Today marked the launch of Google's entry into the gaming market via the streaming Stadia platform but just because it's a streaming service doesn't mean it will be just like anything else that's already available. As reported by various sources, expectations about the search giant’s now-revealed streaming service -- previously known only as Project Stream -- have effectively been shattered.
Google Stadia will be a cross-platform service playable across a plethora of devices and gadgets for access to triple-A games playable at the height of industry standards via the company's Cloud division and improving over time. From the very start of the service, that will mean players will be able to access Stadia on Chromebooks, via the Chrome Browser, or even via the company's 4K enabled Chromecast devices.
Games will be played using either Google's newly announced Wi-Fi and Assistant-enabled smart controller -- featuring the usual buttons and sticks in addition to a YouTube streaming button -- or with existing controllers. That means users can use their own PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or any of Nintendo's Switch controllers out-of-the-box.
The details so far
All of the details revealed about Stadia so far indicate that it will eventually be playable on just about any Android smartphone -- with no mention of iPhone from Google whatsoever -- or the above-listed Chrome-compatible platforms. To begin with, Pixel-branded handsets will be the only smartphones that can be used but more support is expected to arrive in short order with other platforms and browsers potentially arriving later on.
Regardless of which platform or screen a user chooses for accessing Google Stadia, the game that's being played will effectively be driven at the highest possible settings. Summarily, thanks to a partnership between top game engines and hardware OEMs such as AMD, Google has been able to create a 10.7 teraflop cloud console that's capable of fast switching between platforms. That will push games at a maximum rate of 60 frames-per-second at up to 4K resolution.
The primary caveat to that quality of streaming will come down to a user’s available internet connection. A strong connection will be required for the best, latency-free experience and, with a firm enough connection, Google’s own controller will help set the platform apart from would-be competitors. That’s in part due to its built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, allowing a direct connection between the dedicated cloud servers and the user’s inputs with minimal lag.
A premium controller isn’t the only way that Stadia sets itself apart though. Google says its connection to servers will be streamlined along a dedicated network backbone when it launches. That means there shouldn’t be any interference from other traffic since it will bypass much of the infrastructure used by other internet connections via more than 7,500 data center nodes utilized by Google worldwide.
Finally, Google won’t be depending on specialty software on the user side to make the gaming magic happen, relying solely on the already well-established and widely used Chrome.
Taken in combination, that all means that although there are similarities between Stadia and other streaming services, it will be completely different in its indifference to a platform, its complete reliance in the cloud rather than user-owned hardware, its network usage, and the quality of inputs. Moreover, due to Google’s plans for a genuinely massive rollout, Stadia will truly open up the possibility of gaming at the highest standards from just about anywhere.
When is this launching?
So far, Google hasn't provided too many details about the pricing of its game service or when it will land in consumers hands. More information will be unveiled as that approaches and it is expected to launch in 2019, with more details available via a sign-up on the official service page. Initially, Stadia will be available in the US, Canada, UK, and Europe.
Since this is Google, that should mean there won’t be any pockets where service is lacking or simply unavailable where it has been launched either, unlike nearly every other competing streaming services.
Information about incoming launch titles is also slim but there have been two already revealed as per the service's announcement. Early adopters of Stadia will be able to play both Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Oddysey and the brand new Doom Eternal when the service becomes available. A Stadia-specific game studio has been revealed as well. Efforts on that front will be overseen by long-time industry leader and producer Jade Raymond.