The internet browser tab was a deceptively big innovation. Remember opening another window to multitask? Now you can game from the cloud on the same window.
Google Stadia is revolutionary in that it aims to game, just not from a console. Whether you have a Chromecast or just a phone, you’ll be able to render super high-quality graphics with no problem at all. Perhaps the most intriguing part is that you’ll be able to load games up in Google Chrome.
Almost two-thirds of all internet users prefer Chrome. The browser has been number one since 2012, expanding its name out into Chromebooks and Chromecasts alike. Aside from the slick design though, Chrome assumed its throne by blurring the line between the desktop and the cloud. Chrome made web applications easier to shortcut and quick to run. Like many of the best things about Google, Chrome connected its audience to its end goal with supreme efficiency.
Stadia aims to do for gaming what Google did for internet browsing. The key to this is in the cloud.
After its arcade evolution, console gaming has traditionally relied on cartridges and discs. With the popularity of the personal computer came downloads, though the philosophy has remained the same: you need to own a video game – either physically or on your hard-drive – before you play it. Stadia cuts out that aspect, rather like Netflix. Unlike Netflix though, games will still have to be purchased for you to access. They’re still played via the cloud.
Processing data closer to the source is key for high performance.
The cloud streamlines gaming. There’s no need to upgrade your console: there’s no need even for a console. The cloud allows gamers to access their favourite titles immediately and spectating becomes a lot easier too. With games being run on remote servers rather than a computer, it’s near impossible to pirate, too.
Cloud gaming increases server dependence
Not being able to physically own your favourite game means that you’re always going to have to be online. It’s the difference between having a CD and being able to access Spotify.
Moving a console to the cloud poses big challenges. 5G will be revolutionary for cloud gaming on its own, it’s unclear whether it will provide low enough latency for Stadia. Response rates are largely determined by how far a gamer is from a server.
Server dependence is integral to Stadia working. No one knows for certain how many servers Google has but estimates of 2.5 million are ephemeral, given the tech giant’s ever-expanding business. Google has an Edge Network in 7,500 locations. With data centres around the world – including one in Finland, that offsets what must be a colossal amount of waste heat from Google’s servers by cooling the data centre with seawater – Google can retrieve content from the nearest source.
Processing data closer to the source is key for high performance. Google Cloud Platform offers connections in 134 locations: there are seven in London, for example.
The ability to seamlessly connect with multiple devices and each other – via the cloud – is going to simplify entertainment.
The controller connects directly to a Google server rather than to whatever medium you’re using to stream the game. This means that there’s no need to re-sync the controller from one place to another. If you’re gaming on your television and you want to move to your phone, the stream will continue on the device.
With PlayStation allegedly moving towards this format for the PS5, this technology might not stay novel for long. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are going to need to render large amounts of content, which edge computing can help with; likewise, IoT needs to carry out actions close to the source for maximum efficiency. The edge will reduce response times, which is perfect for entertainment platforms.
The cloud simplifies how we connect
There are fewer than 200 million games consoles in the world. This still seems like a lot of PlayStations, Xboxes and Switches in the world, but consider this: there are 4 billion smartphones on Earth. That’s enough for one between two of the global population.
Stadia will only launch on Google Pixel phones, to begin with. It’s clear however that there is more room for a gaming platform to expand on smartphones, laptops and Chromecasts than it is via consoles.
With connection to YouTube and Google Assistant too, Google is connecting the dots with a few more of its big hitters. The idea of being connected is one that runs through cloud and edge computing; Stadia itself might not revolutionise the gaming industry but at the very least, it’s an indication that the ability to seamlessly connect with multiple devices and each other – via the cloud – is going to simplify entertainment.
Just like how multiple tabs in internet browsers helped to simplify how we connected to each other online. Stadia says as much about technology as a whole, and where it’s going, as it does about video games.