Google’s presence has been growing steadily over the past year, especially with their Google Cloud Platform. Google’s parent company Alphabet has reported its latest quarterly earnings, with revenue rising 26 percent to $26.2 billion. Google’s “other revenues” category, which includes its cloud business, hardware sales, and Google Play sales, reached $4.4 billion in revenue, a 36.5 percent increase year-over-year. As well, Google Search was ranked the most visited multi-platform web property in December of 2018. They are a force to be reckoned with and strike fear into many businesses. One of the newest pools they are dipping their toes into is the world of gaming. Google recently announced their plans for a cloud-based video game platform called Stadia and many are wondering what this will mean for the current video game industry.
How Will Stadia Work?
Google’s keynote at the 2019 Game Developers Conference is our first, practical look into a future that isn’t focused on hardware. Stadia will stream video games from the cloud to the Chrome browser, Chromecast, and Google Pixel devices, and it will launch at some point in 2019 in the US, Canada, UK, and parts of Europe. Unlike current video game systems, Stadia will not be played using a console. It can be used on a variety of devices such as a phone, computer, or TV. You only need to have an internet connection, the Chrome web browser, and a Google controller. The Google controller connects to WiFi and provides instant gaming access. While they haven’t announced a full list of games, they tested a version of Assassin’s Creed in October on a closed beta server called ProjectStream. It only requires a user to have a 25 Mbps internet connection, opening doors for players with an internet plan that may have previously limited their gaming experience.
Watch the video below provided by Tech Insider to see the controller in action.
What Are The Benefits?
Stadia says it expects to be streaming up to 4k, which will provide a high-quality gaming experience for its users and it’s planning to support up to 8K resolutions and 120 fps in the future. At it’s launch, it is expected to be running at 60 fps over an internet connection with approximately 25Mbps of bandwidth with a goal of increasing to 120fps in the future. To power all of this cloud streaming, Google is leveraging its global infrastructure of data centers to ensure servers are as close to players as possible. That’s a key part of Stadia, and with lower latency, it is a necessity to stream games effectively across the internet.
One of the main advantages is that there will be no need to purchase a console, allowing many people to take part in playing video games who previously were unable to participate. Google claims that their graphics will outdo those of PlayStation 4 and Xbox especially when it comes to speed. Stadia will be generating the images on its own hardware before sending one stream to the player, allowing users to receive a high-quality stream that doesn’t impact the frame rate of the player themselves. As well, they are also working on a partnership with YouTube to give players a more competitive game setting. Google Stadia also won’t limit players to just one or two games, allowing users to view game clips from creators and then instantly hit a play button to stream the title. At launch, games will be streamable across laptops, desktops, TVs, tablets, and phones making it the Netflix of gaming systems. You can also use a button to capture and share clips straight to YouTube and use the Google Assistant button, which gives access to the microphone for speaking to in-game features that developers will be able to build into their games. One of the other perks of being console free is shorter wait times. Traditionally, the wait for downloading a new game or update can be bothersome. Now with games solely relying on streaming, those pesky downloads are a thing of the past.
Are There Downfalls?
Potentially there could be some setbacks for iOS and iPhone users. As we all know, Google and Apple are bitter rivals and in their live demo at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) there was no mention for iOS devices. However, it’s hard to get around the fact that iPhone owners tend to be one of the most lucrative mobile customers. As of 2019, Apple reported they have 1.3 billion active devices worldwide and the active install base of all Macs is currently at 100 million. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, as of 2019 51% of Mac customers are new users overall. This could potentially put a limit on Stadia users if the gaming service is only available on Pixel devices and in the Google Play Store. Unfortunately, Apple currently won’t let you run a store within the iTunes store, a good example of this is Amazon, and if Stadia is only available on Google Play, it’s not going to be available for iOS users.
What Impact Will This Have On Google and The Industry?
With the launch of Stadia, Google could have a huge financial win on the horizon. While they are certainly not the first to steam video games, the fact that they will be streaming over the GCP network could give them a huge advantage. Many users agree that Google’s infrastructure could put them in a prime position to take the lead. Google is also leveraging its global infrastructure of data centers to ensure servers are as close to players around the world as possible. It also makes sense that from Google’s point of view, any Stadia game which also hosts their game servers on GCP could expect lower latency and better data security, which could be a major benefit of leveraging Google’s private network.
Google hasn’t revealed pricing or how many games the service will have at launch. However, they are promising more details by summer 2019. While the cost hasn’t been mentioned at this point, most people are speculating it will be a pay per month service like Xbox and other gaming services. Whatever Google ultimately decides, we should see an exciting shift in the video game industry and for the cloud industry this year.
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