Class-Action Lawsuit Against Google Stadia’s 4k Claims

July 2, 2021

Google Spaghettis Another Project and Nets Its 5th Major Lawsuit of Recent Months

If corporations are people—and in our current timeline the law considers them as such—then Google is less your intrepid bohemian confidant and more your libertine couch-surfing ne’er-do-well, interminably attempting to maintain face and hold themselves together, come waylay after waylay.

In jurisprudence, an individual is referred to as a natural person. It’s only logical then that we think of corporations as non-natural persons or legal persons. The modern word ‘corporation’ originates from the Latin root corpus meaning ‘body,’ and slowly by the mid-15th century this body trundled into the Middle English word corporacioun, meaning ‘persons united in a body for some purpose.’ Some purpose indeed.

Google Stadia launched in November of 2019 as a cloud-based gaming service. Quite a novel idea at the time: how does a videogame platform reach more customers? Previously, individuals must possess a computer capable of playing these high-end games, so to reach more customers Google would alleviate the need for purchasing prohibitively expensive hardware. Internet speeds have dramatically increased in recent years, so the intention was to stream all gameplay generated from Google’s own vast mines of supercomputers, graphics cards, and rainbow-colored wires, directly into the user’s computer, regardless of if that particular user’s hardware was capable of playing the game otherwise.

At first blush this would appear quite brilliant and forward-thinking; let’s think back though to some of Google’s numerous other forward-thinking projects. Of course, most of us know YouTube, and Android, Chrome, and Gmail, but what about the short-lived modular phone Project ARA (2014-2016). Or the app Bump! (2009-2014) which allowed smartphone users to share photos and files by fist-bumping phones together. Some of us might still remember those commercials of pure unalloyed 2015. There’s Google Moderator (2008-2015), which aggregated pools of user-submitted questions and suggestions, and based on crowdsourced feedback would determine topics of discussion during meetings and town halls—and for a hot second was notably used by President Obama in 2009, apparently, if any of us remember that; and hosted where else: YouTube.   

There’s Helpouts (2013-2015)—no relation to Hangouts—which was a user-led online helpdesk for everything one can possibly imagine (knitting, fitness training, ventriloquism, ax throwing, etc.). Except it demanded the user-experts to tithe 20% of their earnings towards Google (a tithe is actually 10%, so… maybe a twethe?), and along with Helpouts being tethered to the lackluster Google Plus ecosystem, it was soon shuttered due to a pervading lack of growth. One doesn’t have to think on it much to retroactively stumble across the sources and the causes of Helpouts’ failure, but one does wonder much as to what Google’s inklings in the very inception of the project were comprised of at all. Naïve optimism?

There’s the miserable failure of a telephone directory service GOOG-411 (2007-2010). The messaging app no one asked for Google Allo (2016-2019). The Google Body app (2010-2011) displayed 3D models of the human body… for some reason. Another needless messaging app Google Spaces (2016-2017). Google Videos (2005-20012) was basically a flawed version of YouTube—so Google merely bought YouTube, as they are wont to do with competitors, and tossed Google Videos aside.

Google Wave (2010-2012). Google Answers (2002-2006). Google Buzz (2010-2011). Google Goggles (2010-2018). Nexus Q (2012-2013). How can we forget Google Glass (2013-20??). Snuffy, Al, Leo, Little Moe with the gimpy leg, Cheeks, Bony Bob, Cliff… I could go on forever, baby!

So it comes as no surprise that Google has once again overpromised and underdelivered on one of their pet projects. Launched in November of 2019, Stadia never materialized into what it was made out to be. Critics at the time reported lag, stuttering, compression artifacting, and most particularly that Stadia did not output at the advertised 4k resolution. As of 2021 Stadia does still exist, but only resembling a pale shade of its earliest veritable conceptions. Its library contains but a fraction of those of its competitor’s platforms (these companies too big to buyout). More strikingly, indicating what little faith they have in the project, Google has gone on record stating that they are closing down both the Los Angeles and Montreal studio offices of Stadia Games & Entertainment, abandoning all plans for console exclusives. There will be no first-party games developed for Stadia. Not one.

All of these missteps led to this latest lawsuit for breach-of-contract, filed in New York federal court, that alleges unfair and deceptive trade practices concerning advertisements about display quality in addition to various executives who made false claims that most or all games would be running at 4k resolution.

At launch, Google Stadia was technically capable of streaming games at 4k, but the feature was limited to solely the Chromecast Ultra. It took four months after launch—leading users to feel they were more guinea pigs in a perpetual beta than customers enjoying a release-ready platform—for Stadia’s web client to add 4k support; but even still users reported that many graphically-demanding games actually rendered at a much lower resolution. According to Digital Foundry, Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 maxes out at 1440p/30fps. Doom Eternal was promised to run at 4k, but is actually only upscaled from 1800p; as is also the case with Bungie’s Destiny 2.

Even though the plaintiffs’ argument is patently true, it would be farfetched to believe that all of the demands in this lawsuit will be met: compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and expenses, restitution and disgorgement of defendant’s revenues, and most remarkably an injunction prohibiting the future sale of games through Stadia. In all likelihood, a settlement will be reached with some picayune payout per each plaintiff many months from now. Soon the trial will recede into the waning memory of a Wikipedia stub.      

In early 2018 these persons in that valley united in this body for some purpose chose to, for some reason, remove the most righteous tattoo from their skin; Google’s unofficial motto which had for years been etched into their code of conduct that every employee receives and was oft-repeated amongst their corporate culture read simply: “Don’t be evil.” Now free from that self-flagellating hex, it seems as though more and more of their employees and executives abide by a new mantra: “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

Zac Rader

By

Zachary Rader is a writer and legal assistant at Pasha Law PC. After completing an internship as assistant editor with the literary journal Gulf Coast and graduating from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Arts in Literature, he attended LSC-North Harris’ Advanced Paralegal Studies Program and later worked as a clerk with the Office of the Attorney General. He often can be found collecting insects while hiking through the forests of Greater Houston with his border collie.

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