THE tech world’s abuzz as giants Google and Apple vie for the headlines, but here’s something that truly pricked up the ears: gaming as we know it could change forever, within the year.
In a nutshell, Google’s busting out the Uber / Netflix / Spotify of gaming with the Stadia game streaming service. Just as you no longer have to own a car, DVD player or iPod to get transport or entertainment in a jiffy, Stadia’s going to remove the need to ever buy a gaming rig or console.
Bit too good to be true? Judge for yourself; here are 7 facts you need to know about the vaunted service, due to launch in 2019.
Note: ‘Stadia’ is apparently plural for ‘stadium’. The people who knew that couldn’t possibly fill two stadia.
01: Your hardware won’t matter (much) any more
Since time immemorial, the gaming experience has been defined by which system we plonk money into. “Guess he’s more XBox, and I’m more Atari” – Cee Lo wraps the sitch up right there.
With the streaming service Stadia, all you need is a solid network connection and a screen to see it all on. This could mean your television, laptop, tablet, and maybe even smartphone.
All the heavy lifting that produces beautiful graphics? Done on Google’s hardware and trasmitted back to you in super high resolution (up to 4K 60FPS, for those of you in the know.)
02: Sounds impossible? It’s been done!
The gamer in you may be thinking: “yeah right, sounds like lag”. Google’s way ahead of us on this one. They tested just earlier this year using a relatively high-end game, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
Feedback from the test was good – most reported seamless play with only blips in video quality. There was no report of the input lag one would expect. Considering Assassin’s Creed games, being combat- and reflex-heavy, would be infuriating to play with even a small amount of delay, the tech certainly seems to be there.
03: You don’t even need to buy the Stadia controller
The pristine Stadia controller may be the poster child of the whole movement, but Google’s dreaming much bigger. As long as you have a screen and existing methods of input – this includes your smartphone touchscreen – you’re eligible to join. Got a computer with a keyboard and mouse? You’re set. Got an old controller? Use that, too.
That isn’t to say you shouldn’t – the controller has a direct line into your wifi network and presumably into Google’s network, shaving precious milliseconds out of the equation. It also pairs up with a separately-sold Chromecast that turns any HDMI-enabled TV into a gaming rig.
Freebie: Google Assistant, who can calculate for you how many hours of your life you’ve wasted in a single session. We hope.
04: Don’t get excited till dedicated SG/MY servers are confirmed
With hardware out of the way, the gaming experience will ultimately boil down to how close the servers are to home. Our internet connections are pretty good and “wide” – but that doesn’t change the “length” of pipe between you and Google’s workhorses.
If what you’re doing with the mouse takes more than a tenth of a second to get to the U.S. and come back – the gaming experience is going to suck. Then again, if there’s one company who could pull something of this scale off, it’s Google.
05: Welcome back, Apple bros
If Project Stream was any indication, even owners of MacBooks can join in the Stadia fun – as long as they use the Chrome browser.
This is relevant because pretty much only companies with AAA titles bothered to hawk both MacOS-friendly versions of games to Apple fans, who were all presumably spending their time more productively than they would’ve in Pixel Land.
06: The first Stadia game’s already been announced
If you remember what the hell a floppy disk is, you’ll remember the original DOOM. How fitting that this shoot-them-up will be launching what could be the next big gaming revolution.
It’s also a bold statement from Google. The first-person shooter genre is arguably the most unforgiving in terms of how much lag can be tolerated. Missing a critical shot on a demon by a hair, thanks to a sluggish game service, will instantly sour any player’s experience forever.
Now all we need is Castle Wolfenstein on board as well.
07: This is really about ad dollars
Oh, come on. Did you really think Google was interested in our paltry subscription fees?
This is really a giant haymaker aimed at fully capturing what is the largest and fastest-growing entertainment industry. It isn’t TV, music or even the movie industry. It’s gaming, forecast to rake in US$116b in 2018. This is almost 7 times of what the music industry raked in in 2017, and about 10% more than what TV hauled.
Where’s the swing aimed at? Google’s horse in the race is YouTube, and its biggest rival is Twitch.tv. Both command massive and dedicated audiences. Moving entire generations of cash-strapped and/or commitment-averse gamers to a single proprietary service is genius, bordering on diabolically brilliant. Good thing they aren’t evil, right?
But, hey, if it’ll subsidise the world’s gaming addiction in absolute style, bring on the ads and sponsorships.