Google Unveils Plan for Video Games Streaming Service

Phil Harrison - Getty - H 2019
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Stadia is not only a platform, but also the tech giant's first game studio, headed by recently hired exec Jade Raymond.

Google is taking a big step into the video game industry.

The tech giant unveiled its plans for a game streaming service, titled Stadia, at the GDC conference in San Francisco on Tuesday morning, confirming many reports over recent weeks that the company was working on their own so-called "Netflix for games" platform. Stadia will launch in North America and Europe later this year.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai took the Moscone Center stage to introduce the "game platform for everyone." 

"We want games to feel instantly enjoyable with access for everyone," said Pichai.

"Games play a big part in developing our own technology," Pichai said. "Perhaps the biggest impact of gaming is how it pushes us to make big leaps in computing and the infrastructure that supports it all."

Google vice president Phil Harrison promised that Stadia would offer "instant access to play," loading games in less than five seconds. "You just need to click on a link and you can be playing a game instantly."

"At launch, we’ll support being able to play games across TV, laptops, tablets and phones," said Harrison.

Stadia will support cross-platform play with other gaming consoles and platforms, Google said.

Stadia is not only a platform, but also Google's first game studio, headed by recently hired Google exec Jade Raymond. Stadia Games and Entertainment will create its own games as well as share "key tools and tech" with third-party developers, according to Raymond. "Stadia will be a driving force of the future of games and entertainment," she said.

A demo of Stadia was shown off onstage, streaming Ubisoft’s action game Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on a television, mobile phone, PC and then a tablet. Stadia can be used with controllers already available on the market, but Google also debuted its own controller that connects through WiFi directly to the game being played. The controller features a dedicated streaming button that records video and streams it to YouTube and a Google Assistant button that allows players to connect to Google's search engine and look up information and videos about a title while playing the game.

At launch, Stadia will stream games at 4K resolution, but Google claimed in the future it will be able to stream at a video quality of 8K. The graphics fidelity of Stadia was also touted as more powerful than both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. 

Of course, software is a key component to the success of any platform, and Marty Stratton, executive producer at id Software, took the stage to reveal that the upcoming Doom Eternal would be coming to Stadia. “If you’re going to prove to the world that you can stream games through the cloud, what better game than Doom?” said Stratton.

Multiplayer was also a focus during Google's keynote. Stadia's Stream Connect feature allows players to view and coordinate multiple streams from fellow gamers during gameplay. 

Google is not alone in the push for video game streaming. Last week, Microsoft showed its upcoming Project xCloud in action during its Inside Xbox live-stream event. Project xCloud will allow gamers to stream Xbox games to their phones while on the go and was likened to Spotify by Microsoft's head of gaming cloud Kareem Choudhry during the presentation.

Meanwhile, Sony also offers a game streaming service, PlayStation Now, while other tech and media companies such as Apple, Verizon and Amazon are all reportedly working on their own offerings in the space.