Google Stadia logo by Google / Public Domain

Photo by Google / Public Domain

“Cloud gaming” or “games-on-demand” are buzzwords we’ve been hearing time and time again in the videogame industry. Earlier in 2019, Google showed off their new gaming streaming service ‘Google Stadia’, which aims to make gaming more accessible and affordable for everyone by lifting the need for a PC or console. Instead, Google Stadia allows players to stream games directly to their smartphone or laptop, as all the heavy processing is done via cloud servers.

While there are a few companies that already provide cloud gaming services such as NVIDIA’s GeForce and Playstation Now, the announcement of Google Stadia back in March has had everyone in the tech space speculating what this could potentially mean for the future of the gaming industry. In this post, we will address some of the advantages and disadvantages of Google’s new streaming-only gaming service.

First impressions

The most obvious benefit of cloud-based gaming is that there are no hardware restrictions. Because of this, Google Stadia looks like a great deal for short-term high-end gaming. If you’re someone who doesn’t own a console or PC and only intends on playing a popular new title for a month or so, then cloud gaming is a much more cost-effective option for you.

Google has promised that its Stadia streaming service has the same processing power as a console running at 10.7 GPU teraflops. Google showed off a number of triple-A titles running on a Google Chrome browser during their E3 conference in June such as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Destiny 2.

With no hardware limitations, you’ll be able to stream games in full HD resolution at 60fps on any device. It looks like Google is taking a page out of the book of the hugely successful online casino industry, for example, suppliers like Betway Casino offer users a huge library of fun and interactive casino games without the need to install software or purchase expensive gaming consoles. As can be seen when playing online slots, users have access to a whole bunch of games available on the website and are not asked to download or install any software before playing. Google seems to be doing something similar with its cloud-based gaming platform, providing a subscription service that will grant users access to a huge library of games that can be played instantly, making top quality gaming more available and accessible to everyone.

If streaming games can run as smoothly on Google Stadia as they did during their tech demo at E3, with no lag time or latency issues, there will be a whole host of advantages that cloud-based gaming will have over traditional gaming.

cloud computing - Photo by Nikin / Public Domain

Photo by Nikin / Public Domain

PROS

No need for an expensive PC or console – This is arguably the biggest selling point for cloud-based gaming. Google Stadia removes all hardware limitations, so you can enjoy triple-A games without the need to upgrade your PC or purchase expensive gaming consoles.

Play on any device – For the moment, the majority of high-end games are only available on PCs with quality specs or consoles like the Xbox One and PS4. Stadia lets you play on any device whether it’s a Google Pixel 3 smartphone, laptop, tablet or desktop provided you have a stable internet connection.

No downloads – Most games these days require a download of 10GB or more before you can start playing them. In theory, Google Stadia will allow you to start playing games instantly as the game is already installed on their servers.

However there are significant downsides to cloud gaming and this is largely due to the limitations of the internet in its current state. But with 5G just around the corner, faster internet speeds could potentially mean that connectivity problems won’t be an issue for Google’s new gaming service.

CONS

Bandwidth – It will come as no surprise that cloud gaming requires a lot of bandwidth. Because Google Stadia is completely cloud-based it will use a significant amount of data to run optimally. This could seriously interfere with your gaming experience if your internet connection has a bandwidth cap.

Image degradation – Just like when you watch a YouTube video or movie on Netflix, the video quality is sometimes compressed in order to make the stream run more efficiently. This will likely happen with a streaming service like Stadia especially if your internet has bandwidth restrictions. If you’re a dedicated gamer and don’t want to experience video compression or image degradation then PC gaming still seems like the best option for high-resolution gaming.

No ownership of your games – With online gaming services like Steam and Origin, once you purchase a game, you own the right to access it but you don’t really own the product. Since there is no physical copy of the game and the game you purchased exists in the cloud, gamers are wondering what will happen to their purchase if Google were to suddenly stop support for Stadia a few years down the line. This is a major concern, especially since Google has a notorious track record for abandoning a lot of their new ventures.

To sum up

While the idea of being able to stream high-quality gaming experiences directly from any device is great, if the processing power of Stadia’s servers can’t meet the high spec demands of triple-A gaming then we have a hard time seeing hardcore PC or console gamers making the switch to cloud gaming. Ultimately it would result in a laggy and unresponsive gaming experience. We’ll just have to wait until the launch of Stadia in November to see what kind of experience Google’s new venture into cloud-based gaming is capable of providing.

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