In the past few months, global technology giant Google has teased its entry into the gaming industry, leaving many questioning the viability of a fourth gaming platform. For some time now, cloud gaming rumors have been floating around, thus pointing to the future of home entertainment. However, current technology has always remained a roadblock to this reality. This is not to say the technology does not exist, rather, its barrier to entry and survival lies within the home of the average consumer. Google aims to resolve all of these issues with its newly announced Stadia: a streaming service set to surpass the competition by allowing for a new and more efficient way to play.
Although Microsoft believes cloud gaming will be the future of the industry, Google seeks to make that future a modern reality. By using its proprietary groundbreaking technology, Google believes it has resolved most issues plaguing the ideology by carrying the burden on themselves. The specifications that Stadia is marketing will easily surpass current console hardware and seriously rival the top of the line, luxury PC graphics cards. Perhaps what is most impressive, however, is that Google aims to have the consumer experience all of this tech with minimal barriers to entry.
According to Google, Stadia will usher in a new age of gaming; one that requires less from the consumer, while rewarding them with more. During its reveal, Stadia was advertised as being able to stream games in 4K at 60 frames per second all with HDR enabled. These claims provide some of the highest fidelity within the industry to most consumers, and all that Google requires to do this is a stable internet connection of no more than 30 Mbps.
Right out of the gate, Google seeks to solve the main issue plaguing cloud gaming by carrying the primary work load on its end, and simply feeding the results to consumer hardware. Due to this design, Google guarantees the experience will be of high quality thanks to the 10.7 teraflops the server-end hardware equates to. To provide a better understanding of how powerful Google is proclaiming this service is, the PS4 Pro possesses around four teraflops and the Xbox One X around six.
Computing power aside, another issue residing within the ideology surrounding cloud gaming is controller and input latency. Once again, Google believes that it has found a solution in the Stadia controller. To avoid input latency, Google’s controller is connected directly to the data center, which establishes a stronger link than if it were connected to hardware first. Additionally, the gamepad will also possess a Google Assistant button, which can provide aid for gaming related questions, such as tips and walkthroughs.
Although Stadia’s technology is an impressive feat, Google desires to reshape the industry in more ways than just specifications. Beyond dispute is the fact that the gaming industry has evolved over recent years to be as much of a spectacle as it is a hobby. YouTube has provided a platform for individuals to showcase their talents and create a name for themselves within the industry as influencers or game changers. Through Stadia, Google aims to bring content creators, and those who consume it closer together. By providing a link under a video on YouTube, content creators can encourage viewers to join their game.
As previously stated, cloud gaming is the future of the industry, and technology is rapidly approaching that goal. Furthermore, if one company is to successfully implement cloud gaming, it is Google. The company’s financial security blanket and technological prowess will allow it to take a leap of faith on the subject of cloud gaming and survive whether it is successful or not.
On paper, Google’s streaming service sounds truly groundbreaking and capable of creating a greater next generation gaming experience than anticipated from Sony and Microsoft. By having gaming tech overlaid on YouTube, consumers will be able to seamlessly jump into an experience that they were only watching moments prior. This effect is achieved by feeding the visual aspect of the experience directly to the consumer web browser without having to run any hardware and deal with the drawbacks of aging technology.
The problem stemming from this dream-to-reality experience resides in consistency and usability. The success of Stadia does not rely on Google’s ability to deliver on its promises of powerful specifications and performance; rather, its success relies on factors that cannot necessarily be controlled by Google once the technology is out in the wild.
Even though Google’s barrier to entry for this service is reasonably low, it does not account for ISP practices that seek to disrupt the flow of connection and service to consumers. An argument can be made that if a consumer purchases a slow internet package, then they are doing so out of choice or necessity. This argument, along with Google’s success story becomes weak when held against instances where stable connection is out of consumer control.
Therefore, promising a groundbreaking experience such as Stadia falters when another factor is added into the equation: it is no longer consumer and product, but now consumer, overseer, and product. On typical gaming hardware, once the product is purchased the consumer has free reign as to how much they can consume at a single time. By converting to streaming, the consumer can only appreciate the product so long as the stability of their internet remains in their favour.
Given the tech outlined during the Stadia reveal, consumers throughout the gaming industry should feel excited and optimistic towards the future that is swiftly approaching. Google has provided an alternative to conventional gaming by using its own hardware instead of requiring the consumer to continuously purchase a new one. This shift will likely shake up the industry and encourage platform holders to innovate and adapt going forward, at the risk of falling behind in the race.
In contrast to this, however, consumers need to educate themselves on the reasons why cloud gaming has not found success despite numerous attempts. Google’s advances toward alleviating the issues of latency and streaming quality found in every attempt prior will no doubt find them success. Even so, the modern age has yet to adopt the consistent internet connections the Stadia needs. If YouTube needs to buffer for one minute to play a 30 second advertisement, then how long will the buffer be for a two-hour gaming session?
These discrepancies are only based off the reveal of Stadia and could change by the time a full release comes around. Regardless of Google’s advancements toward making cloud gaming a viable option, the cautious optimism presented here is warranted by the variability surrounding user experiences. Google assures Stadia will launch some time during 2019, and consumers can expect more news surrounding its tech and studio support going forward.
If one thing is to be taken away from Google’s presentation, it is that the company has done everything in its power to ensure that Stadia, and cloud gaming for that matter, are successful on its end – and any negativity that awaits a cloud gaming future is solely that of the consumers.