One of the biggest announcements in the gaming world came recently from a party that no one thought would enter the game. Google, the search giant turned cloud service provider, announced a game streaming service which promised low latency and ground up approach for truly mobile play.
Taking advantage of its robust cloud and data centre architecture, Google aims to deliver a truly unique experience for users. Pegged as an initiative to bring gaming to those who cannot afford games, a console or a PC, Stadia aims to bring accessible gaming to all. Here is how they aim to disrupt a $180 billion market.
What Is Stadia?
Google is billing Stadia as “a platform for everyone” which will allow users to stream games from Google’s cloud architecture to the Chrome browser, Chromecast, and Pixel devices. It was tested as Project Stream, it allowed users to play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at 1080p 60fps. Public tests concluded in January, with testers providing generally positive comments regarding the service.
To ensure a seamless and low-latency gaming experience, Google is leveraging its global infrastructure of data centres to ensure servers are as close to players. Reportedly, this will allow them to support up to 4K at 60fps, a mark that even modern consoles find it difficult to reach. The service will require an Internet bandwidth of 25 Mbps for this streaming to occur, with 8K and 120fps options coming later.
One of the most important features is reducing latency and ensuring seamless cross-platform play. Along with streaming the games up from data centres nearby to ensure lower lag, the service itself has multiple improvements made to it in order to reduce latency. In testing by Eurogamer, they found that the latency for the service tops out at about 188 milliseconds in a worst-case scenario. This includes input lag and display lag, which by itself adds about 30 to 70 milliseconds based on hardware. A full-spec PC running at the venue demonstrated a latency of 100ms, making Google’s offering very impressive.
The games announced to be running on the platform at launch are Doom Eternal and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which were confirmed to be a “complete port” of the other versions of the game. This information was revealed by Google’s Vice President, Phil Harrison. He also stated, “[Ubisoft] built the game completely for Stadia and they’re actually doing a talk at GDC about how they got their game up and running.”
Google has also created a game studio known as Stadia Games and Entertainment to create high-quality first-party titles.
The Muscle Behind Stadia
One of the other selling points of the cloud-based platform was that it was vastly more powerful than the current generation of home consoles. The Xbox One X boasts a power of 6 teraflops, and the PS4 Pro has 4.2 teraflops of power to offer. The Stadia platform, however, was revealed to be running on a whopping 10.7 teraflops of power. This is courtesy of the datacentre guts of the operation.
The hardware powering the setup was said to be a custom AMD GPU with 6GB of High-Bandwidth Memory delivering 484 GB/s of memory throughput. There are 56 compute units revealed to be on the GPU, with the hardware being similar to those used by the industry-leading consoles today. The CPU is also said to be custom-made, with a clock speed of 2.7GHz. It is a hyper-threaded x86 CPU with AVX2 SIMD and 9.5MB L2+L3 cache. The setup will also come with SSD cloud storage.
Google has also mentioned that the hardware “can be stacked, that CPU and GPU compute is ‘elastic’. They also revealed that multiple instances of this hardware can be used to “create more ambitious games”.
Added to this, Google is also releasing a controller which functions as a cloud client on its own. Due to its distinct connection to the cloud. the controller makes it easy to swap users’ game instances from screen to screen, which is one of the selling points of Stadia.
The Coming Disruption In The Games Market
Stadia is set to disrupt the state of the gaming market as a whole, reducing the number of required components to play games to 3. A stable Internet connection, Google’s controller that connects to their service through Wi-Fi, and any compatible device running Chrome is all that the user requires to run a Stadia setup.
The offering also aims to make video games more social than they are today, offering deep integration with other Google services such as YouTube Gaming. Stadia allows users to highlight, capture and share footage straight to YouTube using one button press. Reportedly, it will also let viewers play alongside creators in a feature known as Crowd Play. This feature includes a lobby system to let users match up with YouTube content creators.
This is just one of the enhancements Google has planned with regards to YouTube. It also includes a feature that lets you view a game clip from a creator and then hit “play now” to instantly stream the title. This is a part of their Instant Access fundamental which is also seen in Instant Apps and access to many services at a faster pace.
Crossplay with other platforms will also be available, along with the ability to seamlessly continue where the user left off across devices. While this is a mainstay in over-the-top services such as Netflix and Spotify, it is innovating to see in gaming.
Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft, summed up the potential of Stadia, stating, “It’s one more possibility to experience the worlds we create and it gives opportunities to creators to take full advantage of mobile.” This seems to echo the lasting impact services as Stadia will have on the landscape of gaming.