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Google unveils Stadia video game streaming service

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Google's Stadia controller will connect to the service via Wi-Fi. (image: Google)

Google (GOOG, GOOGL) is getting into gaming with a new cloud-based streaming service. The tech giant on Tuesday announced the offering, called Stadia, at the Game Developers Conference 2019 in San Francisco. Stadia will allow you to stream games online to any compatible internet connected device.

The tech giant just said it’s set to launch sometime in 2019.

Game streaming cuts out the need for gamers to purchase expensive consoles and pricy gaming computers. Google says Stadia will be playable on desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and smart TVs. The company also said you’ll be able to play on one device, and then instantly begin playing on another without issue.

It also puts Google smack in the center of an industry that continues to see exceptional growth. The U.S. gaming industry saw $43.4 billion in revenue in 2018, up 18% from 2017. The global gaming industry is valued at $134.9 billion.

Google says you’ll be able to view a game trailer on YouTube, where there will be a “play now” button. Click that, and you will launch the game in less than 5 seconds and be able to start playing it without any download needed.

The company announced a number of slick features for Stadia that could have a big impact on how gamers play.

Stadia’s Stream Connect will allow for split screen co-op. And since both players will be running their own instance of the game, you won’t see the kind of performance hit to the game, which is what happens on consoles since a single system would normally have to support running both players’ views of the world on screen.

State Share will let you share a moment from your game that you can send to a friend. You can then pick up playing the game from that exact moment.

If you get stuck on a part of the game, you can pull up the Google Assistant and it will point you in the right direction via a YouTube video laid on top of your game. That’s far easier than having to either open a secondary browser on your PC, or pulling up hints on your smartphone.

The tech giant believes that it is the only company that is equipped to be able to handle streaming games to people around the world thanks to its existing cloud infrastructure, which houses data centers and endpoints in a slew of regions and countries. It will also power its game streaming operations using AMD’s (AMD) own graphics chips.

Google, however, didn’t show off too many games that will run on the service. We saw offerings from Id Software like “Doom Eternal” and Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.”

Google’s Stadia controller will connect to the service via Wi-Fi. (image: Google)

There will likely be plenty of games available for the service, but to help build its own catalogue of offerings, Google announced its own first-party game studio called Stadia Games and Entertainment. Jade Raymond, who founded Ubisoft Toronto and EA’s Motive, will run the new venture.

The competition

Google’s streaming service isn’t the only game in town, though.

Nvidia’s (NVDA) GeForce Now, available through a free beta, lets you stream games to your Windows PC, Mac, or the Nvidia Shield, the company’s Android TV-powered streaming device. Microsoft (MSFT) is also working on a streaming service called Project xCloud, which is expected to let you stream your favorite Xbox games to other devices. Trials for the service will begin later this year.

Valve’s Steam Link Anywhere was recently updated to allow you to stream games from your home PC to your Android device, while Sony’s (SNE) PlayStation Now lets you stream games to your PlayStation 4. Amazon (AMZN) is also reportedly getting in on the streaming business with plans to offer its own service.

Then there are the smaller companies like Blade’s Shadow, a streaming service that lets you remotely access and use a high-end PC to do everything from gaming to video editing.

Google’s planned streaming service has been in development for more than two years and was first made available to consumers in October 2018 as a beta. During the beta’s run, players could stream Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” through a Chrome web browser tab. But as Google CEO Sundar Pichai admitted during the company’s keynote, that technical test was just to ensure Google could handle streaming games.

The new service will be playable via Google’s own custom controller, the Stadia Controller, which, of course, has a Google Assistant button built in. The controller actually connects via Wi-Fi to the internet so that it hooks up directly to the server you’re streaming the game from to cut down on any potential lag.

If you’re a laptop or PC player, you’ll also be able to use your existing keyboard and mouse.

Whether or not gamers are ready for cloud gaming remains to be seen. None of the services that are currently available have taken off quite like standard video streaming services such as Netflix.

Then there’s the issue of how much bandwidth game streaming services will require. Today’s gamers are playing titles at 1080p and 4K resolutions with refresh rates ranging from 30 frames per second to 60 frames per second. Those refresh rates are even higher on high-end gaming PCs.

Google says that it in the future it will allow gamers to stream titles at 4K resolutions at 60 fps with HDR and surround sound.

To stream a 4K movie on a service like Netflix, though, the company recommends a connection speed of at least 25 megabits per second. You’ll likely need a similar connection to stream 4K games. And while internet speeds have improved in the U.S. in the past few years, many Americans still can’t reach those levels.

More from Dan:

Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@oath.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley. Follow Yahoo Finance on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.finance.yahoo.com/

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