Ever since Google Stadia was announced in October 2018, there has been rampant speculation about how this cloud-based service could revolutionise the gaming industry. That speculation will soon come to an end, with Stadia set to be launched in Europe this November. Its success will depend on whether gamers are willing to adapt to the cloud-based streaming nature of Stadia’s service, which completely relies on a stable internet connection to operate.
Stadia runs through the Google Chrome browser, which allows players to quickly access the latest games with minimal setup time. The caveat is the requirement for a connection with a streaming rate of at least 15Mbps and latency below 40ms. Stadia connects players to Google’s servers, streaming visuals and audio back to the player. This bypasses the limitations of a user’s device or computer, providing access to high-end PC gaming without the need for a high-end PC.
Any issues with the streaming rate and latency would destabilise the gaming experience, causing lag or syncing problems that render the game unplayable. If it works, Stadia could revolutionise the gaming industry’s relationship with the cloud and live streaming. At the moment, live streaming is predominantly something that happens independent of games, where a player broadcasts their gameplay experience via a streaming platform.
Live streaming within the games themselves is so far limited. Quiz apps have enjoyed some success in using hosts to stream games live, while the burgeoning genre of live casino gaming continues to successfully incorporate streaming tech into its gameplay. Human croupiers run the games via live streams, with players able to tune in at any moment to place their bets for the next round. In all of the variations of roulette at the online UK casino Genesis, players can see these dealers spin the wheel and call out the winning numbers.
Like releases on Stadia, these games are dependent on a reliable internet connection and are easy to load through a browser. The growing popularity of these live casino games indicates that the gaming industry is ready to embrace a culture shift. Early Stadia sales figures back that up, with the Founder’s Edition (the premium package for the Stadia) sold out in most of Europe a month before release. Demand may have surpassed Google’s original forecasts, although a new Premium Edition is on sale for those who missed out on the Founder’s Edition.
Previous developments in the gaming industry, such as the rise of mobile gaming or virtual reality titles, have largely complemented the existing console duopoly of PlayStation and Xbox. Stadia is a genuine contender to the dominance of those traditional consoles. The idea that an internet connection, a browser tab, and a controller could bring the most demanding gaming releases to a modest laptop, would once have seemed too good to be true. In a month, it will become clear whether that is the case.
One of the key selling points for Stadia is that players can purchase games to be accessed across any of their devices, while its subscription service brings the latest releases to the cloud each month. The biggest obstacle to Stadia’s success will be whether players have sufficiently strong internet connections to connect, and to stay connected, to the Google servers.