Nowadays, DVDs and Blu-Rays are being increasingly threatened by online copies and streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify. The same thing is happening in the video game industry. It’s easier and more convenient to buy games online through platforms such as Steam rather than purchasing their physical copies.
And now Google wants to do away with consoles, too. It has recently launched Stadia, an online game streaming service.
Here’s everything you need to know about the tech giant’s vision of the future of gaming, according to Google’s Vice President, Phil Harrison.
What is Stadia?
Stadia is an online streaming service that allows gamers to instantly access newest releases without consoles.This means that gamers can play anywhere. Only a screen, a Google Chrome browser, and a solid internet connection to Stadia’s cloud-based database of games are needed.
Despite that, the company does not consider Stadia a groundbreaking innovation in any way. Even Harrison says that it is not “particularly revolutionary”. The music, film, and television industries have moved from physical copies to exclusively online streaming before they do the same with gaming.
Google isn’t the first to venture into game streaming, either. One of Stadia’s predecessors is OnLive. It was announced in March 2009, a decade before Stadia, and released a year later. By 2012, OnLive was already needing a bailout from its parent company. Three years later, it was shut down forever.
OnLive is a cautionary tale about the great risks of game streaming. But with recent advancements in tech and internet access, and Google’s multi-billion capacity for better investments in research and development, Stadia seems a more promising endeavor than its forerunner. Harrison is optimistic that it will set a trend of exchanging consoles and physical games for an exclusively online streaming service.
The Stadia experience
Stadia’s streaming system differs from the likes of Netflix and Spotify. A subscription does not give gamers access to all the games it provides. They pay for certain games which they stream through a consolidated online system, just without expensive hardware.
And Stadia still requires a game controller. The Premiere Edition package includes Google’s custom made joypad in addition to a Chromecast Ultra.
To use Stadia, gamers have to set up an account through its mobile app. The only available scheme now is Stadia Pro. If you buy the Premier package, you get three months of free access, followed by a monthly subscription of £8.99. Another bundle, Stadia Base, will be released in 2020. It promises higher quality graphics and sound.
After registering, you have to sync your account and controller to the Chromecast Ultra on your Wi-Fi network. You can now access your account and game collection from anywhere you are online.
As of the release, 22 titles are available to access within the service, with more planned to come. Harrison enjoys playing Destiny 2 the most on the platform. But he says that gamers have to try AAA games such as Red Dead Redemption 2 to see the full extent of what Stadia is capable of. Even when playing the game on the phone, its graphics are excellent.
The ultimate goal of Stadia is changing the gaming experience “from being about a box in plastic underneath your TV”, in Harrison’s words. Google claims that it will be a simpler and cheaper way to play the newest games without having to purchase or update any complicated or pricey hardware.
It’s challenging the domination of the three gaming giants: Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation, and Nintendo. Having been key players in the industry, each has hordes of devoted, seasoned fans.
But Google is far from an unworthy contender. Being the second largest internet company, it has millions of users and a wealth of experience and knowledge in technology. Harrison adds that Stadia was carefully planned by his team upon almost 20 years’ worth of expertise gained from Google’s data center and innovations.
Will Stadia work?
Of course Stadia is not without its doubters. Not everyone is optimistic that the switch to online streaming will happen in the near future, particularly the other players in the industry.
“We’re early in this technology and we feel it will take many years before this technology becomes mainstream,” says the head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, in an interview. He believes that people will continue playing on consoles for a long time.
Stadia is launched on Tuesday, November 19, in 14 regions including the US, the UK, Canada. Whether it will really change the gaming industry or not, we’ll have plenty of time to see.