Google is set to join the gaming space this November with Google Stadia, a unique game streaming platform that will rival the Microsoft Xbox & Sony Playstation, but what is it and should you be excited?
Stadia is unlike traditional consoles that we all know and it’s hoping to revolutionise the gaming market with a streaming platform rather than the current disc/download model. This means that you’ll be able to harness the considerable power of Googles data centres to run the latest games without the need to purchase a £500 console or £1,000 gaming PC. Google announced back at GDC that the Stadia cloud platform will be more powerful the the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro combined, which means you’ll be able to run the latest games straight from the cloud at full settings on any old laptop or desktop (as long as it has the Chrome browser) and even on your big screen TV using a Chromecast and the Stadia controller!
Streaming games…?? I know, I know, it sounds crazy but it’s actually not some far fetched technology from the future, in fact a company called Onlive pioneered game streaming almost 10 years ago! Unfortunately for a variety of reasons like internet speeds and lack of funding, Onlive wasn’t meant to be, but as a proof of concept a decade ago it was amazing and I have fond memories of streaming many hours of Borderlands, Just Cause 2 and Orcs Must Die until the platform eventually closed.
Thankfully, Google has all the tools in its arsenal to make Stadia a success where Onlive could not. They’re among the world leaders in data centre technology and regularly deal with billions and billions of requests over the Google Cloud infrastructure every single day. They’ve been streaming videos over YouTube for many years and they also have a considerable amount of money to bank roll the platform in the early days until it gains mass traction. The final piece of the puzzle is internet speeds. Sure, not everyone has access to high speed internet but super fast broadband is now widely available in the UK with Virgin Media recently announcing plans to roll out 1 Gbps speeds to the masses too!
With Stadia you’ll be able to play the latest games, at the highest settings on anything that runs Chrome or a TV with a Chromecast paired with a Stadia Controller. This means you can start your adventure in Destiny 2 on the big screen and seamlessly continue your session on your mobile phone or laptop when the family takes over the TV. Streaming games also allows you to always have access the latest and greatest gaming hardware without the expense. This is because Google can regularly upgrade the data centre graphics cards and you’ll instantly be able to reap the graphical rewards without doing a thing. At launch Google is committed to providing a 4K 60FPS HDR stream with 5.1 surround sound and the possibility of 8K 120FPS coming further down the line. To achieve the 4K 60FPS stream, Stadia recommends a solid 35 Mbps connection but if you don’t have that, it will dynamically scale the experience to meet your internet speeds right down to the minimum 10 Mbps.
Latency must be an issue though? While I’ve not had the opportunity to test Stadia myself, all things point to it not being an issue at all due to the clever tricks that the Google engineers have implemented all the way through their network. I don’t expect latency to be an issue as I was able to play the aforementioned Onlive almost a decade ago without any real problems and Google have vastly more experience in networking and streaming technologies than Onlive ever did (without even considering the decade worth of hardware advancements).
The next thing that we need to mention is accessing the Stadia platform which will be totally free to everyone early next year and you’ll just be able to boot up your old laptop, buy a game and stream it at full graphical setting with a resolution of 1080p at 60FPS with Stereo audio. If you’d like access to the 4K HDR streaming mentioned above, this will be available via a subscription service called Stadia Pro which is £8.99 per month and also includes at least 1 free game every month (starting with Destiny 2) which will be available as long as you’re a Stadia Pro subscriber.
So this take your game anywhere and play on anything future without being locked to a dedicated hardware box like a Playstation sounds amazing right, but what about the games? Well thankfully Stadia haven’t forgotten that games are the most important part of any gaming platform and the head of Stadia is none other than industry veteran Phil Harrison who has used his considerable connections to secure a launch line up that includes big names like Destiny 2, The Division 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Metro Exodus and many more with EA, Rockstar and Capcom also on board but no titles mentioned yet. The big question mark comes from Activision and CD Projekt Red who haven’t been listed as publishers that Google Stadia are currently working with yet. With COD: Modern Warfare set to be one of the biggest holiday titles and Cyberpunk 2077 the must have game of 2020 it would be great to see these games confirmed for the platform….
Stadia is launching this November and is available to pre-order now via the Founders Edition which comes with a Chromecast Ultra, Stadia Controller and 3 months of Stadia Pro for only £119! Order yours now by visiting the Google Store.