Here’s what you should know before you decide to invest in Google’s new streaming service.
Clearly, cloud streaming is going to be major factor in the games industry eventually- on that, no one disagrees. Something else most people agree on, though, is that right now, there probably isn’t a lot of appropriate infrastructure in place to make cloud streaming work on a large scale.
Soon, however, Google will be launching Stadia, their ow cloud streaming service, as they look to prove the doubters wrong, and for one reason or the other, a whole lot of people are watching Stadia’s launch very closely. It’s going to be an interesting time in the industry no matter how well it goes for Google. Before that though, in this feature, we’ll be talking about a few things that you’ll want to know before you decide to invest in the service. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Though Google eventually plans on adding a lot more devices that will be compatible with Stadia, when the service launches in November, the devices that you can run it on will be a bit limited. You can, of course, use Stadia on your computers, while accessing the service using Chromecast Ultra is supposed to be the way to go, but beyond that, a select few mobile devices will also be supported. That includes Pixel 3 and 3A phones, as well as any tablet running on Chrome OS.
The big reason Stadia – and really, any cloud streaming service – has as much potential as it does is because of its potential accessibility, and the service’s integration with YouTube promises to make it even more accessible. Through Stadia, you’ll be able to launch into games directly from their YouTube videos, while other features like Crowd Play – which allows you to jump into livestreams of games that you’re viewing to participate yourself – also sound promising. How well this is implemented remains to be seen, and there’s plenty of skepticism about how accurately Google has represented this feature, but in theory, it definitely sounds interesting.
You’ll be able to play games on Stadia a variety of different ways. Keyboard and mouse settings will, of course, be an option if you’re playing on PCs or laptops, but regardless of which device you’re playing on, you can also plug in a controller. According to Google, you can use any controller that is Bluetooth enabled or has a USB plugin- but apparently, that’s not the best way to play. So what is the best way to play?
The Stadia controller, built from the ground up by Google specifically for the service, is supposed to be the intended way of using the service, For starters, it’s the only controller that will let you use the service via Chromecast Ultra. Secondly, it also has a Share button, which allows you to upload clips or stream games on YouTube with just the press of a button. There’s also a Google Assistant button, which will access Google’s voice command assistant to tap into in-game features (like setting up specific multiplayer matches).
Stadia being a cloud-powered service doesn’t have a single box with specific hardware inside, but its server stacks do have some pretty impressive hardware, which Google can leverage for some interesting stuff. Said hardware uses a custom x86 CPU with a 9.5MB L2+L3 cache and AVX2 SIMD. It also boasts a custom AMD GPU with 10.7 TFLOPs of power (which is more than the Xbox One X and the PS4 Pro combined), HBM2 memory, and 56 compute units, 16GB of RAM, with bandwidth of up to 484 GB/s, and SSD storage.
The biggest concern with a service like Stadia for pretty much every single consumer is going to be- what kind of an internet connection are you gonna need to properly use it? Well, that depends on what kind of an experience you’re looking for. For the baseline experience of a 720p resolution at 60 fames per second, you’ll require 10 Mbps. For 1080p at 60 FPS, you’ll require 20 Mbps. Finally, according to Google, if you want to run the games at 4K60, you’ll need a 35 Mpbs connection.
Another major concern that obviously comes into play with an internet-intensive service such as Stadia is data caps. While there are those who have internet plans with unlimited data, many, many people are bound by monthly data caps. If you’re one of them, using Stadia might prove a bit problematic. Even if you want to stream at the lowest possible setting of 720p, you’ll still be eating up roughly 4.5GB per hour. At 1080p, that figure goes up to 9GB per hour, while 4K streaming kicks it up even further to a whopping 15.75GB per hour.
Stadia’s launch in November isn’t going to be a global one- to begin with, it’ll be launching only in fourteen countries- United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, and Italy. So if you don’t live in one of those fourteen countries and were thinking of taking a leap with Stadia- well, you’re gonna have to wait.
STADIA BASE AND PRO
So what exactly is the model and pricing Stadia is going for? Well, there’s two answers to that question, depending on whether you go with Stadia Pro or Stadia Base. Stadia Pro is, as the name gives away, the “ultimate” way to experience Stadia. At $9.99 per month, you can stream all Stadia games at 4K with 5.1 surround sound support, while the subscription also gives you access to exclusive discounts on games, as well as a rotating lineup of free games. Meanwhile, Stadia Base will free, and won’t come with any discounts or free games, while the resolution and sound support will also be capped at 1080p and stereo sound. For now though, Stadia Pro is going to be your only option, because Stadia Base doesn’t release until 2020.
But what about the games? That’s what matters most, right? Well, Stadia definitely has an impressive launch lineup, there’s no denying that. Most recently, it was confirmed that Red Dead Redemption would be a launch title, while it also seems like Ubisoft has pledged its full support for the service, with games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, For Honor, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Rainbow Six Siege, and The Division 2 being available available at launch. Other notable launch titles include Borderlands 3, Metro Exodus, Destiny 2, Mortal Kombat 11, and many, many more.
Going into next year (and perhaps beyonds), there’s various other major releases coming to Stadia as well. Ubisoft’s support will, of course, continue, with the likes of Watch Dogs Legion and Gods and Monsters being confirmed for the service. Other major releases like DOOM Eternal, Marvel’s Avengers, Baldur’s Gate 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 will also be launching on Stadia day and date. Meanwhile, there’s also Orcs Must Die! 3, which, interestingly enough, is going to be a Stadia exclusive.
It’s understandable that many people will be skeptical about the viability of Stadia, and whether its theoretically sound ideas can be executed well- given that, free trials are something that a lot of people will be hoping for. But while Google will eventually offer free trials for Stadia, they won’t be available at launch. There’s no mention of a specific date when this will happen, but according to Google, it’s something that’s “high up” in their list of post-launch priorities.