In an interview with GameSpot, Vice President and General Manager of Google Phil Harrison explained that he’s not worried about data caps being a problem when the Stadia, a cloud-based gaming subscription service, rolls out next year. Data caps [are] not a universal challenge,” said Harrison, who went on to add that he is confident that internet service providers will respond to increased consumer demand for streaming services.
“ISPs have a strong history of staying ahead of customer trend and if you look at the history of data caps in those small number of markets–and it’s actually a relatively small number of markets [that have data caps]–the trend over time, when music streaming and download became popular, especially in the early days when it was not necessarily legitimate, data caps moved up,” Harrison told GameSpot.
With the evolution of TV and film streaming, data caps moved up, and we expect that will continue to be the case.
Google’s Stadia service promises to stream high-quality video games at up to 4K resolution, depending on the subscription package, and Harrison is confident that the market will adopt video game streaming at a rate that ISPs can’t ignore. “ISPs are smart […] They understand that they’re in the business of keeping customers happy and keeping customers with them for a long time.”
ISPs being smart is hard to contest, but who’s to say these companies won’t see the demand for higher data caps as a chance to profit by increasing the costs for suitable internet service? There are significant problems with broadband internet service in the United States, and according to the most recent Internet Access Services Report from the FCC, nearly 25 percent of American have connections below 25Mbps/3Mbps speeds, which is the minimum definition of “broadband” service. Harrison proposes that the advent of 5G technology will come into play and will have a positive mutual relationship with streaming platforms like Stadia.
“There’s a very interesting additional dynamic happening in the internet market [with] 5G, particularly in what’s called fixed wireless, which is not necessarily running 5G on your phone but as a way of bringing 5G into your home. All of the 5G fixed wireless businesses that are up now that I’m aware of have no data caps and are very very high performance,” Harrison explained. “$50 a month. That’s what Verizon fixed wireless costs for [a] minimum 300 mbps and up to a gigabit.”
In many areas of the United States, internet service provider Verizon refuses to upgrade slow and aging DSL service lines. Those areas are locked into settling for 3 mbps connections, and there’s little incentive for ISPs like Comcast to increase service to these areas.
Optimal Stadia subscribers will be able to stream games with 5.1 surround sound at a 4K resolution, at at a stable 60 FPS, all of which requires a recommended 35 mbps connection (10 mbps is a hard minimum). Harrison also clarified that the Stadia streaming service will make use of compression, which will keep the data estimate of 35 mbps down “significantly.” Acknowledging that the service is demanding regardless of how it’s calculated, he also said that Stadia will “give players information about what [data amount] they’re using and how they can change their resolution if they want to.”
GameSpot uploaded footage of Doom Eternal running on Stadia’s streaming service at GDC 2019. Tom’s Guide has a review of their experience with Doom Eternal and the Google Stadia at E3 2019 that talks about the importance of the user’s broadband internet stability.
Those who signed up for the Founder’s Edition of the Stadia will be able to try out the streaming service in November of this year, at the cost of $129. Google has stated that they don’t expect for games purchased through Stadia to be significantly cheaper than their console version, and the Founder’s Edition requires a Pro subscription package that costs $10 per month. The Pro tier includes access to the full games library (with discounts) and streaming in surround sound and 60 FPS at 4K resolution–providing your provider can support it.
The Base version of the Google Stadia service will be free and is set to launch in 2020. Doom Eternal and Marvel’s Avengers are just two examples of major titles that will hit the Stadia. Be sure to check out mxdwn’s hands-on impressions of the Doom Eternal and Marvel’s Avengers playable demos from this year’s E3.