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Google Stadia should have stayed in beta

I have been playing a lot of Stadia lately — not because I think Google’s game streaming service is amazing, but because, in order to get anything out of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (about which I have many thoughts), you have to play a lot. It’s a long game.

I have put in enough hours in enough conditions to say that this is a beta product, and Google should have labeled it as such and launched it differently. Because even in the best conditions, this ain’t the best. I have what I think is probably the most ideal connection imaginable: Google Fiber (technically Webpass) in Oakland, 500 up and down with very low latency, and I still get weird internet lag jitters sometimes. Woof.

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Woof, but also, shrug? I find that, by and large, it works well enough for me, and I love that I can play it on many different devices (including a Surface Go!). I still have faith that the technical / bandwidth issues are solvable.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that, as with the Xbox One launch, the biggest problem with Stadia is simply the size of the game library.

So while I’m happy that Google Stadia finally kept a promise with three new games and its first exclusive feature, I think it’s way too little — though not necessarily too late. If Google can do even half of what Nintendo achieved in terms of growing the Switch library, it has half a chance.

All of the Games Of The Year lists are coming out (here’s ours), and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “Huh, I might want that on Stadia rather than PlayStation,” and realized, “Haha no, Stadia is still a beta product with a beta product-sized library.”

Stadia’s second biggest problem is the one that has been so well-documented at this point that I feel like I hardly need to mention it: a near-majority of its promised features just aren’t ready yet. Google is offering Stadia users “Buddy Passes” that make it available to friends for free for a few months, and I’m actually embarrassed to offer it to anybody, given the state of the service.

Google has thus far failed to ship a hunk of plastic that helps you attach your phone to a controller — a thing that should have been packed in with the original controller, a thing that costs $15 for some reason, a thing that is nothing more than molded plastic and a spring. So, you know, execution still not this division’s strong suit. That’s also in beta.

The thing is, Google has asked for and received Real Money from people, so treating Stadia like a beta isn’t just embarrassing; it’s irresponsible. Google should have tried an entirely different way of launching this service: call it a beta for real, make it an invite system to have it seem more exclusive, and don’t charge money for it until it’s out of beta.

But hindsight is 20/20 (or maybe it’s 4K with low latency). All we can hope for now is that Google will fix it quickly. Maybe by the time I get through Assassin’s Creed, it will be better. That’s probably too long to wait, though.

Related

Disclosure: my wife works for Oculus, a division of Facebook. My ethics statement is here.

Alienware’s m17 gaming laptop with an Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics chip is steeply discounted right now at Dell. It has one of Intel’s older 8th Gen CPUs, but otherwise, its 16GB of RAM and 512GB of fast PCIe SSD storage will ensure some great performance for far less cash required than usual. You can get it for just $1,699.99 with the offer code AWAFF1150, but Dell warns that quantities are limited at this price.

+ Mossberg: Tim Cook’s Apple had a great decade but no new blockbusters

Essential reading from Walt Mossberg himself. I expect — actually I know because the tweets have happened — that it will be a little polarizing. But I think it’s a cipher: some people will be angered because it doesn’t give enough credit to AirPods and the Apple Watch; other people will think it gives too much credit to other products.

That’s one signal that it’s fair. The MacBook line wasn’t just a whiff; it was a years-long whiff. And while Apple’s new products are very successful, nothing will ever match the iPhone.

+ Google employee says she was fired for sending internal pop-ups about labor rights

It is increasingly difficult — bordering on impossible — to think that Google management is acting in good faith anymore. If Sundar Pichai isn’t careful, this is going to be his legacy.

+ New Away leaks reveal employees worked without heat, struggled with headaches and nausea

+ Pinterest slashes contractor pay for the holidays

+ Sony’s new Back Button Attachment brings customizable paddles to the DualShock 4

I love that this can be remapped on the fly using just the included screen instead of having to dig through a settings menu or an app or whatever. More stuff like this, please!

+ The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt joins Xbox Game Pass in time for the Netflix premiere

Xbox Game Pass might be one of the best deals in gaming right now.

+ AI super resolution lets you ‘zoom and enhance’ in Pixelmator Pro

Enhance!

Research into super resolution has been ongoing for some time now, with tech companies like Google and Nvidia creating their own algorithms in the past few years. In each case, the software is trained on a dataset containing pairs of low-resolution and high-resolution images. The algorithm compares this data and creates rules for how the pixels change from image to image. Then when it’s shown a low-resolution picture it’s never seen before, it predicts what extra pixels are needed and inserts them.

+ The lightbulb revolution has just begun

This is a great Verge Science video with the debut of Justine Calma on our channel. Watch!

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