Cloud gaming services have been on the rise. We saw platforms like Shadow and Vortex enter the market and revolutionize the way that people could game. Now, Google too wants a piece of the action. The tech giant recently unveiled its Google Stadia cloud gaming service at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
What’s all the hype about cloud gaming?
Well, have you ever been in a situation where there was this really awesome game you wanted to play, but your PC or laptop wasn’t powerful enough to handle the graphics requirement? This is where cloud gaming came into the picture. For a monthly subscription, you could play all your favorite games at maximum settings by harnessing the power of video streaming.
This usually requires a thin client or a lightweight computer. The client would connect to a remote server that had high-end gaming hardware on it and then stream that video output to the thin client so that you can play your game.
Input controls were sent from the thin client to the remote server, processed and sent back to the thin client in the form of feedback in a matter of milliseconds. So you could hardly say that you were playing a game off a PC that was located in another corner of the world.
The other variant of cloud computing was where you streamed the game files of the game. This was handy if you didn’t have the time or storage space to download massive game files. Simply choose the game you want, and you could play it without downloading or installing the actual game.
What’s the deal with Google Stadia?
Well, according to Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, Google Stadia will be able to stream games to a myriad of devices. These include the Chrome browser, Chromecast and even Pixel devices. So in the not too distant future, and if you’re a citizen in the US, Canada, UK or Europe, Google Stadia might just become available to you.
Talking more about Google Stadia was Phil Harrison. Having worked as head of Sony’s game studios and as a senior member of Microsoft’s Xbox team, Phil joined Google in January 2018 as a Vice President.
Phil explained that Google plans to increase the popularity of Stadia by using Youtube and those who upload game clips on YouTube. For example, if you see your favorite YouTube streamer playing a game via Stadia, you can hit the “Play Now” button to immediately stream the title and play for yourself.
There’s no need to download or install any games, Phil explained. To me, the most interesting feature was the seamless moving from one platform to another. For example, if you’re playing a game on your phone, you can come home, put the phone to charge and then resume the game on your Chromecast connected TV. If you’re using a PC or laptop, then you can also still use your favorite controller as well.
In addition, Google announced that it would also be launching a Google Stadia controller. It looks like the offspring of a PlayStation controller and an Xbox controller. The controller would connect via Wi-Fi to a game session on the cloud.
As seen on the PS4 and even the Nintendo Switch, you can capture and share clips on YouTube. There’s even a button for Google Assistant. In terms of pricing though, there’s still no word on how much the Google Stadia controller would cost. I guess we’ll have to wait and see for that.
What kind of performance can we expect from Google Stadia?
There’s no doubt that you would need a massive amount of performance for Google Stadia to work. As such, Google would make use of their global infrastructure of data centers to make sure that servers are as close to users around the world as possible.
For starters, Google also shared that they expect to support up to 4K at 60 fps at launch over an internet connection with approximately 25Mbps of bandwidth. If that’s not enough to get your heart racing, they are also planning support for 8K resolutions and 120 fps in the future.
Google would also partner up with AMD to develop custom GPUs for the Google Stadia datacenters. Each Google Stadia instance will have a 2.7GHz x86 processor backed by 16GB of RAM. The system would be running Linux as opposed to Windows as well. In terms of graphical performance, the AMD GPU would be capable of 10.7 teraflops of performance.
For comparison, the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X have 4.2 and 6.0 teraflops of performance respectively. Now obviously, a high end graphics card on a PC can top that level of performance with ease. But still, the fact that you can just stream this to your phone is just mind blowing.
So what’s the catch?
Well, for starters, we don’t know how much Google Stadia would cost. If all players need access to a dedicated computer living in that server farm, can Google actually afford to charge a low enough fee that players will actually be tempted to pay? Setting up infrastructure to enable players to use all of the features of Google Stadia as promised is not cheap. Data centres, high bandwidth broadband networks and other requirements are expensive.
Then there’s also the issue of data privacy. Because you’re gaming using the cloud, things like web and browser cookies, a user’s location and credit card information are all vulnerable to data mining and profiling. It’s no surprise that Google tracks our data anyway. Have you noticed that the moment you visit a place; Google asks you what your experience with it was?
That being said, Google Stadia is still pretty cool
While there are a few things that need to be ironed out such as pricing and also data privacy procedures, Google Stadia does feel like it would revolutionize gaming. We might actually no longer need to spend our salaries on games and consoles and PC equipment. On the other hand, we also might need to spend that money on internet connections with more bandwidth. So, while Google Stadia could be the next level of gaming, the question remains, at what cost?
Are you excited about Google Stadia? What are your thoughts on it? We would love to hear from you.