we all need a little company sometime.
Other than this exuberant comment, the AMA offered a final look into what we’ll be expecting from Stadia when the first players can boot it up. Along with some excitement, many found their questions unanswered and expectations hampered.
Keep in mind, too, that Stadia has quietly called this an “early access” stage on its official website. So while it’s a “launch,” Stadia has been low-key hinting at this style of launch for months. Still, they brand basically everything else as a “launch,” so take that as you will.
What Stadia Features You’re Getting At “Launch”
When Stadia boots up for the first time on November 19th, it’ll do some of what Stadia promises.
Of course, first things first, in that you’ll be able to instantly buy and stream any game from Stadia’s library. As we learned earlier this week, there’ll unfortunately only be 12 games at launch, but they’re twelve hard-hitters.
While you wait for your Stadia package to arrive, if you own supported devices or Chrome, you can get a head start. The packages will ship in order of when players made pre-orders; once yours ships, you’ll get a code with your Stadia early access details. If applicable, that means you can also reserve your Founder’s Edition name. You can also start buying and playing your first games on Chrome or the Pixel, though you need to do so through the Stadia mobile app.
If your home is “smart” with Google’s tools, you can also try their first feature. Google Assistant will let you turn on the TV and Stadia with your voice, so I guess there’s a little bit of cool futurism in there.
And while it’s not exactly a “launch” feature, Stadia will well their first official non-electronic accessory. It’s the “Claw,” the controller attachment that lets you play on controller with your phone on the screen. It’s much like other controller attachments shown in other streaming pilots, such as Bethesda’s Orion. The Google staff says it’ll be available in the coming weeks.
What Stadia Features Are Missing At “Launch”
While Stadia can achieve its basic functionalities as described, a lot of hotly-anticipated features are going to be missing for Founder and Premiere buyers.
The biggest missing feature as noted by many is the Family Share, which allows games to be played across multiple systems. (Think of it like Steam Family Sharing.) For now, you’ll have to buy each game on each account individually — and with game prices being “competitive” with other stores’, that’ll add up quick.
Have a Chromecast Ultra already set up to play in stunning 4K? Can’t use that yet. Instead, you’ll need to hook up the one that comes with your controller. This is due to the lack of firmware on the older ones, but the staff claims that Google will be “updating the existing CC Ultra’s over the air soon after launch. But hey, you get an extra brand-new Chromecast Ultra, so that’s neat.
Notably missing as well are some of the “connective” features that allow players to interact with each other and audiences.
For one, Stadia Connect, the interactive co-op streaming feature. It’s definitely a more understandable feature to have missing, as it likely has more specific applications than most general games would permit. Crowd Play, which lets players actually play the game more immersively, is on hold until its first compatible games are out. Finally, there’s also “State Share,” one of the niftier features. It essentially creates a “save point” that’s shareable with others through a URL link.
However, Doronichev estimates that the first games with Connect specifically will come out by the end of the year. As for games with the other streaming features, they’ll be out next year.
There’s also some confusion as to when Android or iOS apps will be out. The definitive answer for the latter is “eventually.” But it’s a Google product, so we’ll likely see Android sooner than later.
Finally, as Stadia has mentioned multiple times, Google ships Stadia “in order of pre-order.” If you got the last few copies of the Founder’s Edition, there’s a slim chance you may be waiting a few days. So the last thing that’s missing from Stadia’s November 19th launch may, in fact, be you.