After weeks of teasing a Game Developers Conference presentation, Google has finally outlined its vision for the future of video games. The company has announced Stadia, a platform built on streaming games live through the cloud. It’s a very different kind of platform, not tied to a console box or PC, but it already has recognizable qualities like its own controller and first-party development studio. Read on for all the details.
Where Did This Come From?
The presentation began with Google CEO Sundar Pichai talking about how the company has been experimenting with streaming game technology for several years. He explained how the goal is to essentially create a streamlined experience where you can play on any device at any time, without any of the hassle. This is also when he announced the name of the platform.
Unlike a traditional console, Stadia isn’t tied to a specialized box. Instead, it streams the game data to any platform with an internet connection. That means you can play high-fidelity games through anything from a mobile phone to a Chromebook. You can play on your TV, too, through a Chromecast Ultra HDMI streamer.
The decentralized nature of Stadia is a major feature of the platform, and the one Google has built most of its new product features around. It’s set to launch in 2019, with more release details coming this summer.
On a PC you can play Stadia through existing supported controllers. Google is also releasing its own specialized Stadia controller, pictured below. The Stadia controller has a few extra features built to work with the platform: smart device detection, a share button, and a Google Assistant button.
What Can It Do?
Stadia is built around the natural advantages of being a streaming platform. For example, Google showed seamless switching between various devices, similar to Nintendo Switch’s different play modes. This also means that games can be played at high fidelity regardless of the device. At launch it will stream in 4K at 60 FPS with surround sound and HDR support, and in the future Google is planning to support 8K resolution and frame-rates upwards of 120 FPS.
Since the actual rendering is being done through a server farm, developers are encouraged to take advantage of the extra processing power. One tech demo showed real-time destructible environments. Another showed a multiplayer game that fed several video feeds into a single player’s stream.
Two consumer-facing features, State Share and Crowd Play, are aimed at encouraging interaction between friends, or between streamers and audiences. State Share lets you create moments for friends or stream viewers to play from exactly the same point in a game. Crowd Play lets streamers form a queue of viewers who can jump in and play a multiplayer game with them.
What Are The Games?
Though the presentation was ostensibly for a dedicated gaming platform, Google has not yet announced very many games. Id Software’s Marty Stratton appeared on stage to promise Doom Eternal will come to Stadia, and Q Games Dylan Cuthbert suggested he’s working on a game built around the State Share feature. Tequila Works’ Luz Sancho appeared on stage, but did not commit to a specific game project.
Former EA and Ubisoft studio head Jade Raymond is also heading up the newly formed Stadia Games and Entertainment division, which will create first-party games. The studio will also work with third-party developers to help use the technology.
Ubisoft is also likely on-board, having helped test the Project Stream platform last year that served as a test bed for Stadia.
Why Is Cloud Gaming A Big Deal?
Cloud gaming isn’t new by any means; PlayStation Now, for instance, has been around for a while. But we’re finally reaching the point at which it stands to become a more significant component of how games are distributed. That doesn’t necessarily mean cloud gaming will replace consoles and dedicated hardware, as it could be a matter of complementing those things. To get you up to speed, we’ve put together an explainer on why cloud gaming is the future.
Who’s The Competition?
As noted above, PlayStation Now already exists, and Microsoft just recently showcased its xCloud streaming technology, with Forza Horizon 4 being played on a phone. Microsoft also announced plans to begin public testing this year. To help you keep track of all this, we’ve assembled a list of the top companies in the cloud gaming space. There are more than you likely realize.