Google is getting into game streaming. The company Tuesday revealed Stadia, the evolution of its efforts to make digital, on-demand video games reliable and viable. Something the top two gaming companies have been struggling with. It’ll be available this year in the US, Canada, the UK and Europe. Google dropped the news during an hour-long showcase at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
Google’s plans for its streaming service bring the industry’s “Netflix for games” promises to life. Ideally, it will allow folks to play any game on any connected device — think Devil May Cry 5 on your iPhone, Dead Cells on your smart TV or Apex Legends on a Mac. Stadia will be able to stream games in 4K, 60FPS and HDR color at launch, but eventually it’ll support up to 8K.
However, it’s also much more than that. This is more about the instant access to gaming, regardless of access. Meaning, if you have an Android, iPhone, tablet, or PC, you can have immediate access to some sort of gaming aside from the light-hearted fare from the app stores of Google and Apple.
More connection means more consumerism, and Stadia will allow developers to sell their games in new ways, including directly via YouTube and Twitch live streams. For example, load up a trailer for Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey on YouTube and, at the end, click the “Play” button and the game will load in as little as five seconds in your Chrome browser, ready to play. That’s all it’ll take.
Stadia’s Crowd Play feature allows people watching a YouTube livestream to jump in live and actually join that streamer’s game. State Share, meanwhile, lets folks send links to specific sections of a game, and their friends can then simply click and play from there in the Chrome browser.
Google has been preparing for its foray into video games for years, hiring a handful of high-profile executives including former Sony studios and Xbox head Phil Harrison, and Assassin’s Creed visionary Jade Raymond. Raymond is officially the head of Stadia Games and Entertainment, Google’s new game-development arm.
They have also been testing out its streaming prowess. The Project Stream beta test kicked off last year, allowing some folks to play Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, a new and sprawling AAA game, via the Chrome browser. Some have tried it out and found it worked well, running Ubisoft’s fancy new title seamlessly on a 2015 Macbook Air.
Google isn’t the only tech giant making moves in the game-streaming space. Microsoft already has the Xbox Game Pass subscription service, but it does require you to download and install their games. They have reportedly been building a streaming-focused console that’ll be announced soon — E3 is just around the corner, after all.
NVIDIA’s Geforce Now has offered seamless play for a few years, in beta. PlayStation Now is also a thing, though it’s still fairly unreliable day-to-day. Those are just two potential competitors for Google, but rest assured there are plenty more lurking right behind.
Google has an advantage over some companies with its robust cloud network that includes more than 7,500 nodes positioned around the world. Leading game-engine companies including Unreal and Unity, and studios like Doom creator id Software, are partnering with Google on Stadia as well.
Google is backing it up with some honest-to-goodness hardware. The internet giant, also, unveiled a gamepad built with Stadia in mind, and it borrows a few cues from its earlier design patent. The wireless gamepad connects over WiFi, not Bluetooth, giving it access to the internet, and makes use of that through its dedicated buttons. You can press a “capture” button to save and share gaming moments, while a Google Assistant button can provide help when you’re stuck.
The company didn’t share pricing or availability for the gamepad, although a 2019 release alongside Stadia itself seems likely. It’s likely to be colorful, at least. Google showed black, white and mint-colored versions of the controller, suggesting that you can pick one that matches other Google gear in your home.