Google Announces Stadia - GDC19 Event Recap
Yesterday Google had their first GDC Keynote, and they unveiled their much anticipated game streaming service, Stadia. It was obvious in today’s event Google was preparing for awhile to enter the gaming world in full force. Stadia is more than just a streaming service, it is a full multifaceted platform. If it is anything good as what Google claims, this service could be a game changer for the industry, no pun intended.
Watch the full event here:
Here are the major take aways from yesterday’s reveal event.
1. What is Stadia?
Stadia is the plural form of stadium, going off of Google’s theme of the gaming stadium and viewership that comes with games. Google’s teaser for the service was a camera view slowly traveling through various settings of tunnels towards a bright light with the sound of a roaring crowd. Google wanted more than a gaming service, but a platform that brings developers, gamers, streamers, and viewers all closer together in a gaming “stadium”.
Stadia is revealed as the name of Google’s newest platform; while rumors spread weeks prior about a google branded “console” this ended up not being the case. Stadia requires no proprietary branded box; instead Google’s desire is to get Stadia on “any device” showcasing how Stadia can run on smartphones, tablets, Chromecast connected TV’s , and PC’s. While Google was advertising a theme of “all devices” all the demos included google branded devices except a low end pc, which is understandable they would want to showcase “Google” it was left unclear where Samsung or Apple related mobile devices will fit, if at all. Will Stadia work on iOS or non google branded android devices? That is unknown for right now. What we did see however was very impressive, stadia was able to instantaneously transfer a game session from device to device with no delay. The device is merely a window to a game that is playing in the cloud, which allows players to transfer screens with ease.
Google was not shy on the power of Stadia. At over 10 Teraflops, They claimed it to be more powerful than a Xbox One X and a PS4 Pro COMBINED. Stadia is going to support up to 4K 60 FPS streaming with low latency. Google claimed that with a vast network of data centers across the world they will be able to offer a streaming service like no one else. These claims are pretty astronomical, as anyone who has tried to offer a streaming service before has either failed or offered a poor experience. Just streaming a 720p PS4 game from my local network to my macbook or tablet is poor experience even on good internet. Yet Google claims to have the ability to stream a 4K 60fps fast paced game like Doom Eternal, from across the internet? Google seemed confident enough in 4K that they already said they are working on future proofing for 8K gaming.
2. Youtube Integration
It is clear Google wanted more than a streaming service to play games, they don’t just want to be the Netflix of games, they also want to seriously challenge Twitch as the go to place to watch content creators. While it is true, many people upload or stream game content to youtube already, with Stadia, they are taking this to the next level. They want Youtube to become THE place you go to watch streamers. Deeper community engagement, faster access, and more, it is reasonable to see how they could do it. They announced a feature called “state share” which is the concept of sharing not just a image “screenshot” of a game, but entire share of the state of a game at that moment that someone else could see, play or interact with. Google also announced the ability of being able to click a button on youtube and join the streamer in a game right from youtube. What was probably the most interesting thing is official youtube trailers of games will be able to allow you to click “play now” and instantly jump into a game you just watched a trailer for.
Also, Stadia will support intelligence thanks to the Google Assistant. Google claimed that the Google Assistant will be able to find a youtube video, in real time and during play, a video in the exact moment of play for your game, to help you when you get stuck. As someone who has tried the old way of browsing through youtube to find a player in the same game in the same part of a game just to get past a part I’m stuck on, this was super impressive.
3. Stadia Controller
While the rumors for a “console” turned out to be untrue, there was a new piece of hardware, the stadia controller. What looks like a soft mix between an xbox one controller and a ps4’s; early reports claim it to be fairly comfortable and of good build quality. Some interesting standouts are a Google Assistant button directly on the pad, as well as a native share button. A share button is not new, but is great for sharing content directly to Youtube. Google said Stadia will have the ability to simultaneously stream and upload 4k content directly to Youtube as well.
While Google made it clear that the Stadia controller is not required, existing controllers and even mouse and keyboard when on PC will be supported with the right USB or bluetooth dongles, there are advantages to the Stadia controller. The controller pairs directly to the cloud via wifi, rather than the screen you are connected to, and this will help with latency and performance. It also comes in white, black, and green.
4. A Stadia Game Studio
Google went all in on gaming. More than just a service, we got an entire platform, a new controller, and multiple developers, game engines, and tools were shown off in early partnership. While all that really shows that Google is serious, they also revealed “Stadia Games and Entertainment” their first party studio for game development. The big three major game companies all have first party developers churning out Mario, Kratos, and Master Chief related adventures, and if Google wanted to compete, they couldn't just rely on major third party partners like ID Software and Ubisoft who were present with games. Google intends to developer first party major games with Stadia.
The one thing oddly lacking in this entire keynote was pricing. We know absolutely nothing about cost. The cost of the Stadia controller, the business model in general for Stadia, were all left a mystery.
Is stadia a monthly subscription? If so, is the subscription solely for the ability to use the service, or does it come with a library of games? The only clue we got was there will be a “Stadia Store” even though we didn’t see what the interface would look like, a “store” implies you will be buying games through the service. Google loves free ad supported services, but with all the raw power and capability Stadia claims to have, it all seems too advanced and next gen to be free. Other game stores like Steam or Epic Store are all free to the user and developers pay for its use, however these are for downloaded games. Certainly a recurring fee must occur to cover all the infrastructure. However, if the monthly or direct to customer costs are too high will it be too much to have the widespread reach Google wants? We were left in the dark on all of this so we can only wonder. Since price, platform support, and launch lineup of games were all omitted it was unsurprising when the release was a wide net of “Coming in 2019”. Since this is March…who knows this could arrive on December 29th for all we know.
Google is making grand claims on the power and ability of this service. It just doesn’t seem to align with current technology and existing attempted services. It is seems so grand that I just want to see it for myself. They claim to be ahead of the game, but seemed confident in their ability to deliver. At the end of the event I was left with more questions than I had before, but thats ok because most of the questions are out of excitement and impatience for a new system.