Google Stadia has had a less than perfect launch. Apart from apparent overheating issues with the Chromecast Ultra puck and delay in shipping codes, it was discovered that despite having access to a speedy internet connection and a 4K TV, Stadia was not rendering games in 4K resolution at 60fps.
Instead, as indicated by various tests and user feedback, Stadia runs Destiny 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 in full HD and 1440p resolution at 30fps, respectively. Both these games are then upscaled to 4K and the stream is sent to the Chromecast Ultra. This means there's a noticeable difference in image quality when compared to dedicated gaming consoles like the Xbox One X and gaming PCs.
This was contrary to Google's VP and GM Phil Harrison statement on Twitter about all Stadia games supporting 4K at launch and the company's marketing campaign surrounding Stadia.
As it turns out, there's a big catch in Stadia rendering games at 4K. In an official statement, Google has put the onus on developers for supporting 4K on Stadia. It says that it is up to the developers to decide on how they want to achieve the balance between image quality and frame rate for their Stadia games.
Below is the full statement from Google on this matter:
"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."
The good thing here is that Google expects developers to further improve the performance of their games on Stadia which should lead to image quality improvements. However, the company should have been clear right from the get-go about using techniques like upscaling to achieve 4K gaming on Stadia instead of misleading users and boasting about the platform's prowess to stream games at native 4K/60fps.
As things stand right now, none of the games available on Stadia have true 4K graphics.