After months of rumors, and brief test run called Project Stream, Google's game streaming service is now official, and officially called Stadia. It lets players stream games from the cloud to phones, computers, and TV screens (via Chromecast dongles), turning almost any device into a console.
In much the same way that you might stream a Spotify playlist or a Netflix movie to your web browser, Google Stadia is going to do the same with games. As internet speeds around the world improve, it looks like this is the long term future of gaming, and Microsoft has a very similar service in the pipeline too.
A lot of key details about Stadia – including when it'll actually go live – haven't yet been announced, but we do know that streams will be up to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, and offer HDR support as well.
Tight integration with YouTube means that gamers will be able to instantly jump into a game they're watching a walkthrough of, and even get in line to play alongside or against content creators on the platform.
Stadia is going to feature a special sharing feature called State Share, which enables gamers to link to a specific point in a game – a specific position, at a specific time, with a specific set of items and so on. That means friends could all take on the same challenge at the same point in the game, for instance.
Google Assistant is going to be built right in too, and Google has shown how it can be used to bring up walkthroughs for a particular level or challenge, right inside the game.
Another neat feature we've already seen demoed is the way different art styles can be applied to a game world in real time. The trick leverages Google's advanced artificial intelligence engines, and can transform the world you're in while you're playing.
There are plenty of benefits to streaming games: you don't need a particularly powerful (or expensive) device at home, for example, and it means jumping between devices and carrying on gaming where you left off should be straightforward too. There's no need to wait for downloads or apply updates, as all the heavy lifting is done in the cloud.
There are some big question marks as well though – like the kind of internet connection speed you'll need for this to work (Google hasn't said yet), and the issue of latency between a button press and a subsequent action on screen.
Google is attempting to mitigate that latency issue with its own controller for Stadia, which connects directly to Google's servers rather than the device you're playing on. That should mean a gaming experience that's responsive enough to work.
Google hasn't said anything about how much a Stadia subscription will cost, and has also been tight-lipped about which games will be available on it – though we do know Google is launching its own in-house development studio to work on some Stadia exclusives.
While we don't have an official launch date yet, Google says Stadia is on the way sometime in 2019, with the US, Canada, the UK and Europe the first in line. You can register your interest now on the Stadia website.
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