Everything We Don’t Know About Google’s Stadia Gaming Service
Price? Release date? Games? Questions, questions, questions!
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Google became the talk of the Game Developers Conference this month by unveiling Stadia, a new gaming streaming service that will allow people to play games within their Google Chrome browser on a desktop computer, laptop, TV, tablet or phone.
Stadia seems like a bold, futuristic vision of the future of video games. Google promises a seamless experience, without a dedicated console, that instantly gets players into games with the click of a link.
While Google revealed a lot about what it hopes to bring to players, it left many important questions unanswered. Here are a few of the biggest question marks.
How much will Stadia cost?
The price of Stadia, or even what type of business model it will employ, was a topic completely absent from Google’s GDC keynote. Will Google charge per game? Will it be a “Netflix for games” like Microsoft’s Game Pass service? Will it be a new model, as yet unexplored for games? What will the overall cost be for the service? If it’s game by game, will games be the $60 we’re used to or something different to account for server usage? How will developers get paid for their games if it’s a Netflix-like service? Will that follow a similar model of Sony’s investments it makes with developers regarding free PlayStation Plus games?
Where are the games?
It has long been understood that any video game console or platform lives and dies by the games it provides. What good is a console if there’s nothing to play on it?
Google will run up against this same hurdle as it moves to release Stadia, and the GDC keynote last week did next to nothing to promote confidence in the platform’s future games. The one and only new game Google announced was Id Software’s Doom Eternal. Google announced a new in-house, first-party development studio, which would develop for Stadia. It also announced continuing partnerships with Ubisoft and a variety of other third-party tech companies. It also highlighted a variety of features that its cloud-based tech could deliver to players, like 1,000-person battle royale or high-fidelity split-screen play. But Google’s presentation was extremely lacking in game announcements.
It was a very odd experience to roam around GDC, notice all the areas that Google had set up to show off Stadia and see only old games available to be played. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, which Google used on Project Stream beta testers from October to January, and 2016’s Doom were the only games that conference attendees could play. Of course, Google’s use of these kiosks was probably as a proof of concept for the technology, but players need more than that in the run-up to a future platform. It’s likely that Google showed off Stadia at GDC to get developers on board, but it could have done more to quell these inevitable questions.
How fast will my internet need to be to play?
Stadia’s idea for players to stream games directly off servers sounds great on paper. But questions immediately arise if you consider how fast an internet connection would need to be, the availability of ISPs offering those speeds and the slow build=out of internet infrastructure. Though specifics weren’t given during the keynote, Google VP and Stadia lead Phil Harrison addressed it on Kotaku’s Splitscreen podcast, where he said the Project Stream beta taught Google that the minimum requirement for streaming a game at 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second would require an internet speed of 25 megabytes per second. A 2018 report says 49 out of 50 states have average broadband speeds above that 25 mbps line. Only Montana is below it.
Access to broadband is another question. That same report shows every state in America has at least 69 percent broadband coverage, with New Jersey leading the pack at 99 percent. But what about those who do not have access to broadband? Will Stadia be available to them? Questions still remain about actual performance. Does this minimum 25 mbps still hold as internet speeds fluctuate? Is this the minimum speed for an intensive, twitchy multiplayer game like Call of Duty? If speeds dip, will Stadia prioritize frame rate or resolution?
When is Stadia’s release date?
Harrison gave only a general sometime-in-2019 answer for when to expect the platform’s release. There’s no hint beyond that as to whether it will be a holiday release or come out quickly this summer. One thing is almost for sure, though. Stadia will almost certainly beat Sony and Microsoft’s next-generation consoles to market. Both have been rumored to drop in 2020. Stadia will likely kick off this next cycle of video games, possibly leaving the other contenders to play catch-up in terms of service offerings and pricing.
Google said that we can expect to learn more about Stadia “this summer,” though it didn’t say whether that meant E3 or a standalone event. It’s unlikely that we’ll learn more about the most-pressing Stadia questions before that. Until then, Stadia will have to remain a very mysterious platform with more questions than answers about what it will mean for the future of video games.
Read More: Google’s ‘Netflix for Games’ Service: A Beta Tester Tells All
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