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The future of gaming is one of the most popular topics at the moment. With the rise of VR, AR and streaming technology as well as the fact that the PS4 and XBox One are reaching the end of their life cycles the future is close but what does it look like? The Stadia if Google has anything to say about it. But how will the Stadia work? Are its lofty ambitions attainable? Just who is this upcoming streaming service for?
First, the facts. The Google Stadia is not a console or even a simple marketplace like Steam. It’s a kind of gaming hub where players can access games from the cloud. It comes with a controller and is playable only via Chrome, Chromecast and iOS. It will be the first gaming service to blur the line between streaming and playing as players will be able to launch the games they’re watching on Twitch and jump in to play with their favourite streamers. Google has promised that devices will be able to run games at 1080p or 4K at 60fps provided the player has the recommended internet connection of 25 Mbps.
Here’s where the first problems start to appear. Who has an internet connection of 25 Mbps? Either the very rich or the very well connected. If the Average Joe wants to stream their games as they were meant to be played they’ll need to jack into their local Google data centre which are often located in major cities. It’s easy to see how those living in rural areas or those with poor connectivity will suffer. And as for places outside of North America, Japan and Western Europe? Forget it.
Google are promising a lot and if any company have the capability to run games on the go at industry standards it’s Google. The Stadia will require a constant internet connection to play and the incoming 5G internet will help somewhat with this. We’re at a stage where we’ve barely got always online games like The Division or Destiny to work properly. Google is asking a lot of its servers to be able to stream games anywhere. Not to mention how streaming games will eat into data limits like termites into wood.
At the Stadia announcement on Tuesday 19 March Google showed very few games. They promised to show more during the summer – possibly at E3 – but so far DOOM Eternal isn’t enough to convince me that the Stadia and the internet in general can handle game streaming at the moment. Judging by how the PS4 and XBox One streaming services have gone so far streaming games at an acceptable frame rate and image quality is still a long way away.
The Stadia may be the future of gaming but if it is then it is likely a broken future. If gaming companies want everyone to be streaming games within the next decade or so then the Stadia is as good a start as any but it’s one that – I bet – will fall far short of many people’s expectations for Google’s entrance onto the world gaming stage.