A lawsuit filed against Google alleges that the tech company greatly exaggerated the quality and resolution of games available on Stadia, Google's cloud gaming service. Stadia does not require a console and allows players to play video games streamed over the internet to multiple devices (TV, laptop, tablet, and mobile).
The class action lawsuit here, originally filed in Queens County Superior Court in October of 2020 and removed to New York federal court on February 12, 2021, claims that Google violated consumer protection laws designed to protect against unfair and deceptive business practices and false advertising in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. The complaint alleges that Google used false and misleading statements about how all games on Stadia would be playable at 4k resolution and failed to deliver on its promise that Stadia was more powerful than gaming consoles.
The complaint points to several articles and media reports that surfaced after Stadia's launch, which debunked Google's claims by explaining that games touted as 4K resolution were not in fact in true or native 4K. Instead, the games reportedly ran at 1080p or 1440p resolution, and were upscaled to 4K on Stadia and the Google Chromecast Ultra (which is needed to play Stadia games at 4K). While it may be the responsibility of the developer to provide gaming content quality such as 4K resolution and 60 frames-per-second, the complaint alleges that Google did nothing to correct the misinformation that all Stadia games would be 4K.
The complaint alleges that some of the articles were later changed, insinuating that the edits may have been at Google's direction to soften the blow from the negative press. Additionally, the complaint alleges that some of Google's own statements on Twitter and the Stadia website were later revised or removed to obscure information after the news that the quality and resolution of Stadia games were not as originally claimed.
If the lawsuit proceeds, the class is seeking damages in the amounts of the Stadia subscription packages, as well as injunctive relief to stop the allegedly unfair and deceptive practices. In other words, in addition to giving refunds to anyone who purchased a Founder's Edition, Premiere Edition, or paid for a Stadia Pro subscription, the plaintiffs are requesting that Google list the resolution of games offered on the Stadia store. This lawsuit, in addition to the recent announcement that Google shuttered its internal game development studio, is yet another bump in the road for Google's Stadia project.
Developers, publishers, and platform providers should be mindful of over-promising, as is the case for all advertisers. Consumers recognize the difference between what a company promises and what it actually delivers, and many in the gaming community are keen to pick up on those differences. This should serve as a reminder that potentially serious legal exposure arises when features are advertised in pre-release marketing that do not appear in final products sold to consumers.
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