Game Streaming Startup Blasts Google Over Stadia Originality Claims

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Andrew Sampson, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of American startup Rainway, blasted Google over many claims the company made during its Tuesday announcement of Stadia.

The industry veteran dismissed most aspects of the platform from a standpoint of originality, noting how Rainway has been offering high-fidelity, low-latency game streaming experiences for two years already, without making any claims about being the first to do so.

Laughable quality claims

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Stadia's current level of performance is something Mr. Sampson is describing as way overblown, especially seeing how several company officials apparently cited the recent Project Stream experiment conducted in collaboration with Ubisoft which allowed select testers to play Assassin's Creed: Odyssey in their browsers. The company described the experience as a consistent 1080p affair at 60 frames per second, whereas in reality, the stream was often capped at 30fps and would get downscaled to 720p, according to Rainway's own testing.

The decision to make the Stadia controller a Wi-Fi-only gadget is also just asking for trouble in terms of latency and unresponsiveness, the CEO added. He went on to criticize the style of Google's presentation as well, accusing the firm of devaluing the concept of GDC by bombarding the audience with buzzwords such as 8K, AI, and teraflops, all of which it described as irrelevant to the main question – how good the individual streaming experience actually is.

Mr. Sampson also mocked Google's presentation of State Share and other similar features of Stadia, ironically concluding how it appears the company invented checkpoints.

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He interpreted Google's focus on middleware as a clear signal that Stadia won't work with existing storefronts, which further limits its potential.

"The entire keynote so far has sounded like the BORG wanting you to assimilate into the cloud. Embrace the cloud, give up your console/pc, give up your control over games," the Rainway CEO remarked on Twitter.

Déjà vu

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Mr. Sampson likened Stadia to OnLive, a streaming startup that used to exist in the immediate vicinity of Google's Mountain View campus. Much like OnLive, it appears Stadia doesn't know whether it's middleware, a content platform, a console, or a service, the executive said. OnLive went defunct in mid-2015 while trying to compete with Sony's Gaikai which ended up acquiring its patents and now powers a service called PlayStation Now.

Regarding Google's claims of machine learning and how it plays into the grander vision of Stadia, Rainway's co-founder said the best they deserve is an eye roll. He also dismissed the claims of hacking/cheating being impossible in Stadia, noting how aimbots, clickers, and similar solutions work locally, so the only way to prevent them is with HDCP, which in turn cripples streaming, a core component of the Stadia pitch.

"I'm thrilled to see the space I love evolving, but this is just the wrong way to do it; Google wants to take away your freedom and choice; They want you to give up your consoles/PCs, they don't understand openness built the games we love," Mr. Sampson concluded.

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Questions that remain

The issue of pricing hasn't even be mentioned by Google during its GDC announcement, with the firm only stating Stadia will be coming to North America and the majority of Europe later this year.

Unsurprisingly, the service lacks major developer-publisher support, with id Software and Ubisoft being the only two game companies that appear to be on board so far. Ubisoft's role is also debatable; this is the same company that's been fighting Valve's Steam for seven years and counting, and now it's supposedly supporting Google's effort to replace all gaming hardware, or at least turn everything with a screen and an Internet connection into a standardized console.

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Dominik started at AndroidHeadlines in 2016. He’s approaching his first full decade in the media industry, with his background being primarily in technology, gaming, and entertainment. These days, his focus is more on the political side of the tech game, as well as data privacy issues, with him looking at both of those through the prism of Android. Contact him at [email protected]

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