In a keynote at Game Developers Conference in San Francisco today Google announced a new service, Stadia, that will allow gamers to play the biggest games on any Android or Chrome-based device (including any device with a Chrome browser).
Google’s Stadia service works on any device that supports the Chromecast protocol, which means iOS, Android, Chrome OS, macOS, Windows, and even the Chromecast dongle. They all speak to one of Google’s 7,500 data center nodes (which span the globe) and recognize your specific account, allowing you to move from one device to the other without a bunch of messy handoffs between systems, because the actual game is running at the data center.
This is no small thing. First we had cartridges and disks, physical media, that meant you had to wait for a game to ship to you, then connect and install. Then we had downloadable content, which made things faster, catered to the impulse buyer who wanted their games right now.
But Stadia is a whole different spin on this model. Your games run on Google’s servers. Startup is pretty much instantaneous, with Google controlling everything.
A few obvious concerns: You’ll be running games under Google’s auspices, using a Google account. And then there’s latency and bandwidth.
But there have been two big problems with this: Latency, which might make games needing finesse, like shooter and fighting games, unplayable, and internet throughput. Streaming a game eats up a lot of data and even the Google Stream beta required about 25Mbps in order to stream anything remotely playable and attractive. Google has not yet disclosed the speed requirements for Stadia.
One solution it’s presented for handling latency is a new controller that connects directly to Google’s servers instead of to the device you’re playing on. That should, theoretically, reduce the amount of input lag.
All this is still a big bag of unknowns, an announcement and not a shipping product. But that controller looks real enough and Stadia does seem like it will see the light of day.
One thing I loved, was that old school gamer Easter egg on the underside of the controller.