On Tuesday, Google revealed Stadia, which is the internet behemoth's plan to enter the video game console market. Interestingly, Stadia doesn't involve a physical console at all. There will be nothing to sit next to your TV set. It will be streamed entirely through the internet. It aims to be the Netflix of gaming, if you will.
The console market is a notoriously a hard nut to crack. But in this current climate, if any company has the potential to contend in a significant way, Google is that company. It is ideally situated to provide a wholly new way of consuming games. Google's massive cloud-server infrastructure will mean that the Stadia will be able to support 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, and will only require a 25 Mbps internet speed to do it.
In terms of online gameplay, multiplayer sessions will no longer be gated by the slowest possible client-server connection, while certain other practical limitations will be a thing of the past: battle royale games, for instance, could scale from the current 100-player cap to theoretically millions of players across all platforms. Google head of cloud gaming, Phil Harrison, boasted that there will be "No download, no patch, no install, no custom hardware. Within five seconds you can be playing a game."
Google is definitely early to the party, seeing as no other console manufacturer has these capabilities ready to launch yet. Whether being early will pay off is yet to be seen. If Google fails it could act as a deterrent for the traditional console makers.
For some time now there have been rumors concerning Microsoft's push towards a cloud-based streaming service for its next generation of consoles, similar to this Netflix-of-gaming concept. Meanwhile, some of PlayStation's and Nintendo's recent corporate acquisitions have pointed to ambitions of a similar nature. In as much as these rumors have persisted, however, so has the general feeling of resistance on the part of gamers. If the rumors are nonetheless true it would seem that Microsoft and the other console makers are betting that a cloud-based future is on the horizon.
Whether this fatalistic view of cloud-based gaming is true or not is, perhaps, at this stage, not as important as whether Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo believe it is true. And for now, crucially, the marketplace definitely believes it is true: both Sony and Nintendo took a hit in share prices with the unveiling of Google's new cloud-based game-streaming platform.