Google Unveils Gaming Platform Stadia, A Competitor To Xbox, PlayStation And PC

Tech giant Google is getting into gaming in a big way with a direct challenge to the giants of console and PC gaming. It’s called Stadia.

Former Sony and Xbox executive and current Google gaming boss Phil Harrison detailed the platform today at an event in San Francisco during the Game Developers Conference, saying it would link all the ways people play games. The core of it is that it’ll be a gaming platform that runs via streaming, no console or PC needed and no games downloaded or running on a disc at the users’ end.

Harrison and a host of other presenters boasted of high-end gaming running in 4K and 60 frames per second, streamed across Google’s network to any screen you can think of.

“This new generation of gaming is not a box,” Harrison said. It will launch later this year, first in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Europe.

Crucially, Harrison and the other assembled presenters did not say how fast users’ internet speeds would need to be to get the sky-high performance hyped throughout the event, let alone to enjoy multiplayer games that run entirely via streaming.

Previous game-streaming services such as OnLive have offered similar hardware-free or hardware-light propositions but didn’t hit it big in part due to users’ discomfort, distrust or dissatisfaction with connection lags. Google argues that its custom hardware network can offer high enough quality gaming to satisfy and even convert people used to buying games on disc or downloading them. The company prototyped the Stadia tech last fall by allowing users of a program called Project Stream to play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in a Google Chrome browser. We had tested it ourselves and were impressed. That service had required users to have download speeds of at least 15 megabits per second and latency of 40 milliseconds or less.

A Google PR rep tells Kotaku that Google’s Project Stream was able to provide 1080p, 60fps gameplay for users with 25 megabits per second connections. “When Stadia launches later this year, we expect to be able to deliver 4k 60 fps at approximately the same bandwidth requirements,” they said.

Kotaku readers have shared their own experiences with Stream in the comments to this article, some saying performance was superb, others saying it was lacking. Download speeds are just one factor for having an optimal connection and those speeds and the latency of connections will be a key factor for Stadia’s viability.

At the event, Harrison walked through an example of how Stadia might work. Someone could be watching a trailer for a game, click the option to play now and be playing within five seconds. “No download, no patch and no install,” Harrison said. “Stadia offers instant access to play.” He said it reduces the friction between being excited about a game and playing it.

Stadia will work on TVs, tablets, laptops, and phones. It’ll work with existing controllers when playing on a laptop and PC. Stadia will also have its own controller. The Stadia controller, which is optional, connects to Google’s streaming data centres directly over WiFi, for limiting latency. It has a capture button that shares to YouTube and a Google Assistant button that’ll activate the controller’s microphone to provide help in a game. The Stadia controller is required for using the service on a TV, Harrison told us in an interview late on Tuesday.

During the presentation, Harrison said that Google has already shipped Stadia development kits to more than 100 studios and announced the creation of Google’s own first-pary development studio, Stadia Games & Entertainment. It will make exclusive content for Stadia and will be run by Jade Raymond, the longtime game producer whose credits include the creation of the Assassin’s Creed franchise at Ubisoft. Raymond said her team will also work with external studios to bring Stadia’s features to their games.

“I’m actually not a big gamer,” Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said at the start of the keynote. But he said he leads a company full of people interested in solving hard technology problems. To that end, the presentation of Google’s platform today was angled as a way to offer an approach to gaming that is based on streaming games over a low-latency network.

Pichai showed off the company’s custom server hardware and connections.

The idea, he said, is “building a game platform for everyone,” removing hardware barriers.

Google is saying that is thousands of edge nodes and racks of powerful hardware can offer significant technological muscle to provide games running at high specs. For launch, they’re promising 4K gaming at 60 frames per second.

Stadia is being built with the help of PC giant AMD, which is offering a custom GPU for the platform’s server-side processing (remember, nothing is really happening on the device Stadia gamers use to play games).

In an interview with Eurogamer, Harrison confirmed what we’d reported yesterday that you’ll need a Chromecast dongle if you’re using Stadia on a TV.

Crucially, at the event the Stadia team didn’t immediately clarify how fast a user’s internet needs to be to get the best performance, a make or break element of Google’s plans. That answer emerged later in the day with comment from Google PR as well as in our interview with Harrison, who said users would need a 30 Mbps for 4K, 60 fps gaming.

