The new gaming platform utilises streaming to bring the latest games to consumers at a low cost
Google‘s vision for the ‘Future of Gaming’ is but a few months away.
The tech giant first revealed anticipated information like the price, the games users can expect to be playing and – crucially – the release date during a dedicated live-stream in June.
The new gaming platform uses streaming technology to circumvent traditional console hardware.
“We learned that we could bring a triple-A game to any device with a Chrome browser and an internet connection,” said Google chief executive Sundar Pichai during a presentation earlier in 2019.
It’s not a new console, but a subscription service that could allow you to play any game in the world at the touch of the button (without the need to buy it physically) through game streaming; the plan is for Stadia to let you plug a Chromecast into your television and access games through the cloud.
Here’s everything you could possible want to know about Google Stadia.
What is game streaming?
Game streaming allows players to play the latest games over the internet, without them having a physical game disc – there’s not even a need to have the game saved to a hard drive.
Instead, the game’s data is beamed over the internet, which means the latest graphically demanding games can be played on machines with relatively simple capabilities, as all of the computing power is performed by a remote server.
Even under-powered PCs and devices will then be able to play the newest games without the need for an expensive upgrade.
Google announced that games on Stadia will be able to run at 4K resolution (that’s four times the clarity of HD) and at 60 frames per second, which produces smoother-looking, lifelike movement compared to the more cinematic 30fps.
It requires more computing power than the current generation of physical games consoles can manage to achieve this, but Stadia is said to be more powerful than the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 combined.
All of its computing will be done in Google data centres, with the resulting video streamed back to players at home.
Google even said it plans to hit 8K and 120 frames per second gaming in the future, and the beauty here is that because Stadia exists in data servers, it can be upgraded by Google to meet the demands of future games.
That means it will never be outdated, and as gaming technology improves, so will Stadia.
How fast will my internet connection need to be?
Of course, Stadia will rely on a sturdy internet connection for the best results.
Previous attempts at such a service – like Sony’s PlayStation Now, or the somewhat disastrous OnLive service – have not performed as well as expected, due to most people simply not having fast enough connections to make the experience worthwhile.
Not only do network connections need to be fast enough to deliver high-resolution video to your chosen screen, they need to also deliver low-latency. When you press a button, the game should instantly react.
In games in which split-second decisions and button presses are paramount, a few milliseconds can be the difference between life and death.
Lagging connections and video compression (which makes games look less sharp) are ever present problems, but Google has the tools at its disposal to make its attempt stick.
Google say their vast array of global data centres gives them the edge, as most players will be geographically close to one of them.
But it did reveal a handy infographic of what kind of experience users with differing connection speeds can expect.
The recommended minimum speed for running Google Stadia is a broadband connection speed of at least 10 mbps. At this speed, gamers can expect 720p images running at 30 frames per second, with stereo sound.
Speeds around the 20 mbps mark will see 60 frames per second gameplay, HDR graphics and surround sound, while those wanting 4K gaming will need a connection of 35 mbps or more.
What games will it have?
Google revealed more games that will be coming to the service.
New games Baldur’s Gate 3 and the upcoming Ghost Recon: Breakpoint will both be available to play, as will a new adventure game called Gylt and new multiplayer party game, Get Packed.
The recently released Division 2 will also be playable, as will Destiny 2.
Other Stadia games include Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Doom, Doom Eternal, the new Tomb Raider trilogy, Final Fantasy XV, Metro Exodus, and many others.
Outside of that, it will be interesting to see which other big name games come to the platform in the future.
Spotify has received criticism in the past for its subscription model offering minimal returns to artists, even after thousands of streams, and since Stadia is essentially the Spotify of gaming, development studios could be anxious to include their games – if fewer people buy their games physically, will they make as much profit?
It’s possible a Netflix-style system in which third-party content comes and goes could be put in place, with slightly older games added to the library on a temporary basis alongside Google ‘Originals’.
The company has reportedly been snapping up studios to develop games for Stadia, which points to them developing exclusive titles for the service.
Do I need to buy the controller?
Since Stadia is based entirely on streaming, you won’t need to buy any physical products to make it work, so long as you have an internet capable device to display it on.
Stadia works on nearly every piece of technology with a screen, including laptops, tablets and mobile phones – and it will be a real slap in the face if they can get it running on dedicated apps on Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
It also works with existing gaming controllers, like the Xbox One’s pad and PlayStation’s DualShock 4.
There is the option of purchasing the Stadia’s own controller though, and Google say this brings a couple of benefits to gamers.
Firstly, the controller connects directly to Wi-Fi (as opposed to connecting to your laptop, which then connects to Wi-Fi), which means lag and latency can be cut down as much as possible for extra fluidity.
Secondly, integrated buttons on the controller allow users to access features like the Google Assistant, which you can ask for in-game help through the controller’s microphone.
There is also a button for sharing clips to YouTube, and even live streaming your game online.
Google announced that the controller on its own will cost $70 (£55).
What other features does it have?
You might be scratching your head at Stadia’s strange name, but the idea is to evoke the collection of entertainment that Google hopes it will become, with the viewer able to sit back and watch, or take an active part in the action.
‘Stadia’ is the plural of stadium.
There are some exciting integrations with YouTube and live streaming with Stadia, if that’s your sort of thing.
Say you’re watching a gamer try out the latest game on YouTube, and want to jump in for yourself. The plan is that Stadia will allow you to do this with the touch of a button, and Google claim you’ll be able to boot any game up within five seconds thanks to the platform’s tech.
There’s even talk that you might be able to jump directly into that moment of the game, so if the live-streamer is coming up on a particularly exciting section of the game, you’ll be able to fire it up for yourself and give it a go.
How much does it cost?
One of the crucial announcements made during Google’s latest presentation was confirmation of Stadia’s price.
The price for the base ‘Stadia Pro’ subscription is $10 (£8) a month. There will also be a Founder’s Edition bundle available for $130 (£102).
This will include a Chromecast Ultra, the Stadia controller, a copy of Destiny 2 with that game’s new Shadowkeep expansion), and a three-month subscription.
When can I play it?
Google announced that Stadia is expected to be rolled out slowly throughout next year.
Though if you’re willing to stump up a little more cash for the Founder’s Edition bundle, you will be able to play it from November this year.