Google unveiled Stadia, a new video game platform, at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) on Tuesday. The cloud-based service provides instant access to games on a variety of devices with a tie-in to YouTube, Chromecast and Google Assistant, providing game publishers (and possibly advertisers) with a new way to reach the $5.2 billion gaming video content (GVC) market.
Stadia is not a console, but rather a “playground,” Google explained. Anyone with a Google account and high-speed internet connection would be able to log into the service and access a game without the need to download or update. Essentially, the games live in Chrome, allowing users to access the titles from a TV, laptop, mobile phone or tablet.
Google says that its goal is to make games available in resolutions up to 4K and 60 frames per second with HDR and surround sound. Stadia launches later this year in the US, Canada, UK and “much” of Europe.
Other details such as pricing and game titles are scheduled to be announced this summer. The announcement did not mention anything about advertising opportunities and Google did not immediately respond to requests for information.
Google is focusing its primary attention on YouTube integration, stating that over 200 million watch GVC on the platform every day. The idea is that after watching a trailer or video of someone playing a particular game, the viewer could immediately try the game for themselves. Dubbed “Project Stream,” a 2018 beta test allowed users to try the just-released Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey across devices.
A special controller is currently in development that allows a player to capture and share gameplay, access Google Assistant if they get stuck and use the platform wherever there is WiFi. It also features a built-in microphone and those who saw the controller at GDC noted that, as a nice touch, the Konami Code is printed on the back.
Titles already confirmed for the Stadia platform include Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, an unannounced title from Q Games and Doom Eternal. The GDC demo included NBA 2K19 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider as examples of how developers could make real-time changes such as art style or how players could share a specific point in the game for others to jump in.
Google also announced the formation of a first-party studio called Stadia Games and Entertainment.
A 2019 study by SuperData found that just 23 percent of streaming service users are familiar with cloud gaming but 69 percent were familiar with online video streaming like YouTube. It is possible that Stadia could bring these demographics together.
SuperData CEO, Joost van Dreunen noted that while Google’s technology and sudden entry into the gaming market are impressive, the giant will have to offer more than convenience and novelty.
“One thing that was noticeably absent from the announcement was how Google intends to differentiate on content,” said Van Dreunen in a blog post. “Porting well-known titles and franchises is an obvious first step, and the integration with YouTube is novel, to be sure. However, to claim a meaningful share of the market, Google will have to acquire exclusive content that will draw consumers to its offering and that’s precisely the missing component currently.”