Google’s vision for the future of gaming is officially called Stadia – a game streaming service that will allow gamers to play high-end AAA games (including the soon-to-launch Doom Eternal) across devices over the cloud. The global search engine giant announced Stadia at its first-ever Game Developers Conference (GDC) keynote event in San Francisco on Tuesday with CEO Sundar Pichai himself taking center-stage to kickstart the proceedings.
Google is promising console-quality gaming (4K at 60fps at launch, and 8K 120fps later) sans an actual console - Google is really touting Stadia as a gaming platform for everyone and with it the company is joining the likes of Microsoft, Nvidia and Sony to end the reliance on hardware upgrades and stream high-quality games whenever, wherever. Stadia will be launching in 2019 (an exact launch window hasn’t been announced) in the US, Canada, UK and Europe to begin with.
Stadia is in fact the prime-time or consumer-ready version of Project Stream that made its debut in October last year alongside the global release of Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Odyssey – but it was a beta release intended to test the waters before a final rollout.
Google allowed select testers to stream Assassin's Creed Odyssey to a browser (Chrome, to be precise) on a laptop or a desktop PC going so far as to claim "near-instant interaction between the game controller with no graphic degradation" while playing the game in a tab.
Stadia only takes things further – to an all new level if you may. Since Stadia is a platform designed for instant access of play over the cloud, there will be multiple ways to access it – one being YouTube. Google says gamers will be able to launch AAA titles from within channels like YouTube in just 5 seconds (without any downloads and installs) and play them across devices (phones, tablets, PCs, TVs) at full 60fps. And it will be possible to move gameplay from one device to another, all in real time.
Although gamers will be able to use any controller, Google is also launching a dedicated Wi-Fi based Stadia controller to tag along its service – needless to say, it comes with a dedicated Google Assistant button.
Speaking of technicalities, Stadia will of course leverage Google’s massive infrastructure of data centers – that will in turn be powered by a custom AMD chip capable of churning out 10.7 GPU teraflops (for some perspective, the most powerful gaming console in the world, the Xbox One X maxes out at 6 teraflops).
It would seem Google is really looking to end the dependence on annual hardware upgrades (and allowing gamers to play demanding titles anywhere on any device including laptop, PC or mobile), touting streaming as the future of gaming. With improvements in broadband speeds in recent years, it’s a lot easier to fix or at least curb issues of lag and latency now – making game streaming a reality rather than a distant hope.
But then, no gaming platform can succeed without an exhaustive catalogue of games – which is possibly why Google is also launching the Stadia Games and Entertainment studio to develop first-party Stadia games.