Google's upcoming gaming platform Stadia is a console killer

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Majd Bakar, VP Project Stream at Google compares specs of modern consoles with the processing power of a Stadia instance at GDC on Tuesday. Photo: Sriram Sharma

Google took the wraps off Stadia, its keenly expected gaming platform at the Game Developers Conference Tuesday morning, bringing on its CEO Sundar Pichai on stage to kick off the proceedings. 

In the hour-long keynote, Google showed off game demos, flexed its AI and cloud chops, revealed a custom game controller, and pitched the audience of developers on the advantages of its platform.

However, the platform is not open to the public yet - Stadia will launch sometime in 2019, and will be available first in the US, Canada, UK and Europe.

As we’d mentioned earlier, Stadia takes off from Project Stream, in which Google had partnered with Ubisoft to launch a streaming version of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

When it launches, Stadia will support display resolutions of up to 4k at 60 frames per second. The service will also support simultaneous streams, allowing gamers to stream their gameplay footage to YouTube while playing the game. Stadia will support a range of devices, from the smartphone to the TV, as long as it supports the Chrome web browser. 

Majd Bakar, VP Project Stream also touted the platform’s processing capabilities, comparing it to modern consoles. Google has partnered with AMD to power Stadia, and each instance of the platform will deliver 10.7 teraflops of processing power – that’s more than the processing power of modern game consoles – PS4 Pro and Xbox One X put together, Bakar said. 

Google showed off game demos of AAA titles such as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Doom Eternal while on stage, and said that thousands of creatives and engineers are currently working on the platform. 

Games hosted on Stadia will launch in five seconds, and work with controllers you already own, said Phil Harrison, Vice President at Google while on stage. Google also showed off a custom gamepad for the platform. 

“It certainly seems like we saw a glimpse of the future – how its delivered and consumed. This is pretty exciting in the games industry. It’s the first platform we’ve had in years, Google is taking on Sony and Microsoft in a multibillion dollar industry. All the demos are very impressive – the big challenge for them is to make good on that promise,” said Randolph Ramsay, Editor-in Chief, GameSpot speaking to KTVU post the announcement.  

While there have been somewhat similar services offered in the past, due to lag and latency, they haven’t really worked. “The big challenge to them is to prove that the service is as seamless as they’re showing it to be. Their second challenge is games – they’ve announced a couple of major games, but this whole industry is driven by hits, driven by exclusivity – they need to have a strong and robust selection of games for players,” Ramsay added.

Google is also likely to face competition from Microsoft, which is working on something similar codenamed Xcloud. “They’re one of the few companies that can compete with the same way as Google, especially with the size and reach of data centers around the world. There will be public trials of it sometime this year,” he added. 

Google also abstained from mentioning any details about the price for this service, though it seems like a Netflix style all-you-can-eat subscription service is not likely to happen.  

“It seems like their model is going to be similar to (one) in which you pay per game,” Ramsay said.