What Google Stadia could do to the gaming industry [Update: Stadia release date added]

Google Stadia is an ambitious attempt by the search giant to disrupt the gaming industry by introducing us to cloud-based gaming. This is not an entirely new concept. NVIDIA has already attempted something similar with NVIDIA GRID.

So what is cloud-based gaming?

Google Statia cloud-based gaming
Google Stadia cloud-gaming Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Cloud-based gaming means that the heavy processing is done in the cloud. Rather than needing a high-end processor and the latest graphics card, all you need is a device with an Internet connection.

The cloud-based server does all the calculations, renders the graphics and sends the next frame to be displayed back to your gaming device. This means that even if you only have a relatively low-end smartphone, you can still enjoy high-end gaming.

Serious gamers don’t like cloud-based gaming because cloud-based means latency, and latency affects gameplay. But Majd Bakar, head of engineering at Stadia, claims that latency won’t be an issue. In fact, Google claims that negative latency will be possible.

Negative latency?!

Latency isn’t a problem for casual gamers. It’s basically the time it takes for your gaming device to recognise that you’ve pressed a button, decide what that button press means, render the next frame and display it. For most people, latency doesn’t matter.

For serious gamers, though, it’s a major problem. It’s the difference between being shot or surviving. It’s the difference between getting your racing car around a corner or spinning off.

In theory, latency is unavoidable. It will take time for your gaming device to process your input and if that processing is taking place in a cloud-based server, the time it takes to send the information to the server and then get the output from that server back will also have to be taken into account.

So Google’s claim that negative latency will be possible sounds like sorcery. But maybe it isn’t. It looks like Google will be using Artificial Intelligence to predict gamers’ intentions so it can deliver the next frame before the gamer has even made their move.

Multiplayer

Google Stadia multiplayer gaming
Stadia Cloud Gaming Gamescom Cologne 2019 Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Currently there is a limit in terms of how many players can compete. That limit is 64 players. Any more than that and it’s difficult to keep everything in sync.

Google Stadia removes that limit. In an interview with Edge Magazine, Stadia’s Jade Raymond, vice president of content at Stadia, says that they’re experimenting with games where thousands of players are playing simultaneously.

How could Google Stadia affect console manufacturers?

If Google can get Google Stadia accepted as a mainstream gaming platform, it could mean that the PlayStation and Xbox are irrelevant.

Anything with a Chrome browser will be capable of delivering lightning-fast, latency-free gaming so upgrading to the latest game console will become pointless.

Cross-platform gaming

The other area where Google Stadia could make a huge impact is cross-platform gaming.

Microsoft has been allowing people to play Xbox games on Windows 10 devices and recently Sony and Microsoft have announced that they will be rolling out cross-platform play so people on the PlayStation Network and people on Xbox Live can play together online.

That’s limited to those consoles, though. What Google is proposing is something that’ll be a truly cross-platform gaming experience. We’re not talking about compatibility between game consoles here. We’re talking about being able to play against people online no matter what device you’re using.

A new controller

Google Stadia controller
Google Stadia controller Photo: Marco Verch via Flickr

Google has also designed a new controller for Google Stadia players to use. This connects players directly to Google for optimal gaming performance.

The Google Stadia controller also has a built-in microphone and a button for instant capture, saving and sharing of gameplay, as well as a button for instant access to Google Assistant.

Update: At Google’s annual ‘Made by Google’ event that was held 16th October, the release date of the game streaming service was announced as November 19th.
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