Showtime for Stadia cloud gaming service

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Google sets out to transform the video game world with its Stadia service crafted to let people access console-quality games as easily as they do email.

With the Stadia launch yesterday, the Internet giant is aiming for a piece of a global video game industry expected to top USD150 billion this year by using its cloud computing technology offering rich features without the need for consoles.

Stadia announced 10 more games on Monday to bring its lineup to 22 with more promised by year’s end. Google last month sold out of “Founder’s Edition” kits, which are priced at USD129.

Some who ordered Stadia kits were grumbling online that they had yet to receive the hardware they need to use the service. Each kit contains a Stadia controller and a pendant-shaped Chromecast Ultra wireless connection device that plugs into television sets.

Stadia games are also playable using Google Chrome web browser software on computers as well as with Google-made Pixel smartphones from the second-generation onward.

Stadia Pro subscriptions, priced at USD10 a month in the US, will be available in 14 countries in North America and Europe.

Subscribers will be able to buy games that will be hosted at Google data centres, but some free games will be available to them, starting with Destiny 2: The Collection.

Stadia on smartphones at the start will work with WiFi connections rather than rely on mobile telecom services. Being able to play without lags or interruptions is paramount to gamers, and flawed Internet connections could cause frustration. Internet speed will also determine how rich in-game graphics can be.

Some promised features such as integration with YouTube will not be in place at launch.

Google appeared to be committed to making Stadia a success, according to Ubisoft Senior Vice President of Partnerships Chris Early.

The French video game giant has been working with Google and its games are among titles coming to the service. “From what I have seen, their plans are too deep; they are too good, and they are too invested,” Early said. “They are not calling it quits any time soon.”

He expects a long launch period during which Google will beef up Stadia.

Visitors play a cloud-game at the stand of Google Stadia during the video games trade fair Gamescom in Cologne, western Germany. PHOTO: AFP