Imagine a world where you don’t need to have expensive gaming hardware to play any high end game– a world where all you have to do is open the Chrome browser, pick out a game you want to play and instantly have it start without any need for a lengthy download or surprisingly large updates.
That’s the main idea behind Google’s ambitious cloud gaming service, Stadia. There’s a good chance we’ll remember Google’s Stadia announcement as a landmark moment in gaming. With Project Stream in October, Google’s rumoured work on a game streaming service was all but confirmed. At the Game Developers Conference today, Google Stadia was officially announced and will bring console games to Chrome, Android, and TVs. If Google delivers on this promise, then it could be a game-changer in the gaming community.
Stadia itself is comprised of a custom 2.7GHz hyperthreaded x86 CPUs, while Google has partnered with AMD to create a custom GPU for its data centres., which features 56 compute units. There is 16 GB of combined VRAM and system RAM, with performance rated at 10.7 Teraflops of power. In comparison, the Xbox One X, the most powerful console today, has 6 teraflops., while the PS4 Pro is 4.2.
The company claims Stadia supports 4K at 60FPS with HDR and surround sound at launch. It’s also eyeing 8K 120+ FPS down the line, specs that no game supports today. Stadia users will be able to share a 4K 60FPS stream directly to YouTube. And it will also rely on server-class SSDs, which means your games and levels will load faster than any console. Basically, you won’t have to worry about specs anymore. Powered by Linux, it supports the Vulkan graphics API and Google partnered with Unreal to fully support the Stadia platform.
All of that power on the server side will also mean there’ll be no need for hardware acceleration from the device Stadia is running on. Stadia at launch will be available on desktops, laptops, ultrabooks, TV, tablets, and phones.
For TVs, Stadia will work via a Chromecast Ultra. Google is also releasing controller to bring the full Stadia experience but players can use existing controllers, keyboards, and mice with it. The Controller will connect via WiFi to whichever game you’re playing, giving it direct communication with the server.
The controller has many things to offer, by pressing a button you can quickly start streaming on YouTube gaming and share it pretty quickly. Another button lets you access Google Assistant, that’s capable of pulling up hints and walkthrough videos when requested.
YouTube watchers can press “Play now” at the end of a video, and be brought into the game within 5 seconds. The service provides “instant access” via button or link, just like any other piece of content on the web.
A “Crowd Play” feature allows watchers to “Join a game” being streamed by their YouTuber of choice., with creators able to manage the queue.
Stadia appears to solve most of the problems associated with game streaming while also offering significant advantages over today’s consoles. It relies more on the server side than on the hardware side. Google says you’ll be able to start a game in less than five seconds because of large server footprint and powerful hardware. That also means you can scale graphics to whatever quality you need. You won’t have to worry about downloading, installing and updating anymore. And of course, there’s no giant box to deal with — all you need is an internet connection and a device that runs Chrome. As Google demonstrated at GDC, you’ll be able to easily continue a single play session across multiple devices.
Streaming games is much more technically complex than audio or video, and requires latency in the milliseconds. Google wants to “build a game platform for everyone,” and make technology widely accessible. According to Sundar Pichai, Stadia is powered by the “Best of Google,” inspired by developers, and amplified by YouTube creators. For developers, Google focussed on three principles: Create + Scale + Connect. Over 100 units of development hardware have been shipped to studios around the world.
Expect Stadia to launch sometime in 2019, arriving first in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and “most of Europe.”