Last week at the 2019 Game Developers Conference (GDC), Google took to the stage to reveal their vision for the future of gaming. Google Stadia is a streaming platform which reportedly allows AAA games to be played in quality exceeding that of existing “box” consoles - like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One - on any device which can run Google’s proprietary Chrome web browser.
I don't want anyone to think that the burning, deep-seated rage I harbour for Google's incredibly annoying AMP project has flavoured my opinion on Stadia and it's ridiculous name in any way.
I’ve embraced this age of technology as much as I'm ever going to. I care not for the little pictures people use in place of words, and I refuse to learn how to conjure them myself, but, somehow, my games library is entirely digital. While I’m obviously not attached to the physical, I don't feel the need to switch to streaming when downloads provide more options and greater stability, along with much of the same ease of access.
Google certainly have the infrastructure to handle such a service, plus they now count numerous high-ranking games industry veterans amongst their ranks. Men and women, all far more intelligent than I, have devoted countless hours to the creation of something I couldn't even begin to understand - yet - that very same company believes forcing me to click an extra couple of times to view the webpage I'm looking for is progress. At best, it's a minor annoyance I face multiple times a day. At worst, it's motive.
There is no hell hot enough, nor Starburst yellow enough, for these people.
Just imagine that all of the Starburst are yellow...
Back in the day I was fortunate (?) enough to be sent OnLive, the conceptual prototype for a game streaming service that never really met its potential. Stadia, and, more importantly, the infrastructure powering it from one of the most powerful companies in the world, could finally realise that future.
The limiting factor for online services, as I'm sure everyone is already aware, are internet speeds. Finally, decades after the World Wide Web was first conceived, the data speeds many of us have access to are approaching levels conducive to this idea actually working.
Lag with OnLive was immense. We’re not talking the slight irritation of out-of-sync Rock Band, but literal seconds between input and on-screen reaction, to the point that Batman: Arkham Asylum’s revolutionary ‘freeflow combat’ was anything but.
If the reality lives up to the vision (especially the BOLD claim about hitting 8K/120 FPS), then Stadia could be something seriously impressive technically. If it’s also priced in a sensible fashion, without being plastered with ads, then it could be a great way to experience and discover a range of new games in the future.
Sony ended up purchasing OnLive and shifting it towards their PlayStation Now service.
Consuming media content via streaming services may be the standard for most people these days, but I don’t think it’ll ever be more than a novelty when it comes to gaming, at least for the time being. The ability to play AAA games in all their glory almost anywhere on almost any device sure sounds good, but I think we’re at least a decade away from it being an industry standard.
I live in a major European city and my internet is still patchy at best, so the idea of relying on that dodgy connection to play games uninterrupted is neither appealing or seemingly realistic.
I’m only likely to give Microsoft’s Project xCloud a try because I’m already established within the Xbox ecosystem and, I’m assuming, it won’t cost anything extra on top of Gold and Game Pass subscriptions to give it a whirl.
Personally, I can’t see Stadia, Project xCloud and whatever Amazon are cooking up being anything more than a fad - a passing interest for some that’ll eventually be dropped.
It’s taken longer than expected, but here we are: the big bastards of tech are entering the gaming fray, regardless of whether anyone wanted them to or not.
Google has the money. Google has many of the greatest technological minds working for them. Google has the browser history of half the world - yes, Mr. Townsend, you were policing the internet… It’s for these reasons and more that I think they’ve got a chance.
But - oh, yes - what if you have internet with all the speed of yours truly? Google is promising this won’t be a problem, but when large cheddars like Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot are describing it as “complementary” to existing devices, there must be a reason.
Also, what about those fellows that like owning real-world things to hold between their sausage fingers? I bloody love me Xbox Game Pass, but that won’t stop me from buying something physical that I’m genuinely interested in - the same goes for music and film, too, and there are plenty of folks in the same boat.
Where does that leave us, then? The proper answer: we won’t know until it releases. My answer: it’ll probably be for casual shit until broadband speeds and reliability improve, and the fancy wi-fi controller will probably cost £100 or something ridic. Next.
Stadia controllers connect via wi-fi to communicate directly with the server and negate input lag.
Are you sold on streaming with Stadia? Let us know in the comments below.