- Google has a huge new gaming platform named Stadia, which will stream blockbuster games to nearly any device.
- Rather than relying on a traditional game console, Stadia runs in the cloud – games are streamed to your device, like Netflix does with movies and TV.
- Because games are interactive, streaming video games is much more technologically challenging than streaming movies.
- Video game streaming requires much higher internet standards, and Google’s Stadia is no exception in this regard.
When Netflix transitioned from its original business of mailing customers physical DVDs and became a company primarily focused on streaming movies over the internet, customers had reservations.
There were questions about the smaller library of content available through Netflix’s digital service, and there were concerns about the viability of streaming videos to a public that hadn’t fully embraced broadband internet speeds.
“What if I live somewhere that doesn’t have strong enough internet speeds?” people wondered.
More than a decade later, that’s the same question at the heart of Google’s new video game platform, Stadia.
The idea with Stadia is simple: High-end, blockbuster games are streamed through Stadia to whatever device you’re using.
With Stadia, Google says, you can stream the same game to your smartphone that you stream to your home television, running at the same resolution and framerate. No game console required.
It’s a bold, ambitious promise, and it’s one that depends on strong, stable internet to function.
“When we launch,” Google VP Phil Harrison told Kotaku in an interview this week, “we will be able to get to 4K but only raise that bandwidth to about 30 megabits per second.”
What that means for the average person is that, based on current LTE and home broadband speeds, you’ll probably be able to run Stadia.
The big unknown, however, is stability.
More than just having strong internet, Stadia relies on steady internet connection speeds. If you’ve ever experienced buffering on Netflix, you’re already familiar with this phenomenon: Your internet speed dips, or tanks completely, and the video you’re watching stops playing while it struggles to load.
This is an inconvenience when you’re watching a video, but it could be outright game-breaking if it happens in the middle of, say, a crucial moment in a boss fight.
You’re just one hit away from finally crushing Lady Maria in “Bloodborne” when – uh oh! – the internet drops speed just enough for the game not to register your button press in time. And just like that, she’s won again.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to ensure a steady internet connection. Playing during off-peak hours, when fewer people are online in your area, will help. And, if you’re on a mobile device, playing in a part of your house with thinner walls will help maintain a better signal.
But for the most part, this part of the gaming experience is beyond your control.
Harrison said that, should your internet speed dip while playing, the first result is something pretty similar to what Netflix does: A drop in visual fidelity.
“If you have less bandwidth, we’ll give you a lower resolution. We do a lot of that for you in the background, and we will only offer up the appropriate bandwidth for the infrastructure that you have,” he said.
A sharper drop, of course, could result in the stream outright freezing up; whether Stadia recognizes that issue in enough time to stop something unintended from happening in the game you’re playing remains to be seen.