The way we play games changes by the year, but there’s something particularly special about 2019: the advent of cloud-based streaming. Google is leading the charge with Stadia, which is a hardware-less gaming platform that relegates all graphical processing to remote data centers. Through an internet connection, you’ll be able to stream games directly to any capable device using the power of high-end machines housed elsewhere. So, it doesn’t matter what your actual local hardware is; as long as you can run a Chrome browser and have a sufficient internet connection, you can play any game available on Stadia.
Stadia was first unveiled at the Game Developers’ Conference 2019 with a keynote presentation outlining the first details of this new platform. We were given a breakdown of how the tech works, a few on-stage demonstrations, some of its unique capabilities, and a tease of which studios would be contributing to Stadia. And we even got hands on with Stadia itself on the GDC show floor. With E3 2019 right around the corner, we expect Google to make another push with new announcements and more information since the company said it’ll have more to share in the summer. This could encompass Stadia’s business model, upcoming game library, and possible release date–it’s set to launch sometime this year in the US, UK, and “most of Europe” after all, and E3 is as good a time as any to go big.
What We Know So Far
The unveiling of Stadia at GDC 2019 gave us plenty of details about the platform. Aside from the fact that it’s entirely based in the cloud, making it accessible on multiple devices, we know about its technical specifications. At launch, Stadia users will have the power of a custom multi-core hyper-threading CPU clocked at 2.7 GHz, 16GB of RAM, cloud SSD storage, and most notably a brand-new AMD GPU rated at 10.7 TFLOPs–for comparison, the Xbox One X (the current powerhouse for consoles) is rated at 6.0 TFLOPs. Stadia will be able to play games at 4K resolution at 60 frames-per-second, though that may vary depending on games, optimization, and your own internet connection. There are plans to gradually upgrade Stadia’s specs over time, and Google is aiming to support 8K and 120 FPS in the future. But Stadia’s capabilities aren’t bound by a simple TFLOP number, since cloud-based tech can account for much more.
You won’t have to wait around for game downloads, and updates or patches since Stadia is pulling from a cloud-based version whichever game you’re playing. Google is also going to great lengths for YouTube integration, and we’ve seen it in action, like being able to jump into specific parts of a game based on a video, which is called State Share. Streamers can also let viewers join their multiplayer games instantly through what’s called Crowd Play. Google Voice Assistant will be featured as well, and could have significant implications for guides and instant access to information for games you’re playing.
When it comes to cloud-based services, bandwidth is always a huge concern as this could be a deal-breaker depending on ISP conditions and data caps. Google stated that 20 to 25 mbps is necessary for a proper 1080p 60FPS experience and around 30 mbps for 4K. As for input lag, Google VP Phil Harrison said in response to whether or not he’s confident in Stadia’s performance will satisfy players, “Absolutely, unequivocally, yes.” He cited the expectations that id Software has for Doom Eternal and how Stadia has been able to meet those expectations with its responsiveness in gameplay.
What’s Confirmed For E3
Nothing has been confirmed for E3 2019 on Google’s behalf, yet. However, the GDC reveal was capped off by saying that there would be more details to come in the Summer. Well, E3 is in June, and June is in the Summer, so it’s fair to think that Google would insert itself into (or at least around) the biggest convention for the gaming industry. Whether it’s officially part of E3 proper isn’t likely. We may see some publisher/developer booths with Stadia running certain games, but we don’t expect to Google to have an official presence at the show since it is not part of the ESA.
What We Hope To See At E3
As much as we know about Google Stadia, there are still plenty of questions that need answering and finer details that need explaining. Most importantly, what does the Stadia pricing model look like? Will it be a subscription based service, or is it simply a platform where you purchase access to specific games, or will there be options for incremental play time? Maybe it’s a hybrid of all these? It’s a mystery at this point, but Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot predicted that it would blend several purchase options. Back in April, Google stated that it already decided on a pricing model but planned on sharing details at a later date. Well, Stadia launches this year and the coming days would be as good a time as any to make the announcement.
Up to now, we’ve seen Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and the upcoming shooter Doom Eternal (see above) running on Stadia live. While those are some big names, that’s only two games, one of which has been out for months already. Google has boasted wide ranging partnerships with notable developers and publishers like Ubisoft, Bethesda, and 2K Games, and introduced its own first-party studio led by former EA and Ubisoft head Jade Raymond. With this in mind, we’d expect to see more games running on Stadia. A tentative launch lineup would also be nice to drum up hype for the platform, but to also get a better idea of what we can expect to play on it.
While Stadia’s key selling point is the elimination of a hardware requirement, Google is still going to offer its own controller specifically designed to give you convenient access to the platform’s unique tools. The Stadia controller was on display at GDC 2019 when the platform was first announced, but attendees couldn’t actually get their hands on it. We’d hope to get a feel for how it works and how its ergonomics compare to the DualShock and Xbox controllers, gamepads we’ve been using for years now.
We’re covering cloud-based game streaming from all angles as this is a big shift in the gaming industry, and you can keep up with all the Google Stadia news and details here on GameSpot.