Mobile device running Mortal Kombat 11 on Stadia with official controller
Stadia (// STAY-dee-ə) is a cloud gaming service operated by Google. It is said to be capable of streaming video games up to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second with support for high-dynamic-range, to players via the company's numerous data centers across the globe, provided they are using a sufficiently high-speed Internet connection. It is accessible through the Google Chrome web browser on desktop computers, or through the smartphones, tablets, smart televisions, digital media players, and Chromecast.
The service is integrated with YouTube, and its "state share" feature allows viewers of a Stadia stream to launch a game on the service on the same save state as the streamer. This has been used as a selling point for the service. It is compatible with HID class USB controllers, though a proprietary controller manufactured by Google with a direct Wi-Fi link to data centers will be available alongside the service. Stadia is not similar to Netflix, in that it requires users to purchase games to stream via Stadia rather than pay for access to a library of games. While the base service will be free, a Pro tier monthly subscription allows users to stream at higher rates for larger resolutions, and the offer to add free games to their library.
Known in development as Project Stream, the service was debuted through a closed beta running Assassin's Creed Odyssey in October 2018. It received a public release on November 19, 2019, in selected countries, where it received a mostly negative reception. It was dubbed by Forbes as a "Technical and Conceptional Disaster". Stadia competes with Sony's PlayStation Now service, Nvidia's GeForce Now, and Microsoft's Project xCloud.
Stadia is a cloud gaming service, and requires no additional computer hardware, only requiring the device to have an Internet connection and support for Google Chrome. Stadia works atop YouTube's functionality in streaming media to the user, as game streaming is seen as an extension of watching video game live streams, according to Google's Phil Harrison; the name "Stadia", plural of "stadium", is meant to reflect that it will be a collection of entertainment, which the viewer can choose to sit back and watch, or take an active part in. As Google had built out a large number of data centers across the globe, the company believes that Stadia is in a better position for cloud gaming compared to past endeavours like OnLive, PlayStation Now, and Gaikai, as most players would be geographically close to a data center. Stadia supports the streaming of games in HDR at 60 frames per second with 4K resolution, and anticipates eventually reaching 120 frames per second at 8K resolution. Players can start games without having to download new content to their personal device. Players can opt to record or stream their sessions onto YouTube through Stadia. Viewers of such streams can launch the games directly from the stream with the same save state that they were just watching. While Stadia can use any HID-class USB controller, Google developed its own controller which connects via Wi-Fi directly to the Google data center in which the game is running, to reduce input latency. Google is also exploring further ways to reduce latency, using an idea called "negative latency" which involves prediction of user input through various means so that any apparent network lag between controller and game response is minimized. During its GDC 2019 keynote reveal, Google confirmed that the controller would also feature Google Assistant, which will automatically search YouTube for relevant, helpful videos related to the game they are currently playing at the touch of a key.
Stadia will offer two tiers of service, a free Base level and a monthly subscription Pro level. The Pro tier will be approximately US$10 per month, but allows users to access higher streaming rates, access a library of free games over time, and get discounts on other games offered for Stadia. Harrison stated they are also looking into offering publisher subscriptions and other models in the future; for example, Ubisoft announced its Uplay Plus subscription service will be available to Stadia users.
Internet speed requirements
Upon launch, Stadia's cloud hardware will initially use a custom Intel x86 processor clocked at 2.7 GHz, with AVX2 and 9.5 megabytes of L2+L3 cache. It will also use a custom AMD GPU based on the Vega architecture with HBM2 memory, 56 compute units, and 10.7 teraFLOPS. The service will also have solid-state drive storage, and 16GB of RAM (supporting up to 484GB/s bandwidth) shared between the GPU and the CPU.
Google developed the controller for Stadia. The controller includes two thumbsticks, a directional pad, four main face buttons, two sets of shoulder buttons, and five additional controller face buttons. The controller has the capability of connection over a wireless network, rather than through the device that the user is playing on, as to reduce the latency of controller communication with Stadia services. The controller will be available in a variation of four colors at its launch.
Stadia will be initially launched in November 19, 2019 with a Founder's Pack, which includes a Chromecast Ultra, a Stadia controller, three months of Pro service, and an additional three months of Pro service to gift to a friend. This will be sold at an MSRP of US$129.
"This [Google Stadia] starts with our platform foundations of Linux and Vulkan and shows in our selection of GPUs that have open-source drivers and tools. We’re integrating LLVM and DirectX Shader Compiler to ensure you get great features and performance from our compilers and debuggers."— Dov Zimring, Stadia Developer Platform Lead
Project Stream was Google's first announced sign of interest in video gaming products. The company had previously been rumored as working on a service called Project Yeti since at least 2016. Google had also hired gaming industry executive Phil Harrison and was seen recruiting developers during industry events in 2018. Project Stream's main differentiator from past services, such as OnLive, GeForce Now, and PlayStation Now, is its ability to run in any desktop Chrome browser, so no additional software needs to be installed. The service uses AMD Radeon graphics hardware. Internally, the service was developed around 2016's Doom to show that the proof-of-concept worked in realistic settings across the public internet.
