At the time