This week a new type of gaming service was launched by one of the world’s biggest tech companies: Google Stadia.
Google Stadia is a games streaming service that promises to bring flagship games like Red Dead Redemption II and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey to all of your favorite screens through the power of Google’s servers.
Streaming services are not necessarily a new phenomenon. We’ve seen streaming transform the music industry with Spotify, the television and movie industry with Netflix, and now we just may see streaming revolutionize the games industry with Google’s shiny new subscription service.
This time may be a little different, though, as games are a bit more tricky to stream than music or movies/TV. I want to break down why that is and offer my take on the future vision for gaming.
The thing that separates games from any other major media platform, be it books, movies/TV, or music, is that gaming is an interactive experience.
The game is dependent on inputs from the player. The worlds that gamers experience are alive because gamers make choices and perform actions inside of them. Games allow you to create your own stories.
This entire experience can be interrupted, though, when latency issues arise. Latency is described as how it takes your in-game character to respond after you push a button on your game controller of choice. For most games, this happens in milliseconds, but if you experience internet issues, you could experience frustratingly long latency times.
If you’re in the middle of a classic shootout in Red Dead Redemption II running on Google Stadia and your internet runs into a hiccup, your inputs may be laggy and that could be the difference between life and death for your virtual cowboy.
Going through an experience such as this could prove to be extremely frustrating for a gamer and could turn them off from using Google Stadia as a whole.
What about multiplayer games? Player versus player (PVP) games rely entirely on having the least latency to ensure a competitive edge. That is why many competitive gamers invest in high refresh-rate displays, wired gaming peripherals, and fiber-optic internet connections to ensure the best possible response time to their inputs.
It becomes very hard to compete against other gamers when you have an extra layer of latency to deal with and running on Google Stadia will have to find a way to combat this issue.
To be honest, though, if you were obsessed with having the lowest-latency setup you would be investing in a wired internet connection and a high-speed gaming PC, not a Google Stadia subscription. What if you don’t have the greatest internet connection, though? How will Stadia perform?
According to a report by The Washington Post, even if you have a good internet connection, Stadia will still experience game-interrupting latency issues. This is disheartening for Stadia fans, but it is still only week one for this brand-new product.
Google eventually plans on the Stadia having ‘negative latency.’ So, it’s a time travel machine? Not exactly, though that would be a killer feature that surely would boost sales. According to a WIRED article, it means that latency on the Stadia will eventually become a non-issue for the system, making it better than even the latency on home consoles of today.
This would be accomplished via algorithms predicting players’ next moves and rendering outcomes in advance. This sounds impressive but at the same time hard to believe. I hope to see it sometime in the future, but for now, I will believe it when I see it.
TLDR; Google Stadia may very well be the future of gaming, but until it solves latency issues it will just be another option for gamers who want to game on a variety of screens.