Google announced the service in October 2018 and soon after, opened invitations to beta testers with access to Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Players could apply for access and those who met an Internet speed minimum could run the game in their Chrome browsers. Those who participated received a free copy of the game when the beta expired. Stadia was formally announced during Google's keynote address at the 2019 Game Developers Conference in March 2019. To support Stadia, Google also announced the formation of Stadia Games and Entertainment, with Jade Raymond as its lead. Besides developing their own games, Stadia Games and Entertainment will help support the transition of third-party titles to the Stadia service.
Stadia will launch in November 2019 in fourteen countries: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and at that time, limited to the Pro tier users. By 2020, Google plans to expand Stadia to more countries and bring free Base service online.
Stadia will require users to purchase games to use over the service, though it does also plan to offer a library of free games over time for Pro tier subscribers, as well as offering the first two years of Destiny 2 content for free for those who purchased the Founder's Pack. At the time of the platform's full reveal in June 2019, Google announced that Gylt by Tequila Works and Get Packed by Moonshine Studios would be exclusive to Stadia. The service will launch with 22 games, and expected to add fourteen more before the end of 2019.
Reception and technical problems
During its beta, the service received generally positive initial impressions from reviewers, who felt it met and in some instances, exceeded expectations and could make game streaming appear as a potentially viable alternative to PC gaming, however some minor discrepancies and technical issues were nonetheless noted.
Reviewers reported that the streaming service had low latency and felt as if the game was being played locally. Despite this, depending on Wi-Fi speeds, the game sometimes compressed its screen resolution or lagged. A test by The Verge found no lag issues over a wired ethernet connection, and occasional stuttering on a shared Wi-Fi connection. However, even on a wired connection, the stream did not output at 4K resolution and occasionally went fuzzy with compression artifacting. The reviewer reported the best experience on Google's Chromebook Pixel. Polygon found the service's audio compression noticeable. Ars Technica remarked that Project Stream's login sequence was far simpler than that of other services. Digital Foundry performed a hands-on with Assassin's Creed Odyssey on a Pixelbook on the service in Beta, and found that on the testing environment, latency seemed acceptable, but there was a noticeable visual hit. They also remarked that Assassin's Creed Odyssey was not the best example for testing, as it was already a natively laggy game.[c]
Stadia received primarily mixed to negative reviews upon its release. Reviewers criticized its game library (which consisted of mostly older games), its lack of features at launch, and its visual quality, while praising its concept. Forbes was highly negative, calling the service a "technical, conceptual disaster". Its performance was described as "shockingly bad", pointing to lag during cutscenes in Mortal Kombat 11. Wired Magazine was more positive, but still mixed: the image quality was described as "drab", but the writer admitted to preferring to play Destiny 2 on a Chromebook instead of a larger gaming laptop. VentureBeat criticized the service's pricing model, comparing it unfavorably to subscription services such as Xbox Game Pass and claiming that it "doesn't matter". Digital Foundry found that the service was incapable of playing games at 4K resolutions: Red Dead Redemption 2 was found to only run at 1440p, and Destiny 2 ran at only 1080p (albeit at a frame rate higher than that of the console versions). Digital Foundry also discovered that games like Red Dead Redemption 2 also struggled to maintain a consistent 60 frames per second, claiming that their test of the game on Chromecast only outputted a solid 30 FPS, while a test on the Chrome browser was an unstable 60 FPS that dropped frequently.
- Date of first completed public release, regardless of platform or region.
- Originally planned for release March 2020.
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey was originally designed for gameplay at 30 frames per second.[original research?]
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- on YouTube
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Assassin's Creed Odyssey was the test case for Project Stream, and people have already played a remote version of this game in a web browser. [...] Google confirmed that Dylan Cuthbert's Q-Games would be building a game around the "state share" feature that will allow you to instantly start playing a game at the same moment as a Youtube video or a live Youtube stream. [...] it's hired AAA gaming industry very Jade Raymond to head up a studio called Stadia Games and Entertainment.
- Harrison, Phil [@MrPhilHarrison] (June 10, 2019). "Watchdogs Legion coming to #Stadia thanks to @Ubisoft in March 2020" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
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Assassin's Creed Odyssey is perhaps not the best example for testing, as it's natively a fairly laggy game, so it will be interesting to test faster 60fps titles (...) Stadia is perfectly playable and presentable here, but it's clear that there is a noticeable visual hit when the encoder is presented with more a more detail-rich, fast-moving scene process.
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