Yesterday, the fledgling start-up company Google announced that it was launching a brand new gaming platform. Titled Stadia, the new service promises to deliver better-than-console quality gaming without the need for any actual hardware. Oof.
Basically, all of the games will be running in a top secret Google powerhouse and will be transmitted by the power of the internet onto people’s PCs, laptops, mobile devices and TVs. And they will look very shiny and pretty; Stadia will be able to run titles with a 4K resolution and at 60 frames per second, with hopes to achieve 8K / 120 fps in the future.
This comes off the back of a digital experiment Google conducted last year when it allowed a group of test players to stream the brand new Assassin’s Creed Odyssey via Chrome, which was an apparent success. And if you’re concerned that your TV remote / Advent mouse won’t cut the mustard when tackling the mythical beasts of Ancient Greece, Stadia has your back. It’s releasing a dedicated controller in three exciting colours to accompany the new service. Now it may not be the most original design in the history of gaming, but I think Google has made the right call by not trying to re-invent the wheel.
That’s not to say you necessarily need one of these controllers, though – Google notes that players will be able to use their pre-existing USB gamepads with Stadia titles. However, the advantage of using the Stadia controller is that it will use a Wi-Fi connection to link to the game that is running in the Google data centre, so in theory it should minimise latency issues. Players will also have direct access to the Google Assistant, as well as a button that will instantly allow them to share their gameplay to YouTube.
Moreover, Stadia will include a service known as State Share, which will enable the player to do just that. Stadia can note the person’s position, status and inventory and encode that gaming moment into a shareable link, meaning that another person can dive into the game at the same point – and in the same condition – as their friend. (Think of the chaos that could be unleashed if that power fell into the wrong hands…)
In terms of what games will be available on Stadia, the details are currently scant, but Google has revealed that id Software’s Doom Eternal will be one of the first titles available (the presentation also included some footage from Rise of the Tomb Raider – woo!) In addition, people will be able to start playing this year; Google announced that Stadia would be launching in 2019 in the UK, Europe, US and Canada, with more information about the service landing in the summer.
Wow – that was quite the information dump! You with me so far? This blog post is titled Will Google Stadia be any good? so I guess it’s time for me to venture an opinion. I’ve already ranted ad nauseam about how I don’t feel the internet is ready to take such a pounding, particularly not in the Al Survive household. Heck, on some days it’s hard enough to stream Netflix, let alone a triple A title running in 4K.
I’m also curious as to how much freedom Stadia will truly offer. If it’s so dependent on the internet, what will this mean for my gaming experiences when I’m on a bus or a plane? Not much, probably – I don’t think Stadia will allow me to do much tomb raiding ‘on the fly.’ So in this respect, the service may have some distance to travel if it’s to offer the same level of flexibility as the Nintendo Switch. (But then, my PS4 is condemned to sit permanently in the corner of my bedroom, shackled to my television set…)
Conversely, it’s hard not to be excited. And part of me doesn’t want to be given that I love console gaming and all that comes with it, and also – sorry to say this – but it’s Google! But those misgivings notwithstanding, I feel slightly giddy at the idea of being able to instantly boot up a triple A title on the device of my choosing, without having to invest my life savings in a bespoke machine.
In theory, the idea is dynamite. But it’s still only a theory. Until my internet connection becomes as consistent or reliable as my home’s electricity – or indeed, its water supply – I remain deeply cautious about a product or service that depends on it 100%. (Also bear in mind how much of a backlash there was when Microsoft announced that the Xbox One would need a mandatory online ‘check-in’ once every 24 hours in order to let people game. Just saying 😉 )
So will Google Stadia be any good? Personally, I think it’s on to a good thing. And as much as it pains me to say it, I feel instinctively that the future of gaming lies in this direction. But I’m curious to know what everyone else thinks (and I’d love to be a fly on the wall at Sony or Microsoft HQ today!) I haven’t actually read or viewed any reactions to this news as yet, so for all I know the internet could be buckling under a maelstrom of hate and vitriolic rage. I shall go and peruse when I’ve finished writing!
Tell me your thoughts though – I’d love to hear them. Are you excited by the announcement of Google Stadia? Or do you think it’s a waste of space? Are you tempted to give it a go when it launches later this year? Let me know in the comments below.