If you’ve been a gamer for as long as we have (pretty much all our lives), then the Google Stadia announcement should definitely have you very excited. Just the thought of being able to play games at the highest possible settings on your potato of a PC or even your smartphone is insane! But that’s exactly what Google Stadia is claiming, and all you need is a device with a screen and an internet connection (albeit, a REALLY fast one we’re thinking) to get going.
So to summarise, what we’re looking at is a Netflix for games. Yes, that means it will most likely be a subscription model. We’re not sure though, Google really hasn’t given out a lot of information, we don’t know whether we’ll be buying individual titles or whether the entire library will be available to everyone who subscribes. We don’t know if there will be tiers to the subscription, or the price model, or anything really, we just now know for sure that it exists and what it does. So let’s start there.
What exactly is Google Stadia
Google Stadia, was revealed at the Game Developers Conference 2019. It’s Google’s cloud streaming service, and Google’s big foray into the gaming industry. With Stadia, all you need to be able to play a game is access to the Google Chrome browser. So any device, be it a phone, tablet, PC, or TV, as long as you have Google Chrome on it, can in theory, run Google Stadia; play high end games on them.
Google Stadia also very clearly targets those crowds that watch streamers. You could watch a streamer and join their game through your browser or instantly play the game. “The Stadia controller” which pairs with the device that Stadia is being streamed, on is tied directly to YouTube, with a button on it that puts whatever you’re playing directly on YouTube. It’ll have a lot of features for streamers as well, allowing them to create lobbies for their viewers and have even more direct interaction with them. Statistics show that most of the crowd that watches games also love to play them, and Google is clearly planning to tap into that monster market.
It all sounds really good on paper, and we’re pretty sure all of these features will be limited to Chrome (duh) and YouTube. But we have no idea how they’re planning to pull this off. During the announcement, Google did mention they’d bring support to more browsers, but again, no ETA. Also, zero mention of iOS support.
The selling point: hardware no mo
Easily the biggest selling point for Stadia is that it would remove the need for buying high-end hardware. The gamers no longer need to worry if their rigs can support the latest titles, and the upgrade cycle can be prolonged. Everything would happen on the cloud and this could of course mean big changes for the gaming industry. Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft have similar offerings, but they pale in comparison to what Stadia claims to offer. The closest of these is Sony’s PS Now, which is also a streaming service which they release after acquiring Gaikai in 2012. However, you’re limited to the Playstation economy and in terms of performance it doesn’t come close to Stadia. If Stadia takes off it would reshape the very industry, and the big three (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) would have to come up with services of their own if they want to keep up.
Play all the games! No..?
One of Stadia’s biggest hurdles in the coming gaming generation might be getting titles on it. So far, we know of two for sure, with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and Doom Eternal. At GDC, Google promised that more than a 100 studios already have dev kits, and if that wasn’t enough, Google also unveiled its own Stadia exclusive game studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment. However, like with most things Google Stadia, they didn’t give us a lot of details about anything they might be working on.
Speaking of exclusivity, we know that Stadia will be making Stadia exclusive titles, but what about existing console exclusives? We’re thinking Sony and Nintendo will still be fine for a while because of this. They might eventually have to move to streaming as well, but as long as they have exclusive titles that are desirable, they will still be able to sell their devices. We’re sure that Sony and Nintendo will not be too keen on letting their games be playable on Stadia.
Another issue is games you already own. All of us here have pretty extensive Steam libraries. We highly doubt Stadia will let you link up with your Steam account, if it does, 101/100 points to them. However, during the conference, we found out that there would also be a Stadia store. Again, like most things Stadia, we don’t have too many details about it. It was hinted that it would be a marketplace for games. Now we know that Steam is meant solely for PC gamers, but the fact that Stadia is playable on laptops and desktops means that the Stadia store will be direct competition to Steam. Because of this, we’re not too sure about that Steam integration. Epic tried taking on Steam and players haven’t been too happy about that. Additionally, games would need to be ported to Stadia before being playable, meaning even if by some miracle Stadia does work with Steam, most of your library will be unplayable.
