There are just five days to go before Google Stadia launches on November 19th, but after answering a bunch of questions via a Reddit AMA yesterday, it would appear Google's cloud gaming platform will be launching without a number of key features. Chief among them is no streaming in 4K, HDR and 5.1 surround sound for those logging on via a PC, meaning the only way to make the most of what Stadia has to offer (which is the entire point of paying for a Stadia Pro subscription in the first place) is to hook one of Google's Chromecast Ultra devices up to a TV.
You'll still be able to use Stadia to stream on a PC, I should note, but it sounds like you'll only get the regular 1080p, non-HDR, stereo sound experience that you get as part of the Stadia Base experience at launch instead of its fancy 4K Stadia Pro version.
"We know from the feedback the Founders gave us that the 4K TV must be our top priority for launch," said Google's director of product Andrey Doronichev. "On day 1, PC Chrome gameplay won’t support 4K, HDR, or 5.1 Surround Sound. But in the spirit of gradual rollout, we’ll be adding support for 4K/HDR/5.1 on PCs in 2020."
As a result, those looking to get the best Stadia experience will have to decamp to their TV and log on via Google's Chromecast Ultra device. However, don't think you'll be able to use any old Chromecast Ultra you've got lying around. Oh no. Instead, Stadia will only be supported on the Chromecast Ultras sent out with Stadia Founders Edition packs, as it requires the latest firmware update in order to work. Therefore, if you were hoping to use your existing Chromecast Ultra to access Stadia, then you're going to have to wait for Google to push out the update over the air - and at the moment, all Doronichev could offer on the subject was that this would happen "soon after launch".
Stadia's achievement system is also going to be somewhat half-baked come launch day, as while you'll be able to earn achievements from day one, you'll have no way of viewing them. "Games will be recording your achievements on Stadia on day one," said Doronichev. "It’s just the platform UI for viewing your achievements and achievement notifications will launch shortly after launch."
Doronichev was less forthcoming about the timeline for said achievement UI, but he did reveal a bit more about when family sharing will become available. This is another feature that won't be present at launch, so for now anyone with kids will have to buy games specifically for their child's account. "But it's a high priority feature, we’re planning to launch early next year," Doronichev said. Family Link, however, will be supported on day one, so parents will still be able to manage their child's Stadia experience via Google's Family Link app on their phone or the Stadia parental dashboard.
Add to that Stadia's pitiful stable of just 12 launch games (which is a far cry from the total number of games that are currently confirmed for it), and it's looking like a very underwhelming launch indeed.
(And in case you missed it earlier in the week, here are the 12 games you'll be able to play on Stadia come launch day. Be still my beating heart!)
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey
- Destiny 2
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Mortal Kombat 11
- Just Dance 2020
- Samurai Shodown