We’ve seen many rumors about Google wanting to get into the video game market. Outside of the company, no one knew what their plan was. This week though, the company has officially announced its vision for the future of video games. The company is calling it Stadia and it is based on streaming games from the cloud.
This is interesting because there was so much speculation around the rumors about Google and video games. There were some mumblings about the company trying for a streaming game service but that has been attempted multiple times in the past. Each time it has failed (commercially), so most of the discussion was around the a physical device.
Essentially, most people were assuming that Google was going to launch a set-top box that would essentially be a video game console. It was easy to speculate that this was simply going to be based on Android TV software but marketed (and designed) as a video game console.
Evolved From Project Stream
Then, after much silence Google officially announced a partnership between it and Ubisoft late last year. So this confirmed that Google had been working on something in the video game space. It was called Project Stream and they let people sign up to beta test a game streaming service.
The game in question was Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and they were targeting 1080p graphics at 60 frames per second on a connection speed of 25Mb/s. Not everyone has access to that type of internet here in the U.S. but the test was a success and received a lot of praise as latency was what people with a good connection were expecting.
After the beta test passed though, things started to get quiet again. Google didn’t mention anything and there weren’t any leaks about the service until February, 2019. The Game Developers Conference was a month away and people began to speculate and hear rumors about Google making an announcement.
Google Stadia is then Officially Announced
As expected, Google announced their vision for the future of video games during GDC 2019. As people speculated, it is going to be a streaming service provided to us by Google. Since it was announced during a conference for developers the announcement was geared more toward selling Stadia as a platform.
And by platform, I mean a new console system basically. The way Google spoke during the event, all of the development will be similar to how video game developers would develop for a console. But, since Google was handling all of the processing hardware in the cloud, the focus was on how it could seamlessly evolve as time passes.
Not only that, but they also appealed to video game creators by telling them how they wouldn’t be limited by a specific piece of hardware (as defined by the latest consoles from Microsoft and Sony). Not only is 1 “blade” faster than the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X combined, but Google could spin up additional blades for added performance.
Is Google the Answer to Video Game Streaming?
This isn’t the first time a company has tried to do a video game streaming service. The thing is, none of them until now has been a commercial success. Each of them have either crashed and burned or have yet to be financially successful so many people are now speculative about Google’s approach.
A big thing that sets Stadia apart from the others is Google. Stadia is backed by the company and is leveraging the tech giant in multiple ways. The biggest is likely the number of datacenters that Google currently has access to. They have a lot of their own but they are also already in others.
Google has a presence in other data centers because it helps them to deliver their services to the end user faster. A big example of this is YouTube. It can take a lot of bandwidth and processing power to get YouTube videos out to their users. They are in over 7,000 “edge locations” around the world.
This paired with the processing power they have behind them could allow Google to succeed where others have failed. Bandwidth has been a big deal breaking for previous attempts as has high latency. Project Stream showed that people with 25Mb/s internet could stream a game with very low latency.
As video compression gets better over time this will be lowered and it’s rumored that Google is aiming for 15Mb/s internet could be Stadia’s minimum when it launches later this year.
Google is Using the Internet and Chromecast as its Platform
Keeping the hardware in the cloud means that virtually anyone with a decent internet connection can play the latest and greatest game on just about any screen. Console gamers play on the TV and Google has sold tens of millions of Chromecast devices already.
The gaming service will launch with custom controllers from Google but you can use other controllers as well. The Stadia Controller connects to the internet via WiFi and then uses Chromecast technology to get the stream onto the big screen TV. This means that console gamers would only need to buy a Chromecast to play on thier TV.
It will also be available to desktop users as well thanks to support for Chrome and mobile gamers with a smartphone or tablet. There are a lot of details that have yet to be revealed but Google wants it to be available to as many people as possible as the virality of the product could be key.
Google Stadia is Deeply Integrated into YouTube too
During the conference we were told that playing on Stadia will eliminate a lot of the hassle when it comes to streaming gameplay footage. Some gamers have had trouble playing their game and streaming it at a high quality with their gaming PC and average internet connection.
Some professionals have even gone out to pay for a faster internet connection and a second PC to get video game streaming to be as good as it is today. But Google Stadia is able to handle that all in the cloud. Since they are leveraging the YouTube platform they have a very high speed connection to YouTube.
That and the massive processing power of the cloud lets the user receive one stream of 1080p gaming at 60 frames per second while also streaming the same quality to a YouTube live stream. It’s unclear if they will partner up with Twitch to help increase adoption rate of the service but I have a feeling it may be exclusive to YouTube.
More to Learn as it Launches in 2019
We got some basic information about the service at large during the GDC announcement but there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered. The service has a lot to offer with unique features like a web link to a game (or even a part in a game) that others can click/tap on to begin playing the game (or again, playing that part of a game).
Google Stadia is able to offer co-op couch split screen gaming even if your teammate is hundreds or thousands of miles away. Squad based games could be designed to let everyone see what you’re seeing (and vice versa). They have even partnered with two of the biggest game engines to help developers port their games over.
But we don’t know what games (other than some from Ubisoft and id) will be available to the service. We don’t know if it will a subscription service or sold by the game, and we don’t know how many other games will be available. We’re supposed to learn more about Google Stadia in the summer of this year.
It reminds me of a Nintendo console as each time one is launched the question is ‘will 3rd-party AAA game developers create games for it’. And the same thing will apply for Google’s video game streaming service. If developers treat it as fairly as the PS4, Xbox One, and PC then it could do well with a good pricing model.