Tom Quirk plays a lot of video games, but when he isn't, he is reading fantasy novels and watching way more television than is healthy.
Google is throwing its hat in the gaming console ring, indicating that it foresees a future where gaming consoles are not dictated by hardware. Google’s gaming platform, Stadia, will be a solely streaming gaming console. Google’s processors will handle running the games, and will stream them to your PC, phone, TV or laptop. That is, so long as you have a fast and stable internet connection.
The idea of moving away from incremental hardware increases is a bold step forward. Particularly in regards to PC games, removing the need to own compatible hardware to run modern games makes gaming more convenient for consumers, and will make games more in line with YouTube videos, in that running them is as simple as clicking on a link.
To show off the tech, Google Vice President Phil Harrison showed off playing a modern game just by clicking a button at the end of a trailer. To emphasise how Google’s streaming tech isn’t reliant on your PC specs, he deliberately used a very low-end PC.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai stated that Google’s goal was creating “a game platform for everyone,” where consumers don’t need to buy expensive equipment or are disadvantaged by using outdated parts. By having Google’s servers processing the game, all users of Stadia are getting the same experience.
Of course, this isn’t the first time a major gaming company has made bold promises of an always-online future; the Xbox One was initially revealed as needing an internet connection at least once every 24 hours even for single player content. The fact that Microsoft was never able to articulate how that function actually benefits players, and the fact that not all players are able to access the internet every day, led to the always-online DRM being reversed.
Whilst the Stadia does show promise if it works as intended, the fact that it relies on a fast a reliable internet connection could put it out of reach of many players. In many rural areas, or even in the city, internet connection in Australia can be spotty, and there doesn’t seem to be an option to download and play games on this service when the internet is down. Furthermore, we still don’t have a lot of information regarding the price or how many developers will be signing up.
Overall, Google’s Stadia could be a powerful disruptor in the gaming console market. Removing the burden of buying new hardware from the consumer could revolutionise how we think of gaming platforms. It remains to be seen if we are ready for an always-online future, but if there is a mass adoption of this service, it could lead to more streaming-based games in the future from its competitors.