Google have announced they are building “a game platform for everyone” which will be “instantly accessible” by anyone on any screen, and it’s called Stadia. Phil Harrison explained that watching and playing games will converge, connecting developers, players, and YouTubers.
Stadia is launching in 2019 in US, Canada, UK and Europe, but there’s no word on the launch beyond that. Google will clarify launch games, pricing and more this summer.
The idea is that if you see a trailer for a game on YouTube you can click the “Play now” button, launch Stadia in the Chrome browser and get in the game within five seconds, running at up to 4k at 60fps with HDR and surround sound. At the same time it will able to stream and save a video to YouTube at 4K60, regardless of what you’re playing at.
At launch Stadia will support desktops, laptops, phones, Chromcast and TVs, and you can stop playing the game on device and pick up the game instantly on another, so you could play the game on your PC at home and then carry on playing on the bus on your phone.
Stadia will support existing controllers but will also have it’s own controller. This will connect through wifi directly to the Stadia servers and features two buttons, one to capture directly to YouTube and another which access the Google Assistant via the microphone. You can stream directly to YouTube at 4K, even if you are playing at a lower resolution, and Google say they aim to support 8K in the future.
Stadia has 10.7 teraflops of GPU processing power, more than both the PS4 Pro (4.2TFLOPS) and Xbox One X (6.0TFLOPS) put together. Google have partnered with Unreal and Unity to bring the two most popular engines to the platform, and developers can create in their own clouds, the Google cloud, or privately in their own space. Over 100 dev units have already been shipped to developers
Due the sheer amount of computing power and the fact everything will be running on Google hardware, Battle Royale titles could support thousands of players, and there is no way for anyone to cheat or hack games.
Google will also support cross-platform play, which is a bit of a surprise, but beyond that developers can also go as far to allow for cross-platform saves.
Looking at some gameplay demos, Google showed off split screen multiplayer, where each person has an individual Stadia instance streaming the game to their corner of the screen, meaning developers won’t have to compromise visuals or frame rate to support it.
Google threw a bit of shade Microsoft’s way by showing a demo called Destruction, in which multiple players could fly around and demolish a fully destructible environment.
Developer creativity will be enhanced through a framework called Style Transfer ML, allowing you to fee Google’s AI with art or colour palettes and then have it automatically map colours and textures into the game.
Another technology is State Share, allowing you to play and then create a snapshot of your game, sharing it with other people, whether that’s streamers, friends or whoever. Dylan Cuthbert of Q-Games was on stage to announce that he was developing a game specifically around this concept.
Turning that on its head, Google Assistant (which is a button press away on the controller) can help you quickly find a YouTube video of somewhere that you’re stuck in a game.
Similarly seamless is a new lobby system of sorts for multiplayer called Crowd Play. This allows you to watch a streamer on YouTube, and simply click on the button to place yourself in the queue for the next match online.