Cloud-based game streaming isn’t a new idea, but it has been implemented to mixed results over the years. Cloud-based game streaming services mean that you don’t have to have a powerful console or computer in your home—that work is offloaded to servers somewhere. Instead, you get a video game streamed to whatever system you’re using, much like a YouTube video—except you have the control. Theoretically that means you could play ANY game on a cell phone, TV, or anything with a web browser.
Google has announced at GDC that it will be throwing its hat into the game streaming arena—and it looks like they could finally crack this nut. Companies like OnLive and Gaikai served as pathfinders to this technology. Gaikai was acquired by PlayStation (who used it to power PlayStation Now) and OnLive didn’t survive. All of these services have been, in my opinion, lacking for various reasons, but mostly because the video quality wasn’t there, and there was noticeable input lag.
Google’s Stadia is taking advantage of decades of technological improvements to make sure the fidelity issues, and input lag are a thing of the past—though, to be fair, they’re much improved already. While perfect game streaming has yet to be seen, Google is pumping a lot of impressive sounding hardware into the servers that will power this cloud-based gaming service. It uses specialized hardware, and discrete CPU and GPU technology, like a gaming computer—something next gen PlayStations and Xboxes won’t have. And while Google did talk about the specs for the cloud-based gaming service, and while they’re impressive, they’ll also be “elastic.” From my understanding that means Google’s Stadia will be able to basically “stack” servers to power more demanding games.
At launch, Google says Stadia will support games running at “4k, 60 frames-per-second.” That means Stadia could be our first “next-gen” gaming experience.
We did see hints of Stadia when, earlier this year, Google held a limited test of cloud-based Assassin’s Creed Odyssey during their Project Stream demo. Impressions of that test were positive, as far as I could gather, and this is something that bodes well for the future of Stadia, and game streaming.
There has been no mention of pricing, or exact availability right now, though. What we do know is there will be no “box,” or other hardware that enables this service. When you access Stadia, it will be through a browser or an app. There will be a controller, and even though you won’t need the controller to play Stadia, it gives you access to some Stadia features you wouldn’t otherwise have—like the capture button, and the Google Assistant button. You would think they could extend this functionality to non-proprietary controllers, but there is no confirmation yet.
Stadia will be available sometime in 2019, though no other date was mentioned. We’ll be keeping an eye on the service in the future, and give you our impressions once we get our hands on it.
If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more. Patreon.com/3CR