It's time for "good news, bad news."
Stadia hardware

For Google, today is a bit of a mixed bag. The good news for them is that they just soft launched their first dedicated gaming platform, Stadia. The bad news is that it's reportedly a "monumental flop."

Today, those who purchased the $130 Founder's Edition of Stadia are probably awaiting its delivery. The physical contents largely consisting of a unique Stadia controller and a Chromecast Ultra. Though you had to plunk down $130 for this, there was actually no guarantee that you would get Stadia today. In fact, many consumers have reported that their orders were changed from a Founder's Edition to a Premiere Edition. These Premiere Edition kits were not guaranteed to release on November 19th, despite consumers paying the same amount of money.

Of course, there is also no guarantee that the Founder's Editions will get to you today either. A Stadia blog update from October 15 says that Founder's Editions will "start arriving" on November 19th. The units are being sent out on a first come, first served basis. So while you may have paid just as much money as the other Founder's Edition purchasers, your purchase will still be treated differently because you ordered after others but before the Founder's Editions sold out.

If Stadia's issues ended there, that would be in Google's best interests. However, it gets worse. According to Kotaku's Jason Schreier, sales of Stadia have so far been poor. Like, really poor. According to his sources close to the topic, sales are below expectations. Schreier goes on to say that Stadia "looks like a monumental flop."

I'm not sure what Google was expecting here. They announced that Stadia would essentially have a free model released in 2020. Outside of those that have money to burn, tech enthusiasts, and reviewers, there really isn't a super great reason to get Stadia yet. It also did not help that their initial launch lineup was so anemic before they added another 10 titles at the last minute.

And in typical Google fashion, they half-assed the launch. They soft launched Stadia. They put up a price barrier to entry. They launched without a huge number of Stadia service features actually working out of the box. All of this combined with a general fear that Google is just going to kill the service off like they've done so many times with other services, just doesn't make this an appealing product for most people.

Critics also aren't really slathering praise on Stadia either. A number of those with early kits have remarked that the "4K" option is often just an upscaled 1080p option. In the case of Destiny 2, even the 1080p option "looked more like 720p" according to The Verge's review. Not only that, but Destiny 2 on Stadia actually runs at the PC equivalent of medium settings with no way to adjust those options. There is also no option to adjust the FOV.

Here are a few quotes from various Stadia reviews. An r/Games post on Reddit has a larger selection of reviews you can check out if you want.

Business Insider - I've been playing games on Google's ambitious new Netflix-like game service for the last week, and it's clear the service isn't ready for primetime.

"It's an approach that might work with a free service like YouTube, but it's less palatable when you're shelling out over $100 at the launch of a new product — to say nothing of the cost of each game. Though it's entirely possible that Google will iron out Stadia's issues over the coming months, it's clear that now — at launch — the service isn't ready for primetime."
Forbes - Paul Tassi - Google Stadia Launch Review: A Technical, Conceptual Disaster

"I may have been a Stadia skeptic going into this test run, but I was willing to give it a chance. But this has been a catastrophe from start to finish during my testing phase, and the problem is that even if it did work flawlessly, which it absolutely doesn’t, the entire model seemed doomed from the start. This is an enormous miss from Google, and I am really wondering what the fallout is going to be from this ill-conceived early launch."
Eurogamer / Digital Foundry

"As a technological statement, Stadia impresses with the best image quality and latency I've seen from a streaming platform, but there's definitely scope for improvement from a stability perspective, and I'm not sure the question of what happens when someone else taps into your bandwidth has been adequately resolved: audio stutter and wobbly resolution were common on my fibre connection and even a 200mbps hook-up had very occasional slowdown."
Tom's Hardware - Google Stadia review: Not Ready for Prime Time

"If you have a gaming PC and want to tinker with settings, Stadia isn’t for you (and may never be). If you have a console, you already have Stadia's lineup of games available to you, minus Gylt. However, console players wanting the flexibility to play on other devices may be swayed. But for now, both PCs and consoles are still superior, feature-filled options."

(Image courtesy USGamer)