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Google Stadia wants to be the Netflix of gaming

So now we are focusedon our next big effort, which is to build a gameplatform for everyone. - Google, this week,announced a bold vision for the future of gaming. It's a cloud gaming platform called Stadia and it's the culmination of years of work the company has been doingaround networking technology and streaming video. Essentially, Google wants to build the Netflix of video games. That way, you could playany game on any screen, any time you wanted, regardless of whatphysical hardware you have. You wouldn't even need a console or a PC. We've certainly heard this before. Maybe you remember OnLive or Gaikai, but Google says it has the infrastructure, the technology, and the resourcesto finally pull this off — for real. Of course, Google isn't alone here. Every big tech and gaming company is trying to figure out this tech. But earlier this week, atGDC here in San Francisco, Google, one of the most powerfuland cash-flush companies in the entire tech industry, made a convincing casethat it'll get there first. - With Stadia, we can all dream bigger and together, build a playgroundfor every imagination. Thank you. (audience clapping and yelling) - So how does Stadia work? Well, it's a simple concept that is notoriously difficult to pull off. Cloud gaming, unlike musicstreaming or television steaming, requires you run a gameremotely in a data center. That's a huge shift and I talked to Phil Harrison, who now leads up theStadia project at Google, about what it all means. - We just broke throughthat glass ceiling today by giving the entire datacenter to the game developer and being completely device agnostic. And so, no, we don't need a console and that's the whole point.

 So you essentially havea PC on a server rack running a game in somedata center somewhere and it's sending a video feed of that over the internet to your screen. Then you, as a player,are pressing buttons on a controller and sending that input back over the internet. And all of that is supposed to happen with no latency, no lag, at1080p, 60 frames per second. That's pretty much unbelievable and historically, it hasn't really worked. - No, we can't beat the speed of light, but we can cheat itenough that we can deliver a very, very high performance experience. Hence the reason whywe had id on our stage saying, Doom Eternal-- - Will be capable of runningat true 4K resolution with HDR color at an unrelenting60 frames per second. - Essentially, the company is making use of every critical part of its business to turn cloud gaming into a reality. The first piece is the Chrome browser, and by extension, the Chromecast dongle. That's going to be how Google gets the video from the game on theserver in the data center all the way to your TV or whatever screen you're playing Stadia on. The second piece is theAndroid operating system.

 It's the most ubiquitous OS on the planet and it's going to be how Google gets Stadia running on mobile phones and tablets. The third piece is YouTube, and will enable all sortsof futuristic features that will be huge selling points when the service launches. The first feature willlet you launch a game using Stadia with the press of a button just by watching aYouTube video or stream. You'll then be taken to thatexact point in the game. Another feature will be, when you're watching a streamerlive stream on YouTube, they can invite you into the game, so with the press of a button you can queue up and playwith your favorite streamer. A third feature is an interesting one where you can use GoogleAssistant to even cheat. You can press the Google Assistant button if you're stuck on aparticularly hard puzzle on, say.

Tomb Raider or a game like that, and it'll overlay a YouTube video with a tutorial showing you how to beat that particular puzzle orsolve that particular problem. The fourth piece is Google'scloud and its data centers. That's the backbone of the service and it's what's going to make it all work. And lastly, there is going tobe a bit of hardware. Google built its own Stadia controller, one that actually connects over Wi-Fi to Google's data centers. That way, when you're switching devices from a tablet to a phone, from a phone to a laptop, from a laptop to a TV, you won't need to re-sync that controller to a new device every time. It'll just communicate over the internet with the Stadia serversand connect automatically. We saw most of these pieceswork together last fall in a trial run of sortscalled Project Stream and it did work quite well. It let players test the newAssassin's Creed Odyssey on any device with a Chrome browser, so long as they had a 25 Mbps internet connection. But it wasn't at anywhere near the scale Google is hoping for with Stadia when it's supposed to launch and that has me a bituncertain and skeptical, and there's good reason to be. Cloud gaming has been the holy grail of the industry for decades and a number of companieshave tried and failed to make it work. In this case, Googlehasn't even talked about how much Stadia will cost or even if it's a subscription service.

 It could just be a way toplay games you already own or games that you buy elsewhere in the cloud and on any screen. That's a really interesting concept, but it's not quite as ambitious as a full-blown, cloud-basedgame-streaming service. There's also a huge amount oftechnical uncertainty here. Sure, Google has state-of-the-art infrastructure and a data center operation that's one of the robustand biggest on the planet, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be able tostream millions of instances of games at 1080p, 60 frames per second to people with internet connectionsthat are varying wildly. And even then, even if you getall that technical stuff down, well, you're going to need games. Right now, the only launchtitle confirmed for Stadia is id Software's Doom Eternal. Now, id is saying DoomEternal's going to be available on Stadia at 4K, 60 frames per second. That's very impressive, but Google is going toneed more than one game to get people to use this service. With Stadia, Google is trying to change, not just how games are played, but how they're developed,how they're distributed, and how they're funded and sold. Netflix did this for TV and film, and changed Hollywood forever.

 Games could change similarly, but it's not going to happen overnight and it's not clear Google isgoing to be the one that wins. For instance, Microsofthas its own xCloud service. Sony also has its own competing service called PlayStation Now, and you can even subscribe to that today. Not only that, butAmazon, Verizon, Nintendo, and even EA, they're all workingon cloud gaming right now. It's a race to the future and Google has come out ofthe gate harder and faster than any other company in the industry. But remember, it took years and years for Netflix and Spotify tochange how we consume TV, film, and music, and even then,physical media still exists. By today's standards,it's going to take us a while to get to where we're going and gamers are notoriously stubborn when it comes to change, especially when the benefitsaren't clearly obvious. But the promise of cloud gaming is there and with a company as big andpowerful as Google in the mix, that could give it the pushit really needs to happen. - One of the successfactors for me with Stadia is that three years from now, you and I meet here atGDC or some other forum, and we're talking abouta brand-new developer that none of us had heard of before who has built something so new that it's pivoted the worlda little bit on its axis, then we would be considered successful. 

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