Google finally unveiled its plans for the gaming industry earlier today, announcing the Stadia game-streaming platform. It's the culmination of weeks of build-up and anticipation, and at first glance, the technology looks incredible. After all, who is going to look at a platform that enables high performance games to be played on virtually any device that use Google Chrome properly?
Stadia also has a lot going for it behind the scenes, too. It's a platform that has now recruited Jade Raymond and Phil Harrison, two gaming industry veterans with a lot of experience and insight into what it takes to build a successful brand. The company made a point of showcasing the fact that Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot was in attendance, and Assassin's Creed Odyssey was the first game showcased in the early iteration of Stadia that was called Project Stream. There are clear industry connections here that will ensure Stadia is progressing with the backing of some of the most brilliant minds in video games.
That being said, though, we'd caution against getting too excited for Stadia's game-changing technology yet. Google was remarkably obtuse about many key elements of the technology, and focused on an idealized presentation that was designed to sell people on the tech itself, not its implementation and other concerns. When the presentation ended, there were a lot more questions than answers, and some of them will be crucial in determining if Google Stadia will actually be as impactful as it appeared. Here's what we want to know, and what others have already expressed interest in as well:
Google's conference today showed what is possible with Stadia and how it can work for Google, developers, influencers and players.— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) March 19, 2019
It's a strong proof of concept but content and consumer adoption will be key.
Still waiting on content + business model info.
What's the price?
There was no mention of how much the Stadia service will cost. Access to AAA games being played on maximum settings seems like it could be a costly endeavor. That also leads into another question...
What style of service is Stadia?
The smart money is on Stadia being a subscription service that gives consumers access to a games library they can use at any time, much like Netflix. Google didn't indicate whether that would be the case, though. There's a chance Stadia sells games for a fraction of their price on a per-game basis, and there's also the chance that it will be a service that's bundled into other subscription-based platforms like YouTube or Twitch.
How will games be accessed/integrated?
Google Play seems the most likely suspect here, which could be an annoyance for some players. If a player owns a game on Steam, for instance, or on a console, will Stadia have a Play Anywhere-style feature that will allow them to access it without having to pay for it again? Will a subscription be required for games that are already owned? That might not be an issue as the platform becomes more relevant, but early on, without any exclusive games, having access to previously purchased titles could be a big pull for Stadia.
What are the bandwidth requirements?
UPDATE: A Google PR rep told Kotaku that Google's Project Stream was able to provide 4K, 60fps performance on 25 megabits per second connections. The PR rep stated that Stadia is targeting the same performance at the same bandwidth rate.
Stadia seems like it will be a bandwidth killer. Streaming hi-fidelity games at as much as 8K will be taxing for most internet providers, and many users have internet data caps. It's a fair question to ask, too. Fallout 76 recently ran into trouble with some gamers running up against their data limit trying to download that game's many post-launch patches, and extensive use of Stadia might cause similar issues.
Beyond that, how stable does the internet connection need to be for Stadia to work properly? Seamless streaming is a huge draw, but having that in practice might not be realistic for many people who already regularly struggle with buffering on YouTube's high quality videos.
What exclusives will Google have to support Stadia?
Google announced that it will be opening its own first-party video game studio that will provide exclusives for Stadia. The issue right now? There aren't any, and there weren't any announced as being in development, either. There was a brief tech showcase that Google used to demonstrate how Stadia supports game design and development, but none of those were particularly inspiring. It's probably worth holding off on being too hyped for Stadia until we see how Google will support it outside of the help of various partner developers and publishers.
How hard is Stadia to develop for?
The technology behind Stadia sounds great, but a lot of the work is for developers to sort out. This isn't the kind of question Google will answer itself, but rather devs who have worked with the platform. The features of shared states, pick up and play anywhere, and joining streamers mid-stream for a game all sound excellent in theory: how hard are they to implement in practice?
Until many of these questions (and more) are answered, it just doesn't make sense to get too excited about Stadia. The future of gaming is certainly now, and Google will play a part in it. How big that role is, and if it will be remembered fondly or with a tinge of tech-giant hubris, will be something we find out later in 2019.
Source: Google YouTube Channel