Google Stadia

Google Stadia Announcement: It’s Revolutionary

Google takes aim at Microsoft and Sony as it tips the gaming world upside-down.

GDC 2019 is off to a fiery start as Google has announced its new gaming platform, Google Stadia.

Stadia, which will be launching this year in 2019, is a gaming service that will allow you to stream games to your computer, tablet, phone, laptop, and pretty much anything else that can run Chrome. Google CEO Sundar Pichai stood infront of the packed crowd in San Francisco today and began by hinting at what Google felt was important in the gaming space, which included access, performance, and community. When Phil Harrison (formerly of Sony and Microsoft) took the stage, however, that was when the real fireworks began.

The Past: Project Stream

As many of you may know, Google began testing its streaming capabilities in late 2018 when it launched Project Stream, which allowed gamers to play Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey using only Google Chrome. What surprised many was that it actually worked. The game ran very well with almost no input lag, and the quality of the experience was generally indistinguishable from running it locally on a console or PC. In many respects, Project Stream was a success, and it has paved the way for what Phil Harrison said moments after he stepped onto the GDC stage.

The Future: Google Stadia

In essence, Google Stadia leverages Google’s extensive networking and cloud infrastructure to provide gamers with an experience that in theory, goes above and beyond the capabilities of what is currently possible with traditional console hardware. Not only does each Stadia instance contain more graphics processing capabilities than both the Playstation Pro and the Xbox One X combined, but it can scale to support graphical fidelity so that games will always look and run as the developer had envisioned. Moreover, utilizing their cloud capabilities, Google unveiled that Stadia is designed for scalability in mind, and referenced in the keynote today the capability to stream 8k, 120+fps content to devices in the future. That is outright astonishing, and certainly caught the attention of enthusiasts everywhere.

Google Stadia Specs
Impressive numbers. Each Stadia instance will utilize an AMD-built custom processor and GPU with 16 GB of RAM.

Moreover, the entire gaming process will be streamlined with Google Stadia. There’ll be no need to install a game, as the moment you decide you’d like to play it, you click a button on Reddit/Twitter/YouTube/Twitch/ect and the game will just open. Playing on your TV but need to catch a bus to go to work? No problem. Pause the game on the TV and pick up from your phone the moment you take your seat on the bus. Seamless.

It’s impossible to talk about Stadia without talking about one of its most unique selling points, its integration with YouTube. You don’t need me to tell you that gaming content on YouTube is a big deal, and it is clear that Google intended on leveraging its creator and consumer base there in its design of Stadia. They announced Crowd Play, which will allow YouTube users to watch, share, clip, and even play alongside their favorite streamers. That is awesome. Community and audience engagement is without question a key component to the YouTube (and Twitch) experience, especially for smaller channels. This feature will allow for experiences that were either impossible or at the very least hard to organize prior.

Google Stadia Future
8K @ 120+ fps? Streamed?! Ambitious, and let’s hope that my internet connection can handle that.

Google also announced that Stadia will feature cross-platform capabilities, a huge win for gamers everywhere, and that over 100+ development kits have already been sent out to developers around the world. Being able to play on the platform you prefer but still being able to share that experience with your friends is important. I am glad that the gaming community has embraced this, and pushed back on the likes of Playstation who has been very resistant to cross-platform functionality this generation. Cross-platform benefits everyone, especially gamers. For developers, it allows them to design multiplayer experiences that can draw on the pools of multiple platforms in order to fill games and make the online experience more enjoyable. For larger games, like Rocket League, finding a match isn’t a problem. But for some smaller games, being able to match players cross-platform will help them keep their communities engaged and their servers running.

Stadia is releasing in 2019 and… oh yeah, that’s this year. We won’t have to wait too much longer to see what developers have planned for this incredibly ambitious new platform. Google also revealed its Stadia Controller, which honestly looks like an exact marriage of the Xbox and Sony Dual-shock controller designs. It will use a wireless connection to interface directly with Google’s servers, which will reduce latency and improve the gameplay experience. A neat idea. It also features some additional core features like an integrated Google Assistant and the ability to capture and share content direct from another button on its face. Not to mention that it apparently has the Contra code on the bottom, though that might have just been a presentation easter-egg.

Google Stadia Controllers
The Stadia controllers will use a wireless connection direct to Google to improve latency.

Google did not reveal any details with regards to the pricing of Stadia, so I guess we’ll just have to wait a little longer to find out more.

The Competition

With Stadia’s reveal comes the question of how it will impact the future gaming landscape. Some of the competition in the gaming space appear to be more poised to compete with Google Stadia than others, though.

Microsoft’s Phil Spencer has spoken about their upcoming xCloud streaming service, and that appears to be Google’s current primary competitor. Like Google, Microsoft is a data and infrastructure company with extensive cloud capabilities. They must have known that Stadia was coming, because they provided more extensive details regarding xCloud a week prior during their own live-streamed announcement. We can be certain that Xbox brass were on hand watching Google’s presentation today, and perhaps they will have more to say at this year’s E3. Many Stadia’s features could be emulated on Microsoft’s platforms, though Mixer hasn’t experienced the widespread adoption that YouTube has.

Twitch has, though.

Microsoft xcloud
Microsoft is prepping their own game streaming service, xCloud.

People tend to forget that Twitch is owned by Amazon, and that Amazon Web Services powers much of the internet. Like Google and Microsoft, Amazon has significant network infrastructure and cloud capabilities. It remains to be seen whether or not Amazon will leap into the fray with its own streaming option to compete with Stadia and xCloud, but rumors abound suggest that they might be doing exactly that. From a technological perspective, though, they would be capable of it, and that is no small feat.

The same cannot be said for Sony, though. While Playstation Now certainly exists, it does not aim to do what Stadia and xCloud propose. Unlike Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, Sony does not have the network infrastructure to be able to effectively compete in this space. If the future of gaming is truly on the cloud, then Sony could become the odd-one out. Could a partnership between Sony and Amazon be in the works? It seems only logical.

As for Nintendo… well, perhaps there’s more to their rumored plans to be talking about partnering with Microsoft than some may have originally given credit for. Like Sony, they lack the infrastructure of the other three major players in the streaming war, but might be able to make a splash if partnered with Microsoft. In many ways, Nintendo isn’t directly competing like the others. People buy Nintendo products because they want to experience Nintendo products, and you can’t get them anywhere else. All of that changes if the next Zelda launches on xCloud, though.

And you, the gamer.

2019 might be the greatest time to be a gamer. With E3 only months away and today’s announcement of Stadia, the gaming universe has been forever changed. Increased competition in the gaming space and strong, united voices from gamers seeking better features and functionality has pushed the industry into potentially remarkable territory.  If years ago you told me that Nintendo and Microsoft were rumored to be partnering to go up against Amazon, Sony, and Google, I would have said you were crazy. If you were to have told me that you could play Rocket League cross-platform with PC, Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo players, I would have thought you were dreaming of some sort of gaming utopia.

It’s all happening, and it’s happening fast.

Whether you are a gamer, a developer, or a content creator, the announcement of Google Stadia was without a doubt an exciting moment. The future for gaming appears bright, and I can’t wait to boldly go wherever it takes us.


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