Wed | Apr 8, 2020

Google launches game-streaming platform

Published:Sunday | March 24, 2019 | 12:09 AM
This image provided by Google shows the controller for a video-game streaming platform called Stadia.
This image provided by Google shows the controller for a video-game streaming platform called Stadia.

Google unveiled a ­video-game streaming platform called Stadia, last week, positioning itself to take on the traditional video-game business.

The platform will store a game-playing session in the cloud and lets players jump across devices operating on Google’s Chrome browser and Chrome OS, such as Pixel phones and Chromebooks.

Google did not say how much its new service will cost, whether it will offer subscriptions or other options, or what games will be available at launch —all key elements to the success of a new video-game platform. It said only that Stadia will be available in late 2019.

Google made the announcement at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Some industry watchers were expecting a streaming console, but Google’s platform centres squarely on the company’s cloud infrastructure.

“The new generation of gaming is not a box,” said Google Vice President Phil Harrison, “The data centre is your platform.”

Google said it is leveraging its data centres to power the system, and that playing video games will be as simple as pressing a ‘Play Now’ button, with nothing to download or install. An optional dedicated Stadia controller will be available. The WiFi-enabled controller has a button that lets players launch a microphone and use Google Assistant to ask questions about the games being played. Another button lets users share gameplay directly to Google’s video streaming service, YouTube.

Harrison said he expects all gaming will eventually take place outside consoles, in cloud-powered streaming platforms similar to what Google announced. But not right away.

“It won’t replace traditional games devices overnight,” he said in an interview after the announcement, “And we wouldn’t be here if not for the existing traditional platforms.”

CFRA research analyst Scott Kessler said Google’s approach that ties YouTube sharing and video-game playing is unique.

“It is not necessarily at this point the easiest thing for people to livestream their games and now you can do it with the push of a button,” he said, “What they’ve done with Stadia is to connect and unify both the gaming platform and the streaming platform which obviously is new.”

The company said Stadia will be available late this year in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. More information about games and pricing is due this summer.

The US video game industry raked in revenue of US$43.4 billion in 2018, up 18 per cent from 2017, according to research firm NPD Group.