Google has been slowly moving into gaming for quite some time. Now, the tech giant has decided it will try to break into mainstream gaming with Stadia, its state-of-the-art game streaming platform. Google claims it will offer up to 4K resolution at 60fps, cross-play functionality, and unleash more processing power for devs to play around with than current consoles, in some cases double the capabilities of current premium consoles.
We've known for quite a while that Google has been working on perfecting video game streaming. Late last year, the company offered the public a chance to play around with Project Stream, a closed beta meant to test the platform's capabilities. Project Stream brought gamers into the test by offering to stream Assassin's Creed Odyssey in HD.
It seems that Project Stream's test was successful. Today, Google took the stage at GDC to unveil their full service, Stadia. Stadia runs almost entirely by streaming game data from Google's servers, eliminating the need for a console or PC to play or store games (though a Chromecast dongle will be needed to stream games to a television). When Stadia launches later this year, Google's Phil Harrison claims that it will be able to ensure 4K at a steady 60fps to almost any screen one could imagine. Eventually, Google sees Stadia capable of hitting an 8K resolution at 60fps, according to one of their key visuals from the presentation.
Of course, that doesn't mean that everyone will have internet capable of delivering those resolutions and frames at a smooth clip. At no point during the reveal of Stadia did Google's reps reveal what sort of internet speed gamers would need to maintain a steady streaming experience. On top of that, questions remain about how well Stadia can handle streaming online games. A great deal hinges on whether or not people have access to internet connections capable of supporting Stadia. It's quite possible that the type of performance Google has touted for Stadia will be unreachable for most people looking to get in on game streaming. For comparison, Project Stream required users to have a connection of 15 megabits per second with 40 millisecond latency, though it was only offering 1080p resolutions and still seemed to suffer from occasional hiccups. Whether those issues were the result of untested streaming software or an indication of Stadia's future remains unclear.
Game streaming has been around for quite a while, but it has always occupied a niche space. Notably, services like PlayStation Now and the late OnLive service have offered streaming in recent years, though they have always contended with the issues of internet on both the side of the company and the users. Google claims that the hardware on its end will enable a smooth experience that will make many people believers in the possibilities Stadia holds. They believe they have a system that will allow people to watch a trailer, press a button, and be playing a new game all in a few seconds.
Stadia has been designed to be an incredibly versatile platform. It will work on televisions, tablets, laptops, phones, and PCs. On top of that, it will work with existing controllers attached to laptops or PCs. Google will be releasing its own optional controllers for Stadia, as well. These proprietary controllers connect to Google's streaming centers directly to offer a slightly better response time, the ability to share in-game content to YouTube (livestreaming, clips, and screenshots), and a Google Assistant that will be able to offer advice if players get stuck.
Interestingly, Google seems to be going hard not just into the development of Stadia as a platform, but also into the games it can offer players. According to the announcement, over 100 studios have received Stadia develpment kits. On top of that, Google has founded Stadia Games Entertainment, a studio that will make games exclusive to the streaming platform. One of Ubisoft's most legendary producers, Jade Raymond, will be overseeing Stadia Games & Entertainment to work on its game projects while also bringing new features to third-party games coming to Stadia. So far, the first game revealed to be running on Stadia has been Doom Eternal.
A number of features are made possible by Stadia that are pretty intriguing. Players will be able to do something called "state share," where they are able to save their game at a specific moment in time and then share that with other players or friends via a simple link. Another possibility is called Crowd Play. This would enable players watching a livestream to digitally line up for their chance to control the same game instance and become the streamer, offering a new way for streamers to interact with audiences.
What do you think? Can you embrace an all digital, all remote future for gaming?
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