Today, Google's Game Developer Conference in San Francisco showcased its all-new game streaming service. Stadia (as in the Latin plural of "stadium") will be available wherever Chrome is: PCs, phones, tablets and TVs with up-to-date hardware.
Google gave us a preview of its system with Project Stream last year. However, Stadia is designed from the ground up for streaming and sharing data. The service can stream games up to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second (depending on your connection, of course). For future upgrades, even more resolution and speed is planned. Support for 8K and 1
At any time, players can move the game they play from one device to another, without losing their progress. A constantly running gameplay stream can be shared anytime on YouTube. The service works for all applications that can run an app, including low-cost Chromecasts – the demonstration TV used a Chromecast Ultra.
Google's new platform is indeed a platform not just a set of virtualized Windows PCs as seen on services like OnLive or GeForce NOW. The backbone provides developers with an x86 Linux instance running the Vulkan Graphics API. The processor and GPU hardware is twice as powerful as an Xbox One X or PS4 Pro (much like a high-end gaming PC). Developers can even run the system on multiple GPUs if the game requires it.
What about controlling these games? The system works with existing "USB controllers" according to Google's Phil Harrison, as well as standard mice and keyboards. However, Google also publishes a special Stadia controller. It looks more or less like a standard Xbox controller, with additional buttons for sharing with YouTube and activating the ever-existing Google Assistant. But it hides a new trick: It connects via Wi-Fi, not via Bluetooth. In this way, the controller can connect directly to Google's Stadia services and control the game over the network without having the display in the middle. This is a big difference to a seemingly static design.
Google's 100% cloud approach offers some incredible features. Players can click on an ad link on YouTube and stream the game in seconds. Multiplayer games can use multiple Stadia instances to redeploy local split screens without slowing down or power-interacting with a large number of players. Example, the streaming of different angles within a controllable via a YouTube viewer game world. Players can share live video or even the status of the games themselves, so other players can jump into their own instance at any time. Multi-platform features are available for all games, including saving and syncing progress.
Stadia will live and die at every gaming platform. As cool as the platform is, Google needs the support of major publishers and developers to bring games that people really want into the service. Google has partnered with some of the big names like Ubisoft and Bethesda (who said the upcoming DOOM Eternal was already on the Stadia platform), but was a bit reluctant on other major announcements for games or developers.
But that's not all. Google is now also a publisher: Stadia Games and Entertainment will release its own games, as well as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo for the respective consoles. Stadia will have exclusive titles, all of which can access Google's comprehensive suite of cloud tools. Make no mistake, with an attack on hardware, service and content fronts, Stadia is an unrestricted invasion of the gaming industry as we know it.
When Can You Try Stadia Streaming Games? Google is a bit tentative on this point. The service will be coming to the US, Canada, UK and Western Europe later this year. The Google presentation states that more information would be available during the summer. It is therefore expected that either a beta program or a full launch in autumn or early winter is expected. The pricing for Stadia and whether it should be a subscription service, sell a la carte games or a combination of both, was not addressed.