Google unveils Chrome-based gaming platform at GDC 2019

Google announces Stadia, new streaming platform
Image: Google

After years of teases, leaks, and wild guesses, Google unveiled its new Stadia game streaming platform on March 19 at the 2019 Games Developer Conference (GDC).

However, the official announcement of the platform that might herald the end of console gaming was notably sparse on details. The Silicon Valley giant didn’t reveal pricing, release date, or launch title information.

That said, the Stadia’s coming-out party did include information on the platform’s technical specifications, availability, and impressive support infrastructure. Indeed, Google’s presentation made it clear the company isn’t interested in being a niche player in the gaming industry.

It’s Controller without a Console

So, as expected there is no Google Stadia console, but there is a Stadia controller.

Featuring an Xbox-style form factor and button layout, the Wi-Fi controller also has unique dedicated buttons. By hitting the “capture” button, gamers will be able to livestream or record their gameplay footage directly to YouTube. Additionally, a Google Assistant button is there to help players if they get stuck in certain areas.

Notably, users won’t need to utilize the Stadia controller when gaming on the platform. Phil Harrison, a vice president and general manager for Google, confirmed the Stadia will be compatible with third-party USB and mouse-and-keyboard controllers.

Despite not being a necessity, gamers may want to pick up the Stadia controller all the same. The device can turn any Chrome-enabled machine into a gaming platform via its dedicated “play now” button.

Stadia is Available Wherever There’s a Wi-Fi or an Ethernet Connection

Google also announced that all the Stadia needs to play games is a Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection. Accordingly, the platform will reportedly allow gameplay to start, “in as quick as five seconds…with no download, no patch, no update, and no install.”

To back up that level of astounding connectivity, Google has established quite the network infrastructure for its gaming system. Ars Technica stated the Stadia’s resources will include 7,500 global edge nodes; custom-made hyperthreaded x86 central processing units running at 2.7 GHz; and a combined 16GB virtual and system RAM.

Most impressively, the Stadia’s bespoke AMD graphics processing units will allow it to harness 10.7 teraflops of power. What that means is Google’s platform will have the same processing capability as the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X combined.

As such, the Stadia will be able to run games at 4K resolution at 60 frames per second (fps) with a 25Mbps connection. Because the system is cloud-based, livestreamers can post their gameplay footage at that quality level regardless of what device they’re using.

To keep up with technical advances, Google plans for its system to support in 8K at 120fps in the future.

Unknown Title Selection and Future Announcements

On the subject of games, it is unknown which titles will be available for the Stadia at launch. After Google’s GDC keynote ended, attendees could play a demo of “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” on the system. Moreover, Google displayed the logo for the upcoming “Doom Eternal” game at the event.

Notably, Google will be entering the games development space with its new platform. Jade Raymond, a former executive with EA and Ubisoft, will serve as the head of Stadia Games and Entertainment. Raymond’s past credits include executive producing “Watch Dogs” and the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise.

Notably, Google executives also expressed an interest in offering cross-platform support for its titles. “Assassins Creed Odyssey” is available on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Similarly, “Doom Eternal,” scheduled for release this year, will be available on those same platforms as well as the Nintendo Switch.

Lastly, Google revealed the Stadia will be available this year in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe. The company also noted more information about its gaming system is coming this summer. As the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo takes place in June, more Stadia details will likely be unveiled there.

What Happens Next?

Currently, Chrome is the browser of choice for 49 percent of the United States and 59 percent of global internet users. With that kind of reach, Google could potentially convert billions of people into Stadia players. If that happens, Microsoft and Sony’s games divisions become the new Bing and Edge.

However, the system’s positioning as a AAA console competitor means the corporation will have to live up to its performance promises. If latency issues and server crashes mar its launch, the Stadia could be the next Virtual Boy.

Right now, the only thing for sure is the future of the gaming industry just got a lot more interesting.