14 August 2019

    Drew Hook

    Google Stadia explained

    If Google's cloud gaming service, Stadia, delivers on its promises, the need for expensive gaming equipment may soon become a thing of the past.

    Stadia in brief

    What is Google Stadia? Google's big move into gaming – a 'Netflix for gaming' streaming service that's a true console competitor. One to rival (and potentially lead) the next generation of gameplay.

    When does it launch? At some point in November 2019, with launch territories including the USA, Canada and UK. Unfortunately, there is no release date for South Africa yet. 

    How much will it cost? US$9.99 / £8.99 per month for full 4K HDR streaming via Stadia Pro, or you can purchase games with Stadia Base.

    The Netflix of gaming

    Since the early 00s the video game market has been dominated by the 'big three' console developers – Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo – to such an extent that gaming development cycles are often measured by the release of the latest version of each developer's console. The downside of this is that if you own a single console, like an Xbox, you miss out on exclusive titles for other consoles (such as 'Bloodborne' for PS4 and 'Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild' for Nintendo Switch). But all this may soon change, as Google has recently stepped into the gaming market with the announcement of their cloud-based, gaming platform, Google Stadia.

    The streaming platform announced at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco aims to stream high-quality games, which have traditionally been played on video game consoles and PCs. Stadia will be fully integrated with YouTube, also owned by Google. Because Stadia is built around the cloud, gamers can instantly access titles without the need for a physical disc. Think Netflix, but for games. Google says gamers can boot up the game of their choice in as little as five seconds. When Stadia becomes available, Google says the service will stream games up to 4K and 60 frames per second with HDR and surround sound. In the future, Stadia may even support 8K streaming.

    The potential benefits of a service like this are that you no longer have to worry about owning the latest console or most expensive hardware to play the game of your choice. Because Stadia works through the cloud, you simply stream the game of choice in the same way you would a movie or series from Netflix or Showmax. However, Stadia differs slightly from these streaming services in that, while paying for a subscription for Stadia, you will still need to purchase the games that you want to play (you just won't own a physical copy of your purchase as it will live in the cloud).

    The ever-growing library of Google Stadia games is looking impressive, especially considering that you don't need a console or powerful PC to enjoy these titles. The Stadia Connect presentation on 6 June even threw in a handful of world-first reveals, including Baldurs Gate 3, from the studio that brought you the Divinity: Original Sin series, and Gylt, an intriguing Lovecraftian horror game from the makers of Rime. Here is a selection of confirmed games coming to Google Stadia, with more on the way. (Although they didn't have anything to show just yet, Capcom, EA and Rockstar are also coming to Stadia in some capacity.)

    • Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
    • Doom Eternal
    • Wolfenstein: Youngblood
    • Destiny 2
    • Gylt
    • Baldur's Gate 3
    • Metro Exodus
    • Football Manager 2020
    • The Elder Scrolls Online

    Controlling the action

    According to Google, Stadia will support a number of different controllers at its launch, including the Xbox and PS4 versions. Gamers will also be able to use a keyboard and mouse for more precise control.

    Additionally, Google is launching its own controller that features deeper integration with Stadia. While the design of the controller sticks close to tradition, it does come with two additional buttons with extra Stadia functionality. One button is for Google Assistant, in case you need help during a particularly challenging puzzle. The other button is for sharing content on YouTube. Users will have control over how their clips are shared, whether it be private or among select friends. The controller can also directly connect to Stadia through wifi for the best possible gaming performance. When the Stadia controller launches, it'll be available in white, black, and aqua, similar to the company's Pixel smartphone lineup.

    Controller specs

    • Wifi: Dual-band (2.4GHz/5GHz) IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac connectivity
    • Bluetooth: Bluetooth Low Energy 4.2 (BLE)
    • Headset jack: 3.5mm headset jack for headsets with or without a microphone
    • USB: USB-C port for charging, wired gameplay, and accessories such as USB-C headsets. HID-compliant
    • Weight: 268g
    • Dimensions: 163x105x65mm
    • Google Assistant: Google Assistant button to trigger microphone
    • Capture button: Quick access to image and video capture
    • Battery: Internal rechargeable Li-Ion battery

    Broadcasting to the world 

    Stadia has also been designed to bring YouTube creators and audiences together. Say your favourite content creator is playing NBA 2K19. With a new feature called Crowd Play, you can request to play with or against them at the press of a button. If you're an aspiring content creator, Stadia will make it really easy to capture content, create highlights and Livestream gameplay, with no extra capture cards or complicated setup. Finally, users will be able to access Google Assistant to watch YouTube videos while playing a game. Say, for example, you can't figure out the solution to a puzzle, just ask Assistant for help and it will find a YouTube video with the answer.

    Stadia will launch at some point in November 2019 throughout the US and UK.

    Drew Hook