As for the games? The first game announced for Stadia turned out to be the upcoming Doom Eternal, which Id Software producer Marty Stratton said took a few weeks to get working on Stadia. Stratton said the game would run at 4K and 60 FPS.

Harrison noted that Stadia would support cross-platform play.

Some proofs of concept shown for Stadia include things like allowing couch co-up through streaming that doesn’t tax the performance of a game, the ability for multiple people to view the same game world from a range of perspectives, again without a hit on performance.

Q-Games founder Dylan Cuthbert (of PixelJunk gaming fame) introduced a Stadia concept called “state share,” which enables the game to code a particular moment (where the player is, what they have, a specific moment int he game) that can be shared via a link. Cuthbert said his team is making a game that is based all around this concept, but couldn’t unveil it yet.

Another Stadia feature demoed today is something called Crowd Play. They demoed it by letting people watch a stream of a game and the queue up to be next to take over the game and play it. This, YouTube Gaming’s Ryan Wyatt said, would allow YouTubers to curate a group gaming experience.

Harrison said Google will reveal more about the platform’s launch line-up this summer. For what it’s worth, sets of icons shown on Google’s event stream even before the game began hinted at some of the games that could be on the service.

Red Dead?

Civ?

We’ll share more as we find out.

While we described Google’s Stadia as a competitor to traditional console and PC gaming models, it’s also worth considering that one of those bastions of traditional console gaming, Microsoft, is also prepping a streaming-based service. Project xCloud, revealed last year, is intended to also enable high-end gaming experiences on a wide range of screens, freeing people from needing to own a PC or console to play games that would otherwise only run on those devices. In a company blog post a week ago, Microsoft said that users would be able to “test it in real-world scenarios later this year.”

If you’d like to hear a whole lot more on Google’s plans with Stadia, we interviewed Harrison earlier today on Splitscreen, and you can listen to that (or read the essential notes) here.


Comments

    The two most interesting tidbits from this announcement.

    1\ AMD's gaming dominance outside of PC seems to be continuing, with the solution being delivered looking suspiciously like Vega 56 or a downclocked Radeon VII.

    2\ Google's hoping to beat latency by driving data centers ever closer to people. What sort of population size are we talking about though - will Newcastle get one? Canberra? What about Coffs Harbour? How close those edge nodes are built will determine alot.

    3\ Interesting connecting the controller over WiFi to avoid host stack latency, although really is it expected to be that much?

    Last edited 20/03/19 7:48 am

      For (3), I suspect the reason for choosing wifi for the controller is more for the television use case where they're reusing the Chromecast platform. You could connect a controller to a Chromecast, but it would probably involve a USB OTG splitter connected to the micro USB port and some kind of receiver (Bluetooth?).

      Then there's the Google Assistant support. Having a full CPU in the controller might allow them to do more locally with the voice recognition than they could if they were relying on the Chromecast CPU.

    It’s ambitious and definitely sounds great on paper but it won’t work in Australia with our garbage internet. It just won’t.

      I've never heard anything rubbish about it. Sure, last mile sucks for some people but the rest of the infrastructure is fine AFAIK. Should be OK for FTTH\C.

        You've never heard anything rubbish about it?

        Where have you been the past few years?!

        This wont work in most places in australia. I have good conection speeds but more than 40 ping due to server distances. Impossible to stream games with that latency.

        Do you have a spare room available in the ivory tower? I can afford the rent, pretty please? :)

      Some of middle-America have worse internet speeds than Aus. If they can get it to work in Kansas, we can get it here.

        I mean, parts of Kansas had gigabit internet from Google Fiber, so maybe Kansas isn't the best example.

      If your internet can handle Netflix it will probably handle this. Considering Australia's uptake of Netflix i think most people on the NBN or cable will be fine.

        Netflix have magic network code that makes it work on even the worst connections while YouTube (Google) spends an eternity buffering.

          The other thing is that Netflix can preload, smart buffer and a whole host of other things. Gaming can't do any of that due to latency.

