Stadia is Google’s game streaming service that is designed to let you play high-end games on most modern screens — be they phone, laptop, tablet, computer or TV — with very little download time and no loss of fidelity, the company announced Tuesday at the Game Developers Conference.
The service is launching in 2019. Cost or monetization was not discussed in the unveiling.
“Our next big effort is to build a game platform for everyone,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said. “When we say everyone we really mean it.” He said the company wants to “change the game” by bringing together the people who play games, watch games, and build games. “We’re really excited to work with you,” he said.
The service will allow players to find a game they like, tap a button, and begin playing on a device within seconds, the company said. Stadia provides access to high-end games without the need for downloads, updates, patches or installs.
Stadia uses Google’s data centers around the world to power the service, relying on Google’s Edge Network — which has more than 7,500 edge node locations globally — to ensure that latency will be low, according to the company. The service will be capable of supporting games running at 4K, 60 frames per second with HDR and surround sound at launch, with an eye at offering support for 8K resolution and 120 frames per second in the future.
Google note that its data centers will make use of GPUs that can deliver 10.7 teraflops of power, that compared to the 6 teraflops delivered by an Xbox One, and the 4.1 teraflops delivered by the PlayStation 4. Each Stadia instance is powered by a 2.7GHz x86 processor with 16GB of RAM, according to the company.
The service will also let you use an existing controller with a USB plug-in, but there will also be a Google controller: The Stadia controller. The wireless controller includes a button for sharing your content in streams as well as a button that lets you launch Google Assistant, which can automatically seek help for a player when they get stuck in a game.
Phil Harrison, brought on to Google last year as a vice president, took the stage to walk through how the new tech will work.
In one example, he describes a player launching “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” from Chrome and playing it within five seconds, without any pre-loading. At launch we will support playing games across desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and TVs, he said. A live demo then showed all of that in action, with no delay or drop in quality. The TV accessed the content using a Chromcast HD plugin, he said.
Stadia’s streaming approach to gaming brings with it a number of unique elements to the service. State Share, for instance, allows a player to capture a moment in a game and then share it as a link that can be clicked to launch directly into that moment played by anyone. Crowd Play allows a streamer to include a link in their live video game play that essentially creates a lobby system for the game session. Clicking on the link puts the viewer into a lobby waiting to join the game session they’re watching on YouTube.
Google also announced it is forming a new game development studio. Stadia Games and Entertainment will be led by Jade Raymond. She said she will not only be working on internal development but also with external developers to make the Stadia tech available to partner studios big and small.
Pichai warmed up the audience prior to unveiling the news, joking about how the most played game in the world is probably the one that runs on Google Chrome when your connection is down. He also talked through the history of Google’s work on a variety of gaming technologies and the importance of gaming to technology, which he says pushes technology forward.