Google Puts Onus For Stadia 4K 60FPS Game Streaming Performance On Developers

Google Stadia
Subscribing to the Stadia Pro tier is supposed to net players several perks, the highlight being the ability to play games at a 4K resolution (3840x2160) at 60 frames per second—it's one of the main selling points for the $9.99 per month subscription fee. Be that as it may, some users have voiced concern that Stadia's 4K gaming experience is not living up to expectations.

In the lead up to Stadia launch, Google did plenty of chest puffing, especially in regards to how its cloud gaming service stacks up to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in horsepower. According to Google, Stadia can delivers 10.7 GPU teraflops of performance, which is more than the Xbox One X (6 TFLOPs) and PS4 Pro (4.2 TFLOPs) combined.

And then there was this tweet in October by Stadia boss Phil Harrison...
Yes, all games at launch support 4K. We designed Stadia to enable 4K/60 (with appropriate TV and bandwidth). We want all games to play 4K/60 but sometimes for artistic reasons a game is 4K/30 so Stadia always streams at 4K/60 via 2x encode," Harrison said.

Since launching, however, users and reviewers have brought up several issues, including how Stadia handles 4K gameplay. One example is Destiny 2. It renders at a native 1080p and then is upscaled, but falls short of 4K. And Red Dead Redemption 2 renders at 1080p or 1440p (depending on the user's data rate) and then is upscaled to 4K.

"Perhaps there's something more we're not seeing behind the compression but from a technical perspective, Red Dead 2 on Stadia doesn't seem to be delivering on key marketing promises—certainly not the spirit of them at least," Digital Foundry wrote.

The site notes that in the case of RDR2, Stadia is rendering less pixels than the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, despite all of the supposed extra GPU grunt that is available. There's also a thread on Reddit where some early Stadia adopters are complaining about 4K gameplay on the platform.

Google has responded to the criticism by basically saying it is up to developers to decide how exactly they want to implement 4K support in games on Stadia. Here's the full statement provided to Eurogamer...
"Stadia streams at 4K and 60 FPS—and that includes all aspects of our graphics pipeline from game to screen: GPU, encoder and Chromecast Ultra all outputting at 4k to 4k TVs, with the appropriate internet connection. Developers making Stadia games work hard to deliver the best streaming experience for every game. Like you see on all platforms, this includes a variety of techniques to achieve the best overall quality. We give developers the freedom of how to achieve the best image quality and framerate on Stadia and we are impressed with what they have been able to achieve for day one.

We expect that many developers can, and in most cases will, continue to improve their games on Stadia. And because Stadia lives in our data centers, developers are able to innovate quickly while delivering even better experiences directly to you without the need for game patches or downloads."
To be fair, the Stadia Pro subscription tier says "up to 4K." Still, the pre-launch hype and resulting expectations have not been in line with the actual 4K experience in some games. That's kind of par for course with Stadia so far—the launch feels a bit rushed, in that some features have yet to materialize (like achievements) and there are some early issues.

Hopefully Google is right, in that developers will improve the 4K gaming experience as time goes on. All we can do is wait and see.