It’s finally official. After months of teasing, Google finally unveiled Stadia: its system for streaming triple-A titles like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey to your phone, tablet, PC or TV.
What is Google Stadia?
Google Stadia is Google’s entry into the game streaming market and probably the one that — at this stage — bears the most resemblance to popular streaming services Netflix and Spotify.
Because the heavy processing is done via computers in the cloud, your device becomes little more than a glorified screen. That means Stadia will support up to 4K resolution at 60fps at launch, and it has plans to hit 8K and 120fps in future, even if your device would normally struggle to run Pong.
To get this kind of impressive performance, Google is using its global infrastructure of data centres to try and ensure that a server is always close to the player. Google’s vision is to allow people to go from watching a trailer for a game to jumping straight in by just pressing play, with “no download, no patch, no update and no install.”
Google Stadia – Specs
Crucially, Stadia is ‘in the cloud’ and so you’ll never see the rigs pushing pixels around your screen, but the machines are far from ethereal and have some serious grunt behind them. They are packing a 2.7GHz x86 processor with 16GB RAM, but Google has also partnered with AMD for custom GPUs, which apparently have 10.7 teraflops of power.
Bear in mind that the Xbox One X, the most powerful console on the market currently, can only muster 6 teraflops. It’s hard to get a handle on exactly how well it’ll perform based on this, seeing as teraflops don’t really indicate performance, but it shows that there’s some serious grunt going on behind the scenes.
One game that is coming to the service is Doom Eternal, and it looks like it’ll be a technical tour de force, supporting 4K resolution, HDR and 60fps. As Google says Stadia will support cross-platform multiplayer, there’s no reason you won’t be playing against people playing on the PS4, Switch or Xbox versions too.
While Google is clear that Stadia itself is not a box (“the data centre is your platform”), the company has made a custom gamepad for it. At a glance, it looks a bit like an Xbox pad has lost a bit of weight, but Google highlights two important buttons that hint at where it seems to see Stadia as going in the long term. The capture button instantly shares with YouTube via a live stream, while the Google Assistant button opens a built-in microphone for assistance and special features within games.
“Think about the way the web works – you can easily share a link and it works seamlessly. We want games to feel that way too: instantly enjoyable with access for everyone,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said, introducing Stadia.
Related: Best PS4 games
Google Stadia – Release date
It will launch in 2019, first in the US, Canada, the UK and “most of Europe”. As yet, no pricing details are available, but Google says it’ll have more details this summer, along with some of the titles it expects to be on the platform. If you’re a developer that wants to help populate it, you can apply for access here.
Google Stadia: Price
Here’s where things get foggy. We’ve got nothing to go on when it comes to price.
Sony’s PlayStation Now, which works on the PlayStation 4 and Windows computers, is a comparable service that offers access to over 500 PlayStation games. That costs £12.99 per month or £84.99 per year. Microsoft’s offering, the Xbox Game Pass, comes in at £7.99 a month for over 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 games. The key difference is that both of these are focused at gamers already, and require downloads. The idea of streaming isn’t really there.
Meanwhile, Spotify comes in at £9.99 and Netflix is the same for an Ultra HD subscription, with cheaper options depending on what sort of quality you’re after. If you asked for my gut feeling, I’d reckon that something closer to £10 a month is going to get subscribers in and keep them there. However, this is all still very much in the air.
Are you excited for Google Stadia? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.