Google announces Stadia, its bold new game streaming service

Google has revealed its new game streaming service, named Stadia. It’ll launch in North America and Europe later this year – although there’s no word yet on pricing.

Google Stadia revealed

  • LIVE: Google’s keynote as it happened
  • Stadia specs: our first taste of next gen?
  • The big interview: Phil Harrison and Majd Bakar
  • Hands-on: streaming analysis and controller impressions
  • Google Stadia: Everything we know

The service is designed to combine the audiences of those who play games with those who watch them with YouTube, and Stadia will be built into Google’s video-streaming platform so you can be watching a video, click a link, and be within the game in seconds.

And it can all be played on a multitude of devices – on a laptop using the Chrome browser, on a TV via Chromecast, on a tablet or mobile phone.

The tech giant’s big gaming bid does not require a set-top box, and is designed to let you stream games at up to 4K and 60 frames-per-second quality, with future 8K support “inevitable”. Each “instance” of Stadia gameplay has 10.7 teraflops of power – more, Google says, than PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X combined.

As with any streaming service, you’ll be playing games without the need to install any data or download patches. Stadia runs games using Google’s own server hardware – so there’s no need for your device to do any of the legwork.

It is this technology which Google hopes will make Stadia a success where earlier streaming bids (hello, OnLive) failed. Google is certainly well positioned, with data centres already positioned around the globe and more than a decade of experience streaming video via YouTube.

The platform will be home to existing games – Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Doom Eternal were both shown running on the service. Developers will be given the option for cross-platform play, and the ability to bring over save options from other platforms.

Google also today announced Stadia Games and Entertainment, Google’s own first party game studio. As expected, it’s run by former Ubisoft and EA exec Jade Raymond, previously announced as having joined Google. What is it working on? Google isn’t yet ready to say.

And while these games will typically run on one Stadia “instance”, more could be added, Google said. This would easily enable splitscreen couch co-op without placing extra computing demands on your own gameplay performance.

Each game session can be treated like a “link” to allow others to watch, or jump in and join if it’s a multiplayer game.

Another feature is “State Share”, which allows Stadia users to point someone to their own version of the game to let them play with all your loot, if you so wished. Q-Games’ Dylan Cuthbert appeared on stage to confirm he was working on a game which uses the feature.

A similar idea, “Crowd Play”, lets you hop into games with YouTube “content creators”, if they fancy it.

Using the Stadia controller, you can move a game between devices instantaneously, and pick up where you left off. But you’ll also be able to use any USB controller on laptop or PC – Chrome already supports most of these already.

The Stadia’s two extra face buttons are for sharing content to YouTube and for Google Assistant, which will let you load games or multiplayer lobbies via voice commands instead of via UI.

Stadia’s other advantages? Since devices which run it are simply playing a video over Wi-Fi, your mobile/laptop battery will last longer. If using a Chromecast connected to a TV, you’ll simply be powering that rather than an additional beefy console.

It’s an impressive announcement from Google, one which will likely set the agenda for GDC this week, but we’re keen to hear specifics. We’ll have more very soon.

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