Google's cloud gaming service, Stadia, will be launched this November and all indications point to it being a viable alternative to conventional console gaming. However, some have expressed concerns that, while it enables the playing of quality, triple-A games in up to 4K HDR and with surround sound, it'll have enormous impact on data limits.
If your home broadband or mobile plan has a data cap, you could find yourself using a month's worth quickly.
Several sites, including PC Gamer, calculated that, as 4K HDR streaming requires a minimum of 35Mbps to stream, a hour's worth of play will take up more than 15GB of data. Play at 1080p and you can sap 9GB of data off your plan per hour. And, 720p Stadia gaming will use more than 4GB per hour.
But, that's not entirely true, claims Stadia boss, Phil Harrison. He told Gamespot that compression and other technical wizardry means that, while you require a 35Mbps minimum speed to ensure a stable service, it doesn't directly translate to data usage: "I've seen the math calculations that people have done. If you take 35Mbps, it’s not always 35Mbps because we use compression. There will be sometimes when actually it’s using significantly less data than that, so it’s not correct to multiply 35Mbps by the number of seconds that you play."
Still, an hour's worth of play is still going to eat a significant amount of data depending on the stream - at least as much as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video on the download side - not including the controller using upload data too.
Harrison believes that will be addressed by the internet service providers in the home: "When music streaming and download became popular, especially in the early days when it was not necessarily legitimate, data caps moved up. Then with the evolution of TV and film streaming, data caps moved up, and we expect that will continue to be the case," he explained.
And many providers, such as in the UK, don't have data limits at all - just traffic management at different times of the day: "It’s actually a relatively small number of markets that have [data caps]," he added.
It's rare, however, to find a completely unlimited mobile plan, so we'll have to see the impact on those when Stadia launches. Maybe we'll see deals with networks, such as Three, EE, Vodafone and/or O2, where you get access to Stadia "data-free" like many offer with Netflix, Spotify and other streaming services? Let's hope so.