Google skips the console and launches new video game streaming service

Google Stadia is a streaming service for video games that the company says will revolutionize the gaming industry when it hits the market later this year.

Posted: Mar 19, 2019 3:50 PM


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 take on game industry leaders Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

The company announced its big foray into gaming Tuesday during a presentation at, fittingly, the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Before the conference, Google's head of gaming sat down with CNN Business to talk about the top secret project, formerly 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 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, Hulu, Netflix and Apple 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 of capabilities and abilities."

Google does have a new gadget

The company may not be building a PlayStation-like box, but it is making one piece of new hardware. The Stadia Wi-Fi-connected controller looks like a typical handheld controller with a pair of special buttons — one to summon a video-game version of Google Assistant, and the other to capture game highlights to share on YouTube.

You can ask the assistant questions like, "Hey Google, how do I beat that boss?" and it will take you to a YouTube video with the answer.

The controller also connects directly to the data center instead of locally to the device you're playing on, which Google says will translate to better performance. (The streaming service will also work with any third-party HID controllers.)

During a demo at its Mountain View, California, headquarters, Google product manager Khaled Abdel Rahman began playing "Assassin's Creed Odyssey" on a laptop in Chrome. He hit pause, grabbed up a Pixel phone with a controller attached, and picked up right where he left off, leaping off a rocky cliff. Then he did one more pass to a large TV with a Chromecast and picked up the Stadia controller. The idea, he said, is to let someone play the game wherever they are during the day.

Created for the YouTube generation

As the name implies, Stadia is built as much for the people who watch video game play as the ones who do the playing. Google might not be known as a gaming company, but people watched more than 50 billion hours of gaming on its YouTube service in 2018. And every day, 200 million people watch games on YouTube.

The Stadia system is built to work with YouTube and includes a feature that lets players drop a pin at a favorite moment, and then share it online. Anyone can view that pin and jump right to that same exact situation in the game and start playing. Another option lets viewers join the person they're watching live.

"One of the great things about Stadia is the power of linking the world of YouTube and game play together," said Harrison. "If I'm on YouTube and I'm a creator talking about NBA 2K, the latest basketball game, I can invite my fans, my audience [and] my subscribers to join me in that game."

Much is still unknown about the project, including how much it will cost, what other titles will be available, when it will work on non-Pixel phones, and if the promises of interruption-free game play will work. Google says it started its own studio called Stadia Games and Entertainment to create titles exclusively for the platform, but doesn't have any finished games yet. But it's clear Google thinks the future of gaming is watching and playing.

"Bridging those two worlds together is not just the future of multiplayer, but it's the future of entertainment broadcasting," said Harrison.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 73287

Reported Deaths: 3036
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15701725
Lake7496275
Elkhart480184
Allen3835163
St. Joseph342381
Hamilton2723104
Vanderburgh192213
Hendricks1871108
Cass17869
Johnson1741118
Porter129439
Clark120247
Tippecanoe118911
Madison94365
LaPorte89430
Howard88465
Kosciusko84712
Bartholomew78047
Marshall77422
Floyd77246
Monroe74630
Delaware71452
Dubois68712
Boone67246
Noble66329
Hancock64738
Vigo61910
Jackson5855
Warrick57930
LaGrange55710
Shelby54627
Grant52630
Dearborn49628
Morgan46734
Clinton4303
Henry37620
Wayne36810
White36110
Montgomery35221
Lawrence34227
Decatur33532
Harrison32723
Putnam2868
Miami2692
Scott26610
Daviess26420
Greene24634
Franklin24114
Jasper2342
DeKalb2304
Jennings22412
Gibson2214
Steuben2073
Ripley1997
Fayette1867
Carroll1852
Perry18412
Starke1777
Posey1700
Orange16924
Wabash1653
Fulton1642
Wells1622
Jefferson1602
Knox1510
Whitley1516
Washington1391
Tipton1379
Spencer1313
Huntington1223
Newton11810
Randolph1184
Clay1165
Sullivan1131
Adams962
Jay910
Owen871
Pulaski791
Rush764
Brown731
Fountain732
Blackford632
Ohio635
Benton610
Pike530
Parke511
Vermillion490
Switzerland460
Crawford440
Martin430
Union390
Warren221
Unassigned0202

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 99969

Reported Deaths: 3668
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin18182523
Cuyahoga13414499
Hamilton9583255
Lucas5288323
Montgomery431894
Summit3523222
Marion292245
Butler289163
Mahoning2532255
Pickaway238342
Stark1813139
Warren176739
Lorain173678
Columbiana165660
Trumbull1518106
Fairfield136732
Delaware129219
Licking126049
Clark114214
Lake111138
Wood103058
Clermont92111
Medina91435
Miami83238
Tuscarawas78114
Portage75461
Allen73244
Greene68412
Belmont62126
Mercer60513
Richland60012
Erie57027
Ashtabula56246
Geauga55444
Wayne52958
Ross4684
Huron3955
Darke39329
Ottawa37726
Sandusky37316
Hancock3723
Athens3561
Madison35510
Holmes3276
Lawrence2790
Auglaize2506
Union2461
Muskingum2251
Jefferson2242
Scioto2241
Putnam20517
Seneca2043
Knox2037
Washington20222
Preble2012
Coshocton1926
Shelby1904
Crawford1745
Champaign1732
Morrow1682
Hardin16412
Clinton1626
Highland1561
Logan1522
Fulton1471
Wyandot1458
Ashland1433
Defiance1424
Williams1343
Brown1272
Perry1233
Guernsey1167
Henry1162
Hocking1169
Fayette1120
Carroll1115
Monroe9118
Pike760
Jackson740
Van Wert711
Paulding670
Gallia651
Adams592
Meigs380
Vinton312
Harrison261
Morgan250
Noble170
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 72°
Angola
Few Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 68°
Huntington
Scattered Clouds
67° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 67°
Decatur
66° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 66°
Van Wert
66° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 66°
Storms return for Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events