Personally, streaming services for games has always felt like a great platform to demo games on, but always failed to impress as a dedicated platform for hardcore gaming. Whilst streaming services are nothing new, there are plenty of active services, and plenty that have died trying to become the next best thing.
My taste of streaming came from the OnLive service back in 2012. The OnLive service operated fast, with just a few clicks of a button a player could launch a handful of games within seconds, or even watch other gamers. The issue was, other than Assassins Creed 2 and Just Cause the game library was host to a ton of crap. And latency sometimes reached upwards of 150ms, add that with UK ISPs terrible infrastructure and it was a disaster waiting to happen.
Come 2015 OnLive ceased to be and was bought out by Sony. We all know the story here and Sony’s PS Now service, so I won’t expand too much on the situation. Though, PS Now has a much better range of titles and the service has obviously still improved, unless you’re on Virgin Media superfast fibre it’s still utter rubbish to play games on.
(As a person who has not long left Virgin Media back to Sky Fibre, I can confirm PS Now sucks below 200mb connection.)
So, is the future of gaming streaming? Google thinks so.
Today, Google announced Stadia, a Chrome based streaming platform boasting to able to take on the console market. Stadia seems like the Skynet of streaming services, it can run on mobiles, laptops, TV’s via Chromecast Ultra, pretty much anything that can handle Google Chrome.
In the home, Stadia is a cloud-based service, aiming to give a player instant access to purchased games within seconds. No installs, no day one patches, no updates, just gaming when the player wants it.
Google has released images of the Stadia control pad, whilst it looks like a love child of the DS4 and Xbox one pad, it’s sleek, simple, and more importantly looks very familiar. Picking up the Stadia pad will be a breeze just like swapping from PlayStation to Xbox, unlike swapping from Xbox to a single Switch JoyCon. Those who would prefer to use their own pad can do so via USB as the Stadia platform supports USB controllers. Stadia pad also operates via Wi-Fi and not Bluetooth, the aim is to cut out the middle man and reduce input lag. Stadia also supports mouse and keyboard for those who prefer them over pads.
Graphics wise, for a streaming platform, Stadia is boasting 4K, HDR, 60FPS, which I will add, where available. Those with a 4k TV and Chromecast Ultra will get the full package, same as those with 4K monitors. However, those with a standard HD Chromecast will not get 4K, obviously. Further reading, it doesn’t seem Stadia will be on the standard Chromecast anyway, but that could change. Stadia outputs to YouTube simultaneously also at 4K, HDR, 60FPS so a player can edit and save clips from games at a later date. Capturing and sharing video clips can be done straight from the Stadia pad via the capture button.
Stadia supports cross play, so those playing on a pc will be able to play those on mobiles, from a streaming service though I expect nothing less. Stadia has the capability to let others drop into your game to help you out when in need, or even being playing on one device, and seemly pick up another and carry on. And for fans of Streamers, a player can join a queue to drop into game with the favourites. Stadia is also brining back split screen for co-op but over Wi-Fi.
So far, the only launch games seem to be Assassins Creed Origins which was part of the beta testing, NBA 2K 19, and the upcoming Doom Eternal. Though, it’s safe to say there will be many, many more announced in the not too distant future. Google has also started development on their own exclusive games to bring to the platform which could be a very interesting move, and a much needed one to get people interested in Stadia.
Google states Stadia requires only an internet connection of 15mbs with a latency of under 40ms, which on this laptop with an i3 processor I write on I currently have 23ms latency and 22mbs. So streaming AAA games will be achievable, it will have to be a ‘wait and see’ situation on quality though.
Behind the scenes, Google is taking advantage of AMD hardware capable of 10.7 teraflops of GPU power. In comparison the Xbox One has 6 teraflops, the PlayStation 4 Pro has 4.2, and the Nvidia GTX 1080 pushes 9 teraflops. A great aspect of streaming services is the ability to upgrade the hardware to increase performance without much disruption to the end user and eliminate the need for the user to upgrade their own hardware. Google has stated the Stadia will in the future be 8K and 120FPS compatible, so it’s future proof already.
Stadia is aiming for a 2019 release, sadly there are no prices yet, or any word if games will be subscription based, or single purchases.
Martin’s thoughts: I’m really excited, there are the obvious issues with UK ISPs being as reliable as a Fiat Uno and as fast as the cast of Hollyoaks trying to solve simple mathematics but it’s a promising start. Price of games and price of the controller are big factors for me, but time will tell who much they’ll be. The selling point to me though is being able to tell my Google Home to start a game and have it running within seconds, witchcraft.