Google is launching its Stadia gaming cloud service at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco today. Google CEO Sundar Pichai introduced the Stadia service during a special keynote at the GDC this morning.
Describing it as a platform for everyone, Pichai spoke of Google's ambitions to broadcast games on all kinds of devices. Stadia will stream games from the cloud to the Chrome browser, Chromecast and Pixel devices. It will be launched in 2019 in the US, Canada, the UK and Europe.
Phil Harrison, a former Sony and Microsoft executive, joined Pichai on stage to unveil Stadia completely in his role at Google. Harrison says that Google amplifies this game streaming service using YouTube and the numerous creators who already create game clips on the service. Google has previously tested this service as Project Stream in recent months, allowing Chrome users to stream games in their browser. Assassin's Creed Odyssey was the first and only game to be publicly tested using Google's service and public testing ended in January.
Of course, Google won't limit Stadia to a single game. Google has demonstrated a new feature on YouTube that lets you view a game clip from a creator and then press "play now" to stream the title immediately. "Stadia gives you instant access to the game," Harrison says, without the need to download or install any games. At launch, games will be streamed on laptops, desktops, TVs, tablets and phones.
Google has proven to move gameplay from a phone to a tablet and then to a TV, all using Google-based devices. While existing USB controllers will run on a laptop or PC, Google is also launching a new Stadia controller that will powered the game's streaming service. It looks like a cross between an Xbox and PS4 controller and will work with the Stadia service by connecting directly over Wi-Fi to connect it to a gaming session in the cloud. This will presumably help with latency and moving a game from one device to another. You can also use a button to capture and share clips directly to YouTube, or use another button to sign in to your Google Assistant.
To power all this cloud streaming, Google is leveraging its global data center infrastructure to ensure that servers are as close as possible to players around the world. This is a key part of Stadia, as lower latency is a necessity to effectively broadcast games over the Internet. Google says it expects to support up to 4K to 60 fps at startup via an Internet connection with about 30 Mbps bandwidth and plans to support resolutions of up to 8K and 120 fps in the future.
Service computing power
Google works with AMD to create a custom GPU for its datacenters. It's a chip that google says will provide 10.7 teraflops of power, which is more than the 4.2 teraflops of the PS4 Pro and the 6 power teraflops on Xbox One X. Each instance of Stadia will also be powered by a custom 2.7 GHz x86 processor with 16 GB of RAM.
One of the first games to be launched on Google's Stadia service will be Doom Eternal, which will support 4K resolution, HDR and 60 fps. Doom Eternal doesn't have a precise launch date yet, but it will also be available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One. Stadia will also embrace the cross-platform game, so developers can enable cross-platform multiplayer, saving and game progression.
Focusing on developers, Google has also unveiled an impressive way for game developers to apply their design style to titles on Stadia. It's a machine learning style transfer tool that developers can use to simply release an image into the video frames of games and have it mimic the style. Google also uses something called State Share to allow players to easily share moments, so that you can even share an exact link to a part of a game, changing the way games are generally Shared. Q-Games founder Dylan Cuthbert is even building an entire game around this new state-sharing feature.
Sharing clips on YouTube
YouTube is a giant part of Stadia and Google seems to be relying on it to push players to its cloud service. More than 50 billion hours of in-game content were watched on YouTube during 2018, so Google is allowing Stadia users to highlight, capture and share directly to YouTube or even allow viewers to play together with the creators. A Crowd Play feature from Stadia is designed to facilitate this, and includes a lobby system to get you paired with YouTube content creators.
Google is even creating its own gaming studio for exclusive titles from Stadia, Stadia Games and Entertainment. Jade Raymond, who recently joined Google as vice president, is leading Google's push toward its own games. Raymond is an industry veteran who has previously worked at Sony, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. Google says more than 100 studios already have development kits for Stadia, and more than 1,000 creators and engineers are already working on titles that will work in the service.
While Google unveiled Stadia today, it did not provide details on when the service will be available in 2019. Google has not revealed the prices or even how many games the service will have at launch, but promises more details in the summer.
Google will of course face competition from a number of rivals that typically associate with gaming and gaming services. Microsoft is planning its own xCloud game streaming service, which it has demonstrated recently, with public trials to begin later this year. Amazon also seems to be preparing a similar service, and both Nvidia and Sony are already streaming games over the Internet. Valve is also expanding its Steam Link game streaming feature to allow you to stream your Steam games from a PC to anywhere through Steam Link hardware or the Steam Link app.