Google enters games industry with Stadia streaming platform

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Google has unveiled its long-anticipated bid to become a major player in the videogames industry: a streaming games platform called Stadia.

In an event at the 2019 Game Developers Conference, the giant web corporation revealed that Stadia will be a cloud-based game-streaming service, able to stream to any device with a screen which runs the company’s Chrome browser – whether a phone, tablet, TV or laptop. With all the processing performed on Google’s back-end, the company claimed that irrespective of the processing power of the device on which it runs, Stadia will be able to run games in 4K resolution at 60 frames per second.

Google also unveiled the only item of hardware that will form part of Stadia’s offering: a controller, which adheres to modern controller design norms. It said that Stadia will also be compatible with other USB controllers, but demonstrated how, at the click of one button, people watching footage of a game on YouTube will be able to instantly play that game via Stadia.

Some major question-marks still remain surrounding Stadia. Chief among them is the service’s price: it is expected to conform to a subscription model (although other models, such as full-price passes to play individual games, could also be supported), and Google gave no indication as to how much the Stadia controller will cost. At the event, the technology was demonstrated running Bethesda Softworks’ forthcoming Doom Eternal, but it is not yet known which other games will be available to play on Stadia. Google said it will launch Stadia in “2019”.

Attendees at Google’s GDC event were impressed by Stadia’s visual quality and lack of latency, but past attempts to popularise game-streaming (such as OnLive) have foundered due to a requirement for fast broadband, and Google has not yet specified a minimum broadband speed for Stadia.

Google’s entry into the games industry was heavily signposted: in January 2018, it hired Phil Harrison – previously head of first-party development at Sony PlayStation among other prestigious posts – who took the reins along with Google chief executive Sundar Pichai at the GDC reveal. Earlier this Month, Google announced that it had hired industry veteran Jade Raymond previously employed by Ubisoft and EA, to head up its internal Stadia games development operation.

Google’s entry into the games market with a credible streaming service has led to speculation about whether consoles are in danger of being rendered obsolete – although both Sony, with PlayStation Now, and Microsoft, with Project xCloud, have rival offerings.

No doubt more detail regarding Stadia will emerge in the coming months. In the meantime, you can watch its website and keep an eye on its Twitter feed.