Google is not making a gaming console.
It is, however, launching a streaming service just for video games that will work on any TV with Chromecast, computers running a Chrome browser, and Google’s Pixel devices. You don’t download the games to your devices, just play them over any Wi-Fi connection.
The Netflix-like product is called Stadia (that’s the proper plural of “stadium”) and is expected to launch later this year with big name titles including “Assassins Creed Odyssey” and special YouTube features. Even without a console, it could help Google (GOOGL) take on game industry leaders Microsoft (MSFT), Sony (SNE) and Nintendo (NTDOF).
Google announced its big foray into gaming Tuesday during a presentation at, fittingly, the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
Before the conference, the company’s head of gaming sat down with CNN Business to talk about the top secret project, previously rumored to be codenamed “Yeti,” and give us a hands-on demo.
“There was a lot of speculation that we were going to be making a console, but that’s actually [not]part of our strategy, we want to be completely screen agnostic,” Phil Harrison, a vice president and general manager at Google, told CNN Business. “We don’t want players to be spending hundreds of dollars, sometimes thousands of dollars, to create a gaming rig in their home.”
Streaming services such as Spotify (SPOT), Hulu, Netflix (NFLX) and Apple (AAPL) Music have taken over movies, TV and music, but game play has mostly been a holdout due to the large amounts of processing power and internet bandwidth required. Games need to handle instant response times, and even a half-second pause for buffering could be unacceptable to serious players. Gaming service Steam has some streaming capabilities, but you typically need to download a game to you device in order to play it.
Solving the streaming puzzle
Stadia will stream games in 4K at 60 frames per second in HDR with surround sound over a 25 Mbps internet connection. For now, it only works over Wi-Fi, but Google expects it to work on 5G connections in the future. You don’t need to download a game and no special hardware is required — other than a $35 Chromecast to play on a TV.
Harrison, who previously worked on both the Xbox and PlayStation, says streaming something this big without losing quality is one of the “hardest problems to solve in networking anywhere on the planet.” Google’s solution is to do most of the work in the cloud. Processing doesn’t occur on the local device, according to Harrison. Instead, everything is done in the data centers it has around the world.
“We know that streaming is the next frontier for the games industry,” Harrison said. “We’re not the only ones with this thought. But we’re very confident that we have a unique set