Google’s gaming hardware may not be what you expect.
Google has unveiled its new gaming initiative, Stadia, detailing features for players, developers, and streamers, as well as giving an overall vision of Google’s future game streaming platform.
Stadia will launch this year, Google’s Phil Harrison confirmed during the Google Stadia conference, however no price or exact release date for Google Stadia was announced. The plan is to launch in the U.S., Canada, UK, and Europe first.
Harrison teased more details in the summer about launch games for the Stadia, which may be a possible time at which we get Stadia price and release date details. No details about possible VR integration or subscription details were offered. Currently, no preorder information has been revealed for Stadia.
The first teaser trailer for Stadia also revealed a look at Google’s Stadia controller. Google intends Stadia and its features to be supported on desktops, laptops, TV, tablets, and phones. Harrison specifically said there is no console involved in this process.
Update: Our Google Stadia announcement story below has been updated with a much more thorough breakdown of the Google Stadia information we’ve learned from the GDC conference.
Read on for launch, game lineup, feature, and controller details.
Google Stadia Platform
Stadia is not a piece of hardware — it’s a streaming platform meant to bridge across devices and provide players instant access to their games, while also further integrating YouTube capture, streaming, and sharing. Google is aiming to stream games at launch in 4K at 60 fps for both playing games and sharing game streams, with goals of eventually supporting 8K and 120+ fps. Among its boasts about the power of Stadia, Google confirmed Stadia is more powerful than the PS4 and Xbox One combined.
Google’s Phil Harrison showed off implementation of this by highlighting a player’s ability to instantly access a game within seconds to a game after a player watched a streamer playing that game themselves while on stage at Google’s GDC 2019 keynote.
Additionally, Harrison and a demoer showcased Stadia’s ability to allow players to bring an experience via Stadia from one platform to the next — from a phone to a tablet to a Chromecast on TV – without any need to wait for download times.
Harrison and the other presenters during the Google Stadia conference emphasized that Stadia is meant to be played across a wide swath of devices, with little technical requirement getting in the way of playing. Harrison highlighted this lack of requirements, as seen in the demo above, by explaining the Google team bought the least powerful PC they could find nearby to play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey instantly and in high fidelity.
Google Stadia Controller
Harrison emphasized the lack of download needs and the push for “instant access,” which included the physical way players will control Stadia games. Already available controllers will work with games on Stadia, but Harrison also introduced the Google Stadia Controller, as seen below.
The controller connects through Wi-fi directly to the game running in the Google data center. The controller also has a capture button, which will save game clips to YouTube, either privately or to the world. There is also the Google Assistant button. Players can use the built-in microphone with this button to access features created by developers to use in games. And, amusingly enough, the Konami Code showed up on the Google Stadia controller.
These additional features clearly tie into Stadia’s sharing features, and Google’s efforts to allow players, streamers, and developers to more closely experience games together.
Industry Support for Google Stadia
Google has partnered with Unreal Engine, Unity, and Havok for Stadia support, among many other game development companies. Several third-party game developers and publishers were on hand to offer support for Google Stadia, including Ubisoft and id software.
Last year’s Project Stream implementation of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was the first example of Google’s gaming initiative and the hopes it has for Stadia.
Google Stadia Features
Google highlighted a number of features, both for developers and for players, emphasizing the shareability of Google’s Stadia philosophy.
One of the most intriguing features shown off was State Sharing. Players can essentially pinpoint any moment in a gaming experience, and create a shareable link for that game state. Other players can grab that link and open the same game at that exact point and begin playing the experience from there.
Google also highlighted, with indie dev Tequilia Works on stage, the ability for developers to test out new art styles by feeding Stadia development tools certain images. Style Transfer ML uses machine learning to allow developers to integrate new art styles into games and finetune what they’d like. Google showcased a demo in which a game world transformed art styles from Starry Night to pencil sketchings to even Pac-Man.
Crowd Play will also be integrated into Stadia — this feature will let players watching a YouTube streamer jump right into a game with that streamer.
Google Stadia Games
Not many games have been confirmed for Google Stadia. We do now know Google started a Jade Raymond-led first-party Stadia studio for in-house development, but the company has also partnered with other companies.
Id Software’s Marty Stratton came on stage to confirm Doom Eternal for Stadia, while Ubisoft reaffirmed its commitment to Google’s Stadia.
Additionally, Star Fox developer Dylan Cuthbert confirmed he is working on a game for Stadia, specifically meant to take advantage of the Stadia’s state sharing feature.
And while not proper games revealed for Stadia, Google highlighted tech demos of multiplayer experiences, one with a fully destructible city environment, and another forest-set multiplayer squad experience.
Google Stadia Release Date, Price
As mentioned above, we don’t have a firm release date for the Google Stadia launch. However, we know that Google is planning a 2019 launch for Stadia.
Additionally, we don’t have price details for what the streaming platform or the specific Stadia controller will cost. And, while, technically, you don’t need to purchase a specific Stadia console, for players wanting to enjoy Stadia on TV, a Google Chromecast will be one of the options to play.