Google just made a seriously dramatic entrance into the gaming industry, finally revealing the Google Stadia (opens in new tab) streaming service at GDC in San Francisco. It will launch in 2019 in the US, Canada, UK and "most of Europe." It means massive blockbuster games that you can stream in 4k, 60fps on any device, even your phone, but is it going to replace your PS4 or Xbox One?
What we saw during the demo was impressive. An Assassin's Creed Odyssey (opens in new tab) video, now with a Play Now video. Once that was pressed, the game was running on the same device in less than five seconds. Googler 'Khaled' then swapped from phone to laptop to PC to TV with no interruption, the same game just kept going smooth as a buttered otter.
"Stadia is a new video game platform, delivering instant access to your favorite games on any type of screen—whether it’s a TV, laptop, desktop, tablet or mobile phone," said (opens in new tab) general manager (and ex PlayStation boss) Phil Harrison. "Our goal is to make those games available in resolutions up to 4K and 60 frames per second with HDR and surround sound. We’ll be launching later this year in select countries including the U.S., Canada, U.K. and much of Europe."
Google Stadia controller
The technology works with any controller, but there's also a new Stadia controller that - naturally - has a microphone and Google Assistant built in. It also connects through WiFi directly to the game, and knows what device you're playing on. This electric witchcraft comes in three colors, black white and minty green.
"When we designed the Stadia controller, we listened to gamers about what they wanted in a controller," said Harrison. "First, we made sure to develop a direct connection from Stadia controller to our data center through WiFi for the best possible gaming performance. The controller also includes a button for instant capture, saving and sharing gameplay in up to 4K of stunning resolution."
Google Stadia games
We got to see Assassin's Creed Odyssey in action, and more excitingly, Doom: Eternal (opens in new tab). Id Software producer Marty Stratton took to the GDC stage to reveal that it only took a few weeks to get the game working on Stadia, and that it would run at 4K with HDR and at 60 frames per second. Nurse, my fainting couch!
Of course, getting that sweet 4K is going to depend a lot on the internet speeds you can afford. Notably, the official Stadia store site (opens in new tab) says "4K HDR at 60 FPS are dependent on your bandwidth. Gameplay experience may vary based on quality of internet connection."
Google also announced its own first party game studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment. Jade Raymond, a familiar face for Ubisoft fans, will run it as studio head. "We are committed to going down the bold path," she told GDC.
"If you look at the games industry today, it’s very fragmented," Harrison told Fortune. "You’ve got people playing on mobile, on PCs, on consoles. I would love for Stadia to unify the screens, so that developers have a bigger audience to create for and gamers have the absolute best quality experience as they play and a seamless link to share what they play and what they stream with their friends."
As cloud gaming rewrites the rules, the war for next-gen supremacy will be fought across data, services, exclusives and faux friendships. Read our feature on 10 key battles that will define the future of gaming (opens in new tab).