          Don't Netflix also install Netflix servers at the ISPs to also assist with this?

        I have the NBN, and can't handle HD Netflix.

        This thing will never function in Australia.

          Dude Google have confirmed you only need 25mbps to handle it. The VAST majority of people on the NBN can handle that. I can handle that and I don't even have the NBN.

        and that is when NBN becomes available in your area.i live on the edge of the Brisbne cbd not far from the gabba and we still dont have NBN.and wont have it for the forseeable future,its not liek we are in rural areas,being less than 5km's from city center as the crow flies.


    Crucially, Harrison and the other assembled presenters did not say how fast users’ internet speeds would need to be to get the sky-high performance hyped throughout the event, let alone to enjoy multiplayer games that run entirely via streaming.

    I don't think it would actually require more if you are playing multi, given that the game is already on a cloud.

    Last edited 20/03/19 8:10 am

    Some serious technology, but will need to see how well it can perform. I imagine Sony will really have to up their game with PS Now technology in order to combat these giants.

      Offering it in Australia would be a good start!

        Anything on business model? is this going to be subscription based?

          More news coming on the hour, the US just did a sit-down interview with Google's head of gaming.

        I highly doubt we'll ever see it functional in Australia outside of heavily controlled test cases. It's just not going to be able to work with Australian (lack-of) internet.

      Sony don't have server and undersea cables like Google or MS have.
      Even AWS uses public internet to move their data between servers.

    I mentioned in a comment yesterday that this basically seems to just be Nvidia's Streaming service.
    I got a Nvidia Shield TV recently and love it.
    Of course, the game streaming doesn't work very well because despite having FTTP it's connecting to US server so still getting latency anywhere between 50-200ms.
    I managed to play some Batman Arkham Asylum (which comes free with the box) but it wasn't anything super special.
    The technology is there.... the data centers aren't.

    If Google can provide better local connections then the system could work pretty well.
    But other than that, I don't see much to be excited about. It's just another online store, it's got some sharing features (like PS already has) if you're into that sort of thing (I'm not).

    Finally, will the box be able to do anything else?
    The Nvidia Shield TV box is a full entertainment experience (apart from broadcast TV I guess).
    It's an android box so can run lots of apps off the google store, it's a chromecast, it can stream Nvidia and Steam games, it can do steam big picture mode (from local PC too), it's got netflix and all other streaming service apps.
    It can host a plex server.
    It does 4K 60fps. It has an Ethernet port so you don't have to screw around with wifi.

    Having one of these, I see very little reason to buy into Google's version. Especially since we won't even get it in Australia for a while.

      A Chromecast dongle is cheap so the "buy in" isn't expensive, especially compared to a Shield.

      Google has data centres in lots of places, same as Microsoft, so they've got the best chance of actually making this work.

        I bought my nvidia shield TV (with controller) for $280 aud.
        A chromecast ultra is $99.
        The nvidia shield TV is already a chromecast ultra.
        So with the NVidia one you're paying $180 for a controller, a tv remote and the ability to run apps, stream games (locally and remotely), access all your steam games and use big picture mode, as well as run and host Plex servers.
        All at 4K 60fps.
        I think that's pretty affordable. Especially compared to consoles and PCs.

        Don't forget google hasn't announced pricing yet so that's kind of a moot point. The controller could end up being $150. The subscription fees could end up being worse than Xbox live/PS Plus. There's also a much cheaper SteamLink if the Shield TV is too much for you.

        Yes, Google's server infrastructure will help. the Nvidia system struggles with that right now, especially in Australia.

        The sharing features look gimmicky. Playstation already does stuff like that, other games let you jump in a join friends pretty easily too (via friends lists or whatever). You have to own the game I guess, but you'd have to pay for access to this Google service or a particular game anyway.

        Having it work across various platforms is interesting... but again, I can already stream PC games to my phone via Steam... It doesn't work great because games aren't designed for that.
        There's a lot of game development changes that will need to happen for all this fancy game state sharing stuff to work properly and I don't see that happening any time soon.

        The local data center stuff is the biggest thing that Stadia has going for it.
        And that's before we talk about Google's track record of starting and stopping major projects/apps on a whim.

