Why I’m excited about Google Stadia – Reader’s Feature

A reader offers his thoughts on Google’s new streaming platform and explains why he’s more than happy to have a fifth format for gaming.

They say the future is like a foreign country. Everything there is the same, but also different. People do things differently but those activities are generally recognisable from where you came from. Google’s announcement on Tuesday felt like disembarking the plane and standing at the top step, uncertain whether this new country would be as good as the place you came from, wondering if it’ll be better or worse; hope and scepticism mingling like unlikely Tinder matches.

I watched and I found it hard not to be caught up in the razzle dazzle of it, the breathless Christmas morning-esque excitement of it all. And frankly I failed, I WAS excited. I found myself doing something I rarely do, namely tweeting and messaging my friends as if they weren’t able to see the same thing I was and being perplexed at why they’re not as excited as I am. So, what did Google propose that made me excited? It would be good to use this as a baseline before we get into the nitty gritty further on.

Google’s new product Stadia (god, what an Apprentice team name level godawful cognomen) is a cloud gaming service using Google servers to run games, which will use the Internet to allow players to play games on a range of devices such as PCs, TVs using Chromecast, Android tablets, and phones -though this will initially be just Google Pixel phones. This means that minimal hardware is required in the home and the games can be played at 4K/60fps augmented by a range of network features allowing gamers to access games as streamers play them or from trailers in YouTube, coupled with short loading times – five seconds was quoted. Basically, the much-touted Netflix of gaming is becoming a reality.

I’ve had a bit of time to breathe into a paper bag, re-read my friends’ sober messages, read the analysis of some websites I respect, and read the wisdom of the good people of the Underbox and I can see their points pricking the hype bubble, which once inflated must pop. What are these?

Most tempering are the technical considerations, which are considerable. I’ve been around the block and what Google are proposing is not new. Firstly, TV streaming services have existed for what seems like an age and I remember the existence of OnLive, a game streaming service from all the way back in 2010. The problems then exist now.

To control user inputs, the datacentres must be close to the person playing the game or there is noticeable lag between the controller inputs and seeing the action on screen. This is called latency and the only solution is to have superfast broadband and a close datacentre. Nothing else will work without breaking the laws of physics. Google say they have the infrastructure and it’s possible they may have.

Secondly, the Internet speeds required to run a game at 4K with 60fps would be extremely demanding, to put it mildly, and if you have a data cap you will obliterate it quicker than an elephant stomping on a butterfly. Does everyone have the speeds needed and what would the requirements be for the service? People have mentioned how current streaming services can be unreliable and they are relatively unsophisticated compared to the witchcraft Google are trying to pull off.

How will broadband providers react to this potentially increased demand? After all, there is limited bandwidth in the broadband system. Will they bring in data caps to cope or raise charges for unlimited plans or throttle high data users? All of this could happen or none of it, depending on demand.

Then there’s the unknown aspects, not mentioned in the presentation and ominous by their absence. Monetisation being the biggest omission, if this is subscription based how much will it be? Will games cost extra? What about DLC and season passes and all the other monetisation? All of this is up in the air, unanswered. VR is probably now off the table for latency reasons but wasn’t mentioned at all, which could be a death knell for VR if this is the way gaming decides to go and for some there’s the idea of Google’s all-seeing eye wrapping another tendril around your digital footprint.

Finally, if you think Sony and Microsoft are going to simply lie down and take this you are out of your mind. Microsoft, who bought OnLive when it folded, have been toying with the box-less console for a while now and the Game Pass as a subscription model. But with this announcement you can bet a board meeting has already been held about the direction of the next generation.

Likewise, with Sony its PlayStation Now service is probably being revised and reviewed, though it is not guaranteed that either of these behemoths may feel the need to follow the herd. And that’s what so damn exciting about it. The unknown.

And yet… and yet. I can’t help feeling that there is something different about Stadia. I love the basic aim of ‘reducing the friction between getting excited about playing a game and playing the game’ as Google put it. I firmly believe there is too much friction at the moment. Too much faff, waiting for patches, DLC to download, and constant updates that the status quo simply couldn’t keep going the way it is, at least on the buying side of things.

It feels like a ‘shots fired’ moment from Google and I love the idea of a fifth big option to provide competition for the likes of Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Steam. I am excited, I can’t help it and will be eagerly hoovering up information about Stadia as we learn more about it. This announcement from Google will push those aforementioned big four to do something bigger and better and that sounds like the definition of progress to me.

By reader Dieflemmy (gamertag/PSN ID/NN ID)

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. As always, email [email protected] and follow us on Twitter.

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