From what we know, Stadia is using Linux as its OS on the server side, so developers will need to port their games. Additionally, this also probably means that you can’t port games from other streaming services in existence (Nvidia GeForce Now for example) to Stadia. However, Google is teaming with the likes of Unreal, Unity and more to enable developers to bring games to Stadia. Porting is not a cheap process, it’s also time-consuming. And while AAA developers are used to releasing games multi-platform, it might not be an option for smaller dev studios. Again, we’ve no clue about pricing here so we need more info, Google!
Connectivity and quality
Google has partnered with AMD for this one to create a custom graphics solution. It will apparently deliver a whopping 10.7 teraflops of power. For comparison, the PlayStation 4 delivers 4.2 teraflops and the Xbox One X delivers 6 teraflops. That’s a lot of computing power. The GPU will be paired with a custom x86 processor clocked at 2.7GHz, and 16GB of memory to power just about any game remotely.
One of the key things Google mentions about Stadia is its flexibility. The fact that everything to do with hardware is on Google’s end of things means it’s quite easy for them to update and evolve Stadia as and when needed. There’s no updates for you to download or parts for you to upgrade. Unfortunately, no matter how powerful Stadia is, none of it will matter if you haven’t got an internet connection good enough for Stadia.
Google Vice President Majd Bakar has said that on launch, Stadia will support 4K resolution at 30fps, and eventually offer support for 8K and upto 120 frames. Google first initiated things when it launched Project Stream a few months ago, which offered a limited number of people access to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey through Google Chrome. It’s reported that the game was indeed able to run at 1080p and 60fps, however, you needed a stable internet connection at 25mbps. That’s a tall ask in India with only a few cities offering internet speeds that high.
On top of that, we highly doubt that the stream would be able to maintain complete video fidelity, to be able to maintain 100 percent of the quality while sending it 60 times per second means there’s only a few milliseconds to compress and decompress those frames. Google’s using their own compression technology here to stream in 1080p and 4K, so the latency one would normally have between client and server shouldn’t be there since it’s on the same machine. However, as you increase the quality, the required bandwidth also goes up, so 30mbps for 4K, 60mbps (probably) or more for 8K and so on. Not to mention, when it comes to Stadia, you’ve also got to account for the latency between your actions and inputs on the controller and Stadia. Meaning you’d need a considerable amount of bandwidth to get going here. However, as internet speeds get faster and easier to attain worldwide, we can easily see this as being the norm.
Let’s talk pricing
Now we have the question of pricing. Like we mentioned above, there’s the costs to developers who might need to port older games onto Stadia, however, there’s a chance that this could make things much easier for them in the long run since again, like we mentioned above, games developed for Stadia only need to be patched and updated on one end. Everything would just need to be done online, in the cloud, and access is everything. So in some aspects, this could actually be a boon to developers, who will have one target system to work with.
Next we have the price for the service itself. Will it be a subscription? If there is will be tiered? Will you have to pay more for access to more/better games, at higher quality? Will everyone have access to it right away like most Google Services and will they simply have to buy the games? Will there be a new Stadia library of games? What will the prices of games be on Stadia as compared to current prices of games? All these questions and more including those regarding connectivity have been left unanswered by Google for the time being.
Why Stadia matters (conclusion)
There are a lot of obstacles in Google Stadia’s way at the moment, but what they’ve got here is easily a precursor to the future of gaming. This is a model that could completely alter the way we play games, forever. If cloud computing takes over for gaming hardware, this could mean the end of gaming consoles. However, it will in no way mean gaming controllers or peripherals will drop in demand. They might even increase in demand as more of the world’s population is introduced to the world of high-end gaming. Furthermore, with Google Stadia, Google has entered into competition with Valve, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, and even with streaming giants like OnLive and Twitch thanks to Stadia’s close integration with YouTube. The gaming industry is at a turning point, and the first step has been taken with Google Stadia.
Manish "Trigger-Happy" Rajesh
If he's not gaming, he's... no wait he's always gaming.