    Launches in US, UK, Canada and parts of Europe soon. So I guess we don't get to see how shitty our connections are just yet.

    I remain skeptical that game streaming will ever have low enough input lag to be appealing to the more hardcore market. 40ms of input lag seems like it would actually feel pretty terrible with a mouse and throw the ability to precisely hit moving targets out the window.

    Probably less of an issue for more casual games/console games with aim assistance, but I doubt streaming games will ever be for me.

      likewise - I remember when a mate was showing off his Steam Link and asking why I wanted to keep my long HDMI cable instead, but the input lag was super noticeable and annoying even with controllers! (let along M&KB) - and that was just from streaming the video, not even having to send control inputs over the network!

        Man, if I didn't have to go across a walk way, I'd have fun a HDMI cable to my TV already (there's an ethernet cable, but its a bit more solid than a fiber optic hdmi).

        If I build a house, definitely running fibre optic HDMI about the house as well as ethernet.

          I've been lucky in my places in that the room I used as a study was always on the other side of the wall my TV was in front of - one of Kmarts good cheap 5m HDMI cables looped around the bottom of the doorway and behind shelves has been a recurring solution for me :)

          With going across a walkway; have you looked at any cable covers which might work across the space? - depending on floor or carpet there are some neat ramped rubber covers or padded ones which use velcro to prevent slipping or tripping hazards.

      edit

      Last edited 20/03/19 10:33 am

      If you live in teh city it's probably more like 15ms. At least that my ping to servers in my city.

      I think 'hardcore' gamers aren't the target audience for this product - and it won't kill off PC gaming (might make a dent in console gaming though).

    I feel like this has serious implications on game ownership and the future of game preservation. Games as a service is a model we're starting to see the industry pivot to more and more with subscription-based platforms such as Xbox Game Pass and PS Plus - with both services providing you with downloadable copies of the game, but revoking access if your subscription is ever cancelled. The concept of having a personal games library is slowly becoming something of a dinosaur. When you buy a game disc, you have one solid, static, copy of the game in perpetuity. It'll never change and if you take care of it, you'll always have it. If servers ever go down you won't be able to patch it, sure, but you'll still have a snapshot of how that game existed in history, years and years into the future. We've already seen how a digital distribution service can call into question the importance of preserving important pieces of media. Just look at the backlash Konami received for pulling P.T. from the PlayStation Store. Kojima's horror teaser was an incredibly ambitious and experimental attempt to redefine how we can experience a horror story in a gaming medium, and it had an unspoken impact on what was to come with games such as Resident Evil 7. It's an important pillar in the story of the horror genre of video games but now we don't have access to it anymore. If streaming services can, at a moment's notice, pick and choose what's going to be available to players, what's to say that this won't change the way those games will be accessible to the industry as a whole later down the line. There needs to be a more robust infrastructure for the archiving of important works put in place by publishers before something like video game streaming becomes commonplace, or we'll be seeing more examples of those companies providing the services not thinking about how these games will be accessible in the future when they decide to alter their catalogues. And anyhow, gaming has always been about the collection to me, and I'm scared of the day I won't be able to look at my shelf and see all my faves, neatly lined up in alphabetical order, ready and waiting to be taken down and opened to be enjoyed. Even my growing digital library on my PS4 is something I'm growing fond of. These are mine. I remember when I bought that specific game. I played it for hours the first day it downloaded. Maybe I'm too sentimental, but I think something fundamental about gaming as a hobby is going to shift if this is the way things are going.

    And this is all without even going into making sure the developers will be adequately compensated.

    I wonder how they'll deal with multiple resolution support? TV's and Desktop monitors are pretty standard but what about crappy laptop screens and phones with < 1080p or super tall displays? Some games just don't scale well

      Probably just letterbox it.
      Or I guess the box at the other end can just change its resolution to match.

    Yet another Google side project that they'll underfund and ignore before killing off via a press release in about five years.

    What they said was impressive, what they deliver to *most*, well let's just wait and see....

    15mbs and 40ms? Lordy. I wish that such speeds existed where I live with our 320kbs ADSL and 140ms - 200ms to Japan ping.

