professional headshot of Joey Gauthier Joey Gauthier 03/19/2019

Google's Stadia gaming service leaves me feeling conflicted. My "techie" side loves it while my "collector" side is less than impressed!

After weeks of rumors, gaming YouTubers covering the Google game controller patent and artist renders, and way too much speculation, Google finally unveiled their entry into the gaming world during the keynote at the 2019 GDC today. Is it a console? Is it a streaming box? Nope. It’s a cloud-based gaming platform that can stream games to even the most underpowered device as long as it has a good internet connection.

What is Stadia?

logo for Google's Stadia cloud-based gaming service

According to Google, their new gaming service, Stadia, can stream modern AAA titles to any device at 60fps and 4k. There was even a mention by Majd Bakar, Google’s VP of engineering, that it will support 8k at 120fps in the future. The presentation included an interesting demo of a gamer playing Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey where the gamer seamlessly switched between a Chromebook, Pixel phone, desktop, tablet, and a Chromecast without interruption of game play. This was made possible by Google’s new hardware offering, the Stadia Controller, makes this all possible and validates the hype leading up to today surrounding a Google patent for a gaming controller.

The Stadia Controller is a wifi controller that connects directly to Google’s data centers eliminating lag. It was said that owning the controller was not necessary as standard USB controllers will work, but the Stadia Controller allows for the seamless switching between devices and has its own feature set including a capture button for social network sharing and a Google Assistant button. As of now, there is no word on the availability or price of the controller. You can see images of the new controller by searching Google for Stadia Controller as there are curerntly no images available for me to post with proper usage rights.

Google touted that they have 7500+ edge node locations placed all over the world allowing a player to connect to a reasonably local which will provide faster connection speeds with lower latency. All you really need to use the service is a connected device and decent internet speeds from your ISP.

The platform looks promising as it serves as a way to lower the entry point for people to access AAA games. There is yet to be word on the cost of the service, how you will access your games, or when the service will go live except for a broad “2019” release.

So What Do I Think About Stadia?

Stadia seems like it will probably deliver on its mission to lower the entry point to playing AAA games. The idea of playing a game on any connected device is an interesting one as it allows for someone to play anywhere they have wifi without a need for lugging around a dedicated gaming device.

The game collector in me is not really that interested in this service. There is no hardware to put onto my entertainment center or games with stylish cases and box art to stick onto my shelves. I’ve feared for a while that digital downloads would replace physical copies of games, but Stadia takes this even further as you won’t even have a local digital copy. There is literally nothing to collect other than a controller that resembles every other modern gaming controller on the market today.

On the other hand, the gamer in me is somewhat interested. Being I already own every handheld Nintendo has released including the Nintendo Switch, a Sony PSP, and a phone I always have in my pocket, I don’t see too much of a need for this service in my life. Still, the techie in me appreciates the insane technology and engineering it took to build Stadia and will probably consider the service as long as it doesn’t cost too much.

For me, it is somewhat bittersweet. I've long thought this was the direction gaming would inevitably end up going, but my love for hardware and physical copies is left unsatisfied. I hope we get at least one more console utilizing physical media from both Sony and Microsoft in the near future before all of gaming is done strictly through digital downloads and streaming. Fingers crossed!

What are your first impressions of Stadia? Leave a comment below!

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