Google made waves in the gaming industry with the companies’ announcement of its new gaming platform “Stadia.” The platform is not a console and it doesn’t come in a box—as all the Google promotional material will be quick to tell you.
Stadia is a subscription-based service—with an unannounced price—that allows people to jump into games immediately without purchasing or downloading the game. This is a potentially revolutionary concept that shakes up the previous model of hardware-based video games. Instead of requiring a console or computer to render games, Stadia’s games would be rendered on the Google Cloud.
The concept immediately shook the console giants as both Sony and Nintendo took about a 3% stock hit in the wake of the announcement.
In a one hour and eighteen minute live stream at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) on March 19th; Google representatives demonstrated Stadia’s features by jumping directly from a YouTube stream into a game. YouTube is a key component of Stadia. Google is trying to connect with the massive gaming audience on YouTube by making it incredibly easy to go from watching a video to playing a game.
Once in a game, Stadia users will be able to move from platform to platform without dropping their game. Google showed a player moving from their Chromebook to a Google Pixel and picking up Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey right where they left off.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey currently makes up half of the Stadia archive with DOOM Eternal being the only other game currently confirmed, but that list will obviously lengthen before the platform launches later in 2019.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Introducing <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Stadia?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Stadia</a>, an all-new way to play from Google. Coming in 2019 → <a href="https://t.co/k04HS5hrVw">https://t.co/k04HS5hrVw</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GDC19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GDC19</a> <a href="https://t.co/UQvD3m4jkJ">pic.twitter.com/UQvD3m4jkJ</a></p>— Google (@Google) <a href="https://twitter.com/Google/status/1108077174399995904?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 19, 2019</a></blockquote>
Google also released a new controller that will be paired with Stadia but made it clear that USB controllers from PlayStation and Xbox both will work with the platform as well. The Stadia controller closely resembles their established counterparts but does come with two new unique buttons.
A “capture” button takes your gameplay and shares it back with YouTube, where you can keep it private or publish it as a video. A “Google Assistant” button allows you to ask the controller for help during difficult parts of an in-game mission. The back of the controller features the “Konami Code” one of the first cheat codes ever placed in a game. This purely aesthetic choice is just a cool nod to old-school gamers.
According to Google, the platform can run games on 4k at 60 FPS and switch seamlessly between platforms. If that doesn’t make you pause, it should. The bandwidth required to run open-world games like the two above is immense. No matter what new features Stadia introduces, if gamers are experiencing input lag and latency, the platform will never get off the ground.
To Google’s credit, the company does have one of the most expansive server farms in the entire world. Close proximity to servers will help reduce those issues somewhat. Still, personal Internet connections could pose problems with Stadia’s stated goals. With Google Fiber nowhere to be seen, Stadia’s future could rely on the Internet connections provided by giants Verizon and AT&T.
According to hands-on reviewers from Tech Radar at GDC, the platform easily handled Assassin’s Creed at 1080p with 60 FPS but reviewers weren’t able to test the platform at 4K or 120 FPS.
The consensus of most reviews from people who were able to try the console is that it sounds amazing… on paper. It’s an entirely new model never before seen in gaming, and it is difficult to judge something like that based on one keynote and a short game session.
With unknowns still lingering in the price of the service, the amount of games available and the platform’s ability to run on a standard home Internet connection, the jury is still out on Stadia.
To see crucial moments of the keynote presentation by Google, Tech Insider released the five-minute video below showing key components of Stadia.