      We get 35mbs on ADSL2 or whatever iinet's ultra adsl is, but the pings...

      It looks like a cool idea, but I like to be able to play offline. Also, if the system goes bust, there goes all your games.

      It is weird to think in the future that there will be no way to play those 'retro' games from the early 21st century, when the servers go, the games disappear.

    "Lower End 40mbps connections using wireless"

    So... faster than the average NBN speed.

    I look forward to Aussie internet being able to handle this in 50+ years.

    No it won't work in Australia for a start Alex Walker because Google Stadia is just going to use all of our Internet data it's not worth the price tag and the Google Stadia is definitely mere garbage.

    Thats assuming this doesnt completely scuttled in anti-trust lawsuits.

    Spotify and Netflix are already challenging Apple for keeping 30% of their revenue and operating a competiting platform, but for Google competing while also blocking Sony Microsoft and Steam.

    Epic games refused to host Fortnite on Googleplay cause 30% cut on all revenue was unfair... and thats the thing. It eill die before it starts if the game developers get a fair deal... and the glamour of cloud streaming is not without its risks, if it dors not incentives developers... and 30% isnt cutting it.

    Lots of talk - quite rightly - about bandwidth, latency, download limits & ping etc but little mention of 'jitter' which is something the majority of Australian infrastructure is terrible for & which for something like this is as - if not more - important?

    We're (human people) are great at adapting to things such as a slight lag/higher latency, but if the amount of lag/latency is frequently changing it can make a monumental difference. The reason Netflix is so impressive is because of their adaptive streaming (which i expect google will also have/improve upon), but even then, I'll regularly get 2-3 x 30-45 seconds of blocky pixellation per hour watching TV despite having 35Mbit+ & low average ping.

    Obviously experience will vary but run a few speedtests during peak and I imagine the majority will see what I mean - the stream bitrate may be adaptive to account for it, but will be interesting to see what happens with controller inputs etc.

    Obviously the extra load on the infrastructure is another thing, but I have no doubt that anything we can think of in here has probably already been thought of by the makers? What I do believe though is that by the time this is a mandatory thing, the infrastructure should be in place - in the meantime, we may miss out a little on the google stuff, but does anyone think Nintendo/Sony are really going to go all-in on streaming right now?

    I can't blame them/won't attack them for wanting to build something without waiting for other countries/governments/companies to get their act together, and at the same time they can't blame me for not buying/being enthused by something that looks cool but I suspect will give me a subpar experience than I currently get now; can anyone who watches EPL honestly say that the streaming Optus brought in is better for the viewer than the previous Foxtel broadcasting? I have a feeling this will be similar

    Ex CEO of Sony and Xbox consoles? How does he get around the non-disclosure agreement around IP? So when similar tech pops up on the Stadia, will Sony and Microsoft just bombard Google with lawsuits?

    A few questions spring to mind.

    Is Google even going to release it in Australia?
    Is it going to be one payment (possible), or Is it going to be subscription based (likely)?
    How much OzTax will we get slammed by?
    How bad will the input lag be when streaming games all the way from the US?

      It would be inconceivable that this would be a single-payment, This will definitely be sub based product as most likely another bundle solution with their Google Play services.

      streaming games all the way from the US?

      The whole point of this is that google has the resources to provide local data centers.
      It will never work if you're streaming from the US. Other systems already do that and we have latency problems from Australia. That's normal.

      The big thing Google can do differently is provide local connections.
      I'm skeptical we'll even see this in Australia before Google cans it and moves on to something else.

    For latency issues, it only needs input commands so an uplink of 3-5/Mbit/s would be enough for a single tick of a button press. The downlink is depending on if they have found a better way of compressing the video stream as that is all it is, so I would imagine a downlink of 12-20Mbit/s is preferred. The speeds I mention would need to be baseline minimums for the stablity reason but not unreasonable even on FTTN/FTTC

    Probably the biggest issue that I have is what is the pricing, are companies going to charge the same for games that they used to charge for physical versions (yes exactly like steam except now its not even on your PC, and I have issues with all their pricing). Or now they are going to charge for monthly access and also for game access. Can they provide enough local hardware to basically replace computers in general? who knows!!!

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