Google is venturing into the gaming market with Stadia, the company’s new cloud gaming service. With Stadia, consumers won’t need to get any hardware to start gaming on the service – games are streamed directly to your desktop, TV, tablet, or smartphone. Simply put, it’s the Netflix of gaming.
It’s an interesting proposition, but does Stadia have what it takes to succeed? Let’s take a look at what the service is all about.
At its core, Stadia is a game streaming service not unlike that of PlayStation Now or Microsoft’s upcoming Project xCloud. As long as you have a compatible device, you can start gaming on Stadia. At least, that’s what Google is promising.
Even though Stadia is officially announced, there are a lot of information regarding the service that have not been revealed yet. We don’t know how many games will be on Stadia (we only know it will be getting Doom Eternal), there’s no specific launch date, and more importantly, we don’t even know what’s the business model of the service.
Will it be a subscription-based service like Netflix? Can you buy individual games on Stadia and just play that particular title? Or is it mandatory for all users on the service to pay some form of monthly fee? We don’t know yet, and Google will only reveal more information on Stadia in the near future.
Nonetheless, Google did share some interesting information on Stadia. For one, it is said to be more powerful than the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X…combined. Boasting 10.7 teraflops of processing power, Stadia is indeed more capable than the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, which have 4.2 and 6 teraflops of power respectively.
Stadia can achieve this level of performance because all of the processing work are done on Google’s servers; AMD is developing a custom GPU to make this possible. Besides that, each Stadia instance will be powered by a custom 2.7GHz x86 processor with 16GB of RAM; quite impressive.
However, because the games are hosted on remote servers, latency will be an issue with Stadia. Granted, Google has a global infrastructure of data centres, so finding for a server closest to each individual user may not be an issue – we won’t know for sure until the service is rolled out to consumers.
Interestingly, Google is aiming to offer up to 4K resolution at 60fps on Stadia once the video game streaming service is live. That’s a very lofty goal, and the company said that you only need a 30Mbps connection to stream at that high of a resolution and frame rate. To top it off, Stadia will even support 8K resolution and 120fps in the future.
But if you don’t really care about streaming at that resolution, Stadia can supposedly stream at 1080p with connections that are slower than 25Mbps. Unfortunately, the minimum speed required to stream on Stadia effectively has not been specified yet.
Another noteworthy Stadia feature is what Google dubs “State Share.” Basically, this feature allows players to share a link to a specific part of a game without needing to slog through repetitive, bothersome encounters or long cutscenes. Needless to say, State Share has a lot of potential, and no other gaming platform offers a similar feature.
Of course, Google is also leveraging its other services to bolster Stadia; more specifically, YouTube and its content creators. Not only can you share your gameplay highlights from Stadia straight to YouTube, you can even play alongside your favourite creators with the game streaming service.
To make this possible, there’s a Crowd Play feature on Stadia, which is essentially a lobby system. If your favourite creator is streaming a Stadia game on YouTube, you can click on a button to get in queue to play together with said creator. It’s a great idea on paper, but it still remains to be seen how Google will prevent abuse of this feature – especially with toxic players that want to troll YouTube creators.
Although you don’t need any dedicated hardware to run Stadia, Google did show off a controller (referred simply as the Stadia Controller) for the service. Curiously, it doesn’t connect to your streaming device. Rather, the Stadia Controller connects directly to Google’s server through a WiFi connection, reducing any possible latency.
Don’t worry: you can still use existing controllers that are compatible with your PC. The Stadia Controller is optional.
Google Stadia shows a lot of promises, but there are also a lot that we still don’t know about the cloud gaming service. If it succeeds, it can very well change the video game industry and how we consume the medium – assuming that it will succeed.
Then again, if there’s any company that can make cloud gaming work, it would be Google. Yes, there are still a lot of questions surrounding Stadia, and we will only know the answers to these questions once it is launched sometime this year in the US, UK, Europe, and Canada; no mention of other markets yet.