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Google began delivering the first Stadia Founder’s Edition kits last week, giving gamers access to the service for the first time. There have been some unfortunate hiccups in the launch including overheating Chromecasts and high latency. The latest Stadia shortcoming could make gameplay disappointing even when it’s working correctly. Google has confirmed Destiny 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 don’t actually render at the promised 4K resolution.
One of the main selling points for cloud gaming is that you can play AAA games on almost any screen. All the hard work happens in the cloud, so any device that can decode a high-resolution video stream can be your gaming device. For example, Stadia lets you play titles like Mortal Kombat 11 and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey on a smartphone that would never have any hope of rendering those graphics locally.
Google promised all Stadia games would stream at 4K resolution when accessed via a Chromecast Ultra. However, some early comparisons suggested that Destiny 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 weren’t actually running natively at 4K. The differences are apparently particularly noticeable in Red Dead Redemption 2 (this title wasn’t available for testing during our review) due to the incredibly detailed world — there are a lot of places you can see Stadia lagging behind an Xbox.
Oh my lord, Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC looks so bad on Stadia.
It’s absolutely no contest compared to the Xbox One X and it only uses 44% of the pixel count. Apparently Stadia is 80% faster than XB1X and yet it only runs at 1440p and 30FPS. pic.twitter.com/l2BkRnzaMX
— Pixelbuster (@Nitomatta) November 18, 2019
Google has responded to confirm that, yes, some Stadia games render at lower resolutions. In the case of Destiny 2, the game is 1080p on Google’s servers, and Red Dead Redemption 2 is 1440p. The video streams are upscaled to 4K for the Chromecast Ultra, which simply doesn’t look as good as a native 4K stream. Google says that Stadia supports 4K rendering, but it’s up to Game developers to decide how to do it. Rockstar and Bungie have only optimized their games for lower resolutions, but Google expects that developers will continue to improve their games on the service.
This isn’t a good look for Google after it bragged about how powerful its Stadia servers would be. If it’s launch partners aren’t even using the full power of those servers, then it’s silly to be charging the same price for the games. Currently, only people who purchased the $130 Stadia Founder’s Edition can use the service, but more players will come online in 2020 as Google opens things up. It would do well to light a fire under developers before it can disappoint too many people.