Game developers and tech companies have been scrambling to reveal their own definitive version of a game streaming service, to obtain the ever-so-unofficial ‘Netflix of gaming” accolade.
Now, at the Game Developers’ Conference 2019 (GDC) in San Francisco, Google has revealed to the world its own version of this premise: The Google Stadia.
The selling point? You won’t need an expensive console or high-tier PC to run any games – it’s all done through the cloud.
Let us explain.
Not so much game streaming as it is cloud gaming – How does it work?
As CNET notes, the term cloud gaming might be more appropriate in Stadia’s instance. How game streaming has been marketed involves the use of the internet to stream video game footage generated on centralized servers, of which you have direct control.
In Stadia’s model, Google’s servers will act as the console/PC, running the game itself, and instead of an HDMI cable to your TV, they will transmit the video output across the net, and to your device.
Then, you relay input actions back to the server using a keyboard and mouse, or using the Stadia controller, connected to your device of choice, and back through the net and to Google servers. Your input would now command the game, alter the gameplay, and Google servers would then process this and relay it back to your screen.
It’s quite the complex process, and naturally, it requires a super-fast internet connection speed, as well as these Google servers being installed in a region close to where you live. For the GCC, servers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia would provide access to users in the Gulf region, for example.
Google is pushing the fact that you will be able to run complex games on low-tier devices, across TVs, low-end PCs, tablets, and even phones. At the show yesterday, Google showed off a triple-A, high fidelity video game in its demo – Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Currently, you need a PlayStation 4, Xbox One or a gaming PC to run this title. During the demo, the audience was shown brief gameplay, but there was nary any lag or blatant latency issues.
The catch, however…
Sure, Google is boasting about allowing you to play games in 4K at 60 frames per second (fps), but how fast of a connection speed would you need to play at this high image fidelity without any latency issues?
Google has yet to give a reply, but the short answer is: A LOT. Based on media outlets’ estimates, such as Eurogamer’s and Digital Foundry’s, an estimated 25 Mbps connection should be considered a minimum requirement, at least for 1080p 60fps streaming.
For us folks living in the Middle East, we know this is a definite no-go. According to internet comparison site Cable, the global average internet speed is 9.1Mbps. In the UAE, that figure drops to 4.35 Mbps. Saudi Arabia clocks in at 4.09 Mbps. Lebanon, on the other hand, makes the 1.6 Mbps mark.
But in the US, it’s – lo and behold – 25.86 Mbps. No surprises then why speed requirement estimates for the Stadia have hovered around this number.
Internet notwithstanding, Google put the nail in the coffin for the MENA region when it specified the service releasing this year in the US, Canada, UK, and parts of Europe only. Even if it were to make it here, only the most premium of internet subscriptions would afford a MENA user the lowest visual specs on offer.
Take it with a grain of salt
There’s a lot we still don’t know about the Stadia, but it’s safe to say that Google has definitely rattled the market. Sony’s stock dropped 4.37% following the announcement, while Nintendo’s dropped 4.1%.
It is also wiser to wait for extended hands-on reviews of the Stadia before we draw conclusions. The service might have run smoothly on GDC’s most-likely ultra-fast internet speed, but in the average household? Most probably not.
Also, we have yet to learn about the pricing model for the service, and how users would go about buying games on the service and such.
It’s worthy of note that Google is by no means the first to this party. Sony, for example, launched its streaming service PlayStation Now in 2014. The reason people are excited now is because Google has a massive, near endless amount of resources and data at its disposal. The company could truly herald a complete makeover to the way we play, buy and generally interact with our games.
At the moment, we’re gonna have to wait for more information to trickle through.