- Google is planning a new videogame platform called Stadia that lets players stream games from the cloud without the need for an expensive console like a Microsoft Xbox or Sony Playstation. The news was revealed during Google's annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, according to multiple reports, and in a blog post. Stadia will let players stream videogames on their smartphones, tablets or computers that have a Chrome web browser, or to any TV with a Chromecast Ultra device.
- The service will let players jump into games they watch on YouTube by clicking an on-screen "Play Now" button, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said at a keynote at the event. Google plans to sell a videogame controller, that will have a direct connection to the cloud through Wi-Fi, a button for instant capture, saving and sharing gameplay, a Google Assistant button and built-in microphone. Stadia will also support some existing controllers.
- Google didn’t announce a launch date for the gaming platform. The company began testing the service last fall in a pilot called "Project Stream" that invited players to use a Chrome browser to play a version of "Assassin’s Creed" from Ubisoft Entertainment.
Google clearly wants a bigger role in gaming, a market that is already significant and continues to grow. Google’s Stadia gaming platform shows how the company is betting on broadband connectivity to mobile devices and homes to support the delivery of richer content and new experiences to consumers. As cellular networks expand the availability of high-speed 5G service in the next couple of years, more mobile games can shift to streaming services like Stadia instead of requiring people to use dedicated gaming consoles for downloading games.
Mobile gaming is the fastest-growing category of videogames, partly because of titles like Epic Games' "Fortnite" that can be played on any device. Games are the third-most popular category of app after social media and shopping apps, per a survey by researcher Newzoo. As "Fortnite" and its battle royale imitators have demonstrated, videogaming has evolved to become more social and collaborative than it used to be when consumers had consoles that weren't connected. Esports also are growing into a significant entertainment category, with corporate sponsorship of tournaments expected to surge 34% to $457 million this year, per a separate Newzoo report.
It's not clear how Google plans to monetize the service, whether through a subscription fee or sponsorships. Given its dominance in digital advertising, Google conceivably could sell ad inserts into gaming sessions or collect a cut of in-app purchases of digital goods. That means mobile marketers may have a chance to reach younger audiences that are elusive to other media channels like traditional TV. Google also has an advantage with the popularity of YouTube among gamers who broadcast their gameplay to audiences who like to watch others play or share strategies with other gamers. YouTube's dedicated gaming channel has almost 82 million subscribers and features a mix of live gaming action and videos about popular games.
Google's Stadia is another sign that tech giants are seeking a bigger slice of the $130 billion gaming market dominated by hardware makers like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo that sell pricey consoles, and game publishers like Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard and Take-Two Interactive. Google and Apple distribute mobile games through their app stores, while Amazon runs the game broadcasting service Twitch. Facebook last week added a dedicated gaming tab to its mobile app and has games on its Messenger app, while Snap is said to have plans to introduce a gaming platform in Snapchat next month.