Tech giant Google made its big move to break into the video gaming industry yesterday when they unveiled Stadia, a brand new cloud-based video game streaming platform.
Rumours have been going around for some time now that Google was planning on throwing its hat into the ring, but details were sparse as to what that metaphorical hat would look like. Yesterday morning at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco our questions were answered when Google’s Phil Harrison took to the stage during the GDC 2019 keynote.
Formerly an executive at both Sony and Xbox, Phil Harrison has been involved with the video games industry for many years and it was he who led the charge, outlining Stadia’s features and what the platform means for the gaming industry at large. “This generation of gaming is not a box” Harrison declared. Stadia is designed to be almost completely hardware-free and won’t be bound by the limitations of traditional gaming platforms. As a cloud-based platform, it can be accessed via many different devices including smartphones, PCs, tablets, and televisions. Harrison boasted of games running in 4K HDR and at 60FPS, all streamed through Google’s immense network directly to whatever screen you happen to be using.
The stadia platform will support most USB controllers as well as being compatible with a keyboard and mouse. Google have also developed their own controller for Stadia, which has additional features built-in to enhance the service. The Stadia Controller connects directly to Google’s data centres via Wi-Fi, cutting down latency issues. It also features a dedicated button for sharing gameplay directly to YouTube and another that activates the Google Assistant, allowing the user to use to controller’s microphone to request in-game assistance. After pushing this button the Google Assistant will automatically detect the game being played and connect the player to a relevant YouTube video.
Stadia will be heavily integrated with YouTube it seems, as there are other features linking the two services together. For example, if you are watching a supported game trailer on YouTube, a “Play Now” icon will appear on screen at the end of the video. Clicking this icon will automatically start up the game in question via Stadia. Whether through YouTube or directly through Stadia, Google guarantees incredibly fast access to the games on its service.
“You click on a link and the game starts in less than five seconds: no download, no patch, no install, no updates and in many cases, no hardware required.”
Google’s vision with Stadia is to “build a game platform for everyone.” – tearing down hardware barriers and freeing developers from the limitations of console hardware.
“All game development has been device-centric. As a developer I’m building to the constraints and scaling my creativity down to fit within the box.” Harrison said. “We want to invert that model with Stadia; we want developers to scale up their ideas and be unbound by the constraints of any single device.”
Stadia will also fully support cross platform play, and will allow save data to be accessed from other player accounts or even transferred over.
Stadia is a Linux-based platform, and is supported by AMD’s Vulkan graphics and compute API. It runs at an impressive “10.7 GPU teraflops.” That’s considerably more than even the most powerful consoles currently available for purchase.
They tested this tech last year via an initiative called Project Stream, where participants were able to play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey inside a Google Chrome browser – and it was generally well received. Harrison promised low latency and reliable connections for all users, even those with less than ideal internet speeds. Wherever you’re playing from, Stadia will ensure a smooth and uninterrupted online gaming experience as it does not rely on local internet services.
id Software’s upcoming Doom Eternal has been announced as coming to the streaming service, with Google already working closely with other game studios and engine developers to bring more AAA titles to Stadia.
Google also announced the formation of their own first-party studio to develop original games for Stadia. This new studio, named Stadia Games and Entertainment, is being led by former Ubisoft and Electronic Arts executive Jade Raymond. Raymond asserted that the new in-house studio would “reimagine the new generation of games” and “will also be working with external developers to make all of the bleeding-edge Google technology you’ve seen today available to partner studios big and small.”
No specific titles in development at Stadia Games and Entertainment were announced at the keynote, but the Stadia platform is expected to begin rolling out later this year. The service will initially be available in the US, Canada, UK, and most of Europe – with plans to expand beyond thereafter.