On Tuesday, Google unveiled its new video game streaming platform, Google Stadia. The tech behemoth stepping into the fairly new cloud gaming ring is certainly a big deal, but the effects it will have on YouTube’s ecosystem may be just as big.
With the Stadia announcement, Google revealed heavy YouTube integrations with the gaming platform. Cloud gaming services Google’s gaming platform, but they didn’t have the help of a massively popular video platform — nor did they exist at a time when internet speeds could handle video game streaming.
Google’s first entry into the world of mainstream gaming certainly has the lineup to meet Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony on even footing. But it’s bigger than that: rather than relying on traditional console hardware, Stadia lives inside of Chrome.
YouTube users watching a gaming stream will be able to launch right into playing the very game they were viewing thanks to a button which will be embedded on Stadia-based livestreams. While we don’t yet know if users will have to purchase each game a la carte or subscribe to an open library with Stadia, which games get the most play will almost certainly depend on who’s streaming them. Developers already promote games via popular streamers; Stadia could carry that to the next level.
That means it’s going to launch with immediate support for a variety of screens: desktop, laptop, TV, tablet, and smartphone. There’s a Google-made Stadia Controller that connects via WiFi to whichever game you’re playing, but it’s necessary; any controller that works with the device you’re playing on will work with Stadia as well.
The Stadia Controller does bring a couple of advantages. There’s a capture button, now a common feature on most modern gaming systems, that lets you share content directly to YouTube. There’s also a Google Assistant with game-specific GA integration that’s capable of pulling up hints and walkthrough videos when requested.
The service itself is a massive expansion of Project Stream, which was essentially Google’s beta test for Stadia. When it launched in late 2018, participants were able to play Ubisoft’s then-brand new Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in a Chrome tab. I was one of those participants, and I can tell you: it worked surprisingly well on my first-generation Dell XPS 13.
Google promises an even better experience in Stadia. While the quality of the streaming video will vary depending on the display you’re using (and presumably bandwidth), Google intends to support — and claims the streaming data centers can handle — resolutions as high as 8K.
The actual particulars of the service — game lineup, pricing, dedicated social features — aren’t going to be revealed until summer 2019, probably at or around the annual E3 trade show in June. It’s clear some heavy-hitters will be involved, however.
Marty Stratton, from id Software, promised full support for the studio’s upcoming Doom Eternal, for one. And while Ubisoft didn’t announce any specific titles, Project Stream already ran Odyssey and the publisher released a statement pledging its continued support.
“The power and accessibility of streaming will give billions unprecedented opportunities to play video games in the future. We are proud to partner with Google on Stadua, building on what we’ve learned with Project Stream via Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. This is only the beginning, and we can’t wait to continue collaborating closely with Google on what’s next for Stadia,” Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said in a statement.
Expect Stadia to launch sometime in 2019, arriving first in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and “most of Europe.”