For the better part of the past three decades, the video game industry has more or less avoided total disruption. Think about it. The big three brands in the space—Sony, Microsoft, and Nintentdo—have certainly duked it against one another. But they’ve basically been able to avoid any outside threats to their dominance on the space.
Sure, the smartphone somewhat altered the gaming landscape in the form of applications and being able to play games on the road and on the tiny screen in your pocket. But it’s been well documented how these tiny computers can’t compete with the power and overall capacity of the traditional console. Heck, even virtual reality, which was supposed to be the next big thing in gaming, hasn’t lived up to expectations.
But all of that is about to change.
At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last week, Google firmly planted its flag in the video game space by announcing their Stadia platform. Explained simply, Stadia is a game streaming service that uses a Google-designed controller to connect wirelessly to a display in order to play video games. Google’s goal is to make those games available in resolutions up to 4K and 60 fps with support for HDR and surround sound. The controller ties into the Stadia service, has a dedicated Google Assistant button, a microphone, and some social functions that could potentially allow Stadia to rival a service like Twitch.
But the intent here, from Google, is that Stadia will essentially untether users from needing a gaming console in order to play their gaming content. It’s a service that could quite literally, fundamentally change the makeup of the video game industry—not an understatement.
Rather than requiring users to install a piece of hardware onto a display in order to play video games, Stadia will rely on something that Google has worked decades to build out—its data centers—in order to stream games to its users. Part of what limits the smartphone from being a gaming workhorse is the fact that the hardware itself is just incapable of housing the internal specs needed to support the software studios pump out nowadays. To help solve that very problem, Stadia will take responsibility for all of that behind-the-scenes processing that takes place on the traditional console or PC, make that all happen on their own servers, and let users simply stream their games to their screen of choice.
The company already has some major backing from developers and studios that want to make their software titles available on Stadia. The only thing missing now is a firm pricing structure—which could make or break the viability of the platform—and a firm launch date. All Google said during its press conference is that Stadia will launch “later this year” in the U.S., parts of Europe, the U.K., and Canada. One way or the other, we’re looking forward to seeing what Google has in store for gamers around the world.