Will the live service work in a region like ours?
Everyone and their grandmother’s uncle is getting into the video games scene nowadays. No longer being the outcast sitting at the corner staring at a wall, video games are now en vogue. The talk of the town. Everyone’s best friend.
So it came as no surprise when Google last week unveiled their plans of being more active in the gaming realm with the unveiling of Google Stadia; their very own video game streaming service which, theoretically, negates the need to own a gaming console, nor a high-end gaming computer to play your favourite titles. This, my friend, is Google’s attempt at disrupting the gaming-sphere and we have huge doubts over it.
Unveiled during a special presentation at GDC 2019, the Stadia removes hardware limitations which makes gaming much more accessible. If all goes according to plan, no longer are players stymied by the processing power of their devices when it comes to playing games. All they need is a stable internet connection and they are well on their way to play to their heart’s desire.
This is akin to instead of saving money to own that car, you decided to travel on Uber Black for your daily commute. Sounds cool on paper, but once you look into it from a dedicated user’s perspective, you’ll see so many loopholes, it’ll put the script of Captain Marvel to shame.
Google Stadia In A Nutshell
Imagine Netflix and Spotify, but a step further in terms of complexity of interaction.
Google’s pitch was that it doesn’t matter if you only have a Mac Air; with the Stadia, you’d be able to play the latest Triple A games on it, using any gaming control of your choice merely seconds after seeing it on YouTube, for example. The stage demo shows off seamless transition between seeing it online, clicking on a link button and voila.
You’re suddenly playing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on whatever potato machine you are on, so long as you have stable internet.
From the game dev’s perspective, in a perfect living setting, the Stadia does sound enticing. Google Vice President Phil Harrison plans to turn Stadia into a hub, to bring developers, players, and creators together into one platform. To make this a reality, Google aims to utilise its huge data centres to stream the data with little to no lag.
Despite not offering any physical representation of the service, Google claims that the Stadia to be more powerful than present-gen gaming consoles including the PS4 and Xbox One, as shown below. A bold statement, of course, but we are at the end-cycle of these home gaming consoles.
By the time Stadia is available worldwide, we would probably be playing on those home consoles’ successors.
While these numbers are mostly for developers, they are good indications of the quality that Google sought to deliver. Always aim high, right?
At launch, Google claims that the Stadia will stream games up to 4k with 60fps, with the capability of scaling up to stream at 8k with 120+ fps. However, Google did not state what internet speeds are needed to run Stadia optimally. We kind of know why.
That’s a lot to offer but have they considered the technology required to pull off this stunt?
Of Data Caps & Lag
At present, home consoles and PCs require localized installation into devices in order to run games and programs effectively and Google’s attempt to solely rely on the cloud in lieu of this does raise some eyebrows.
Taking into account external factors and inconsistent internet services throughout the world, we wonder how viable this idea is for the masses, and whether it’ll remain in concept for a considerable future. Phil Harrison told Kotaku that Google recommends that players would require at least a 25Mbps connection to properly maintain a stream at 1080p, 60 frames-per-second.
While it seems forgiving at first glance, don’t they realize that most normal folks have data caps? Using 25Mbps constantly for an hour equals to about 90Gigabits worth of usage; that’s about 11 Gigabytes. Yikes.
It gets worse. The input lag is going to be off the charts and while Stadia may focus on single-player games which are more forgiving at first, we are definitely a few years off from seeing competitive titles operating on it. Even so, titles which don’t require lightning-quick reactions, like a Telltale Game or a David Cage game, will suffer from input lag.
You know why? Quick Time Events. So expect to face such issues when playing your Assassin’s Creed, God of War and Dark Souls games. It’s just gonna be godawful. And I haven’t even brought up fighting games which require precise inputs from the player to pull off game-winning combo strings and execution.
Nothing New Here
Google’s Stadia isn’t a novel idea either. PlayStation’s Play Now feature has been in the market for yonks. Ever wondered why no one talks about them? What about Steam Link? Same case. Infrastructure-wise, we are not ready.
Let’s just scale it down. Ever tried streaming GTA V from your living room’s PS4 to your PS Vita? It was a mess. Unless Google themselves implements a worldwide setup of fibre landlines for this project (which we highly doubt) or local ISPs commit to providing the best connectivity possible (LOL!), Stadia is nothing more than a pipe dream.
The most disheartening takeaway from the presentation was the self-inflicted limitation when it comes to the Stadia’s release. The Stadia is set for early release in selected markets, mainly North America and Europe this year. In a time where inclusivity and not leaving anyone out is the main selling point for video games, this is a dick move, Google.
The last time a gaming brand decided to put Asia second in its market focus, they folded pretty bad. We are looking at you, Microsoft and Xbox.
Crossing The Streams
The successful introduction of Google Stadia will not only change how games are enjoyed and sold, but it will also reinvent how publishers and developers market their products.
Despite all the skepticism surrounding the Stadia, we are hopeful that Google would be able to pull this seemingly absurd idea off the ground sooner rather than later. As cautious we are on its real-life implementation, we are also optimistic that a workaround is in the works, and the possibility of integrating esports and gaming into the picture is definitely in the mix.