Google’s hotly anticipated GDC presentation just wrapped earlier this morning in San Francisco where they debuted their new cloud-based video game platform called Stadia. The hour-long presentation dove deep into the technology powering Stadia, and it looks extremely promising. The biggest surprise of all is that there is no “box” to accompany this new platform, something they touted throughout the presentation.
At launch, Stadia will be able to stream games at 60 fps in 4K resolution with support for HDR. The games will start instantly, requiring no download or updates on the front end, meaning you can jump into your favorite game in literal seconds. Google’s Head of Engineering for Stadia, Majd Baker, said in the future the platform will have support for 8K gaming at 120 fps. Since there is no dedicated hardware component, the devices that you’ll be able to play on will be the screens you already own—your mobile phone, tablet, computer or television.
Google also showed off the Stadia Controller, which closely resembles Nintendo’s Pro Controller for Switch. It includes a sharing button as well as a dedicated Google Assistant button, which can be called upon using the controller’s built-in microphone to help you if you get stuck in a game. Using the data from your gameplay, Google Assistant can search YouTube–as well as the rest of the internet–to find you relevant videos tailored to your specific request, immediately.
Arguably the biggest feature of the Stadia Controller, however, is that it connects directly to the data center over Wi-Fi. Because the controller is connected directly to the game itself via the cloud, there should be virtually no input lag. Google did not release any information on pricing, but they did show off three colorways for the new controller, which look very similar to the Pixel 3 color schemes: white with black and orange accents, black with grey and white accents, and mint with black and bright yellow accents. Google also announced that the Stadia Controller is not necessary for the platform, as they will support any existing third party controllers, including PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo.
Another standout feature of Stadia is something they referred to as State Share. This allows players to capture specific moments of gameplay and share it as a link via email, text, social media and more. Once the link is clicked, it takes you directly into the game, allowing you to play through that exact moment exactly as it was saved, including the game state, player location and inventory, for example. This seems like a great feature for speedrunners who want to challenge others to beat their times for small, bite-sized challenges. Google didn’t reveal how long these State Shares can be, but it’s a promising feature, nonetheless.
Google also demoed another feature that will be popular amongst content creators called Crowd Play. This allows players to stream footage of a game online and give the audience the opportunity to join the game. There is a virtual queue that can be entered by other players that places them into the game with the streamer once everyone before them has entered. This will be a great feature that allows content creators to extend the life of a given title, as the content will be instantly accessible by so many people.
Stadia Games and Entertainment, Google’s own first-party studio was also revealed during the presentation. Jade Raymond, formerly of Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, was announced as the head of the studio, and will be overseeing all IP development. Besides making games in-house, Google will also allow other partner studios access to much of the “bleeding-edge Google technology,” Jade said.
While there was no official release date, Stadia was confirmed to be launching in 2019. It will be available at launch in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and most of Europe. No pricing was given, so it’s difficult to tell if the platform will cost any money to access, or if the price will be for just games alone. Google could also offer an all-you-can-eat streaming service à la Xbox Game Pass for a monthly fee.
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