Google readies to conquer the gaming industry

The launch of its Stadia cloud gaming service is only the first step

Photo: Stadia Google Gaming Boss Phil Harrison presents Stadia in San Francisco

After months of rumors and recent teases from the company itself, Google finally revealed its big gaming announcement that all have been waiting for during a Game Developers Conference keynote on 19 March in San Francisco. And now we could fairly say that the tech giant is getting into gaming in a big way with a direct challenge to the giants of console and PC gaming. This challenge is called Stadia.

So what Stadia is? As former Sony and Xbox executive and current Google gaming boss Phil Harrison described it at the event, Stadia is a cloud gaming service meant to bridge across all Google-powered devices possible, removing existing hardware barriers. That means you can play high-fidelity games through anything from a mobile phone to a tablet or PC. You can play on your TV, too, through a Chromecast Ultra HDMI streamer. And since we are talking about a streaming service, no console or PC is needed, as well as no games downloaded or running on a disc at the users’ end.

“No download, no patch and no install. Stadia offers instant access to play,” Harrison said, adding that this way the friction between being excited about a game and playing it would be significantly reduced.

Since the platform is also aimed at further integrating YouTube capture, streaming, and sharing, Google promises that Stadia will be able to stream games at launch in 4K at 60 fps for both playing games and sharing game streams, with goals of eventually supporting 8K and 120+ fps. Among its boasts about the power of Stadia, the company also confirmed Stadia is more powerful than the PS4 and Xbox One combined. Google's Phil Harrison even showed off implementation of this by highlighting a player's ability to instantly access a game within seconds to a game after a player watched a streamer playing that game themselves while on stage at Google's GDC 2019 keynote.

Speaking of PS4 and Xbox, there is further news. On a PC you can play Stadia through all the existing supported controllers thanks to the decentralised nature of the platform. Yet, Google is also releasing its own specialised Stadia controller. The Stadia controller, which is optional, connects to Google’s streaming data centers directly over WiFi, for limiting latency. It also has an included 3.5mm jack, presumably for audio, and a dedicated share button that could automatically record clips at the highest possible resolution (potentially up to 4K or 8K), before letting you share those moments on YouTube.

And that is not all. During the presentation, Harrison also announced the creation of Google’s own first-pary development studio, Stadia Games & Entertainment. It will make exclusive content for Stadia and will be run by Jade Raymond, the longtime game producer whose credits include the creation of the Assassin’s Creed franchise at Ubisoft. Developers from id Software (the creators behind Doom) are also rumored to be part of the team.

So what now? Google is not the first company to provide a service like this – frankly, it’s not even the third or fourth. Previous game-streaming services such as OnLive have already offered similar hardware-free or hardware-light propositions but didn’t hit it big in part due to users’ discomfort, distrust or dissatisfaction with connection lags.

What differs Google is that unlike the other companies, it is uniquely positioned to provide the best experience with its massive resources. First and foremost, Google is a cloud company, and they have more servers and compute power than any of its game streaming competitors could hope to match. That means that, if Google’s done their job, you could experience less latency and better performance with Stadia than other options. Their multi-GPU scaling is also intriguing, allowing you to boost the graphical fidelity of your game, or play split-screen with your friends without framerate compromises. Not only that, but Google’s also introducing a host of other features, like state sharing, allowing you to jump into a game right where your friend or favorite streamer left off.

Whether the project would be success or not, however, would be clear in the Summer, when Stadia is set to launch – first in the US, Canada, the UK and then in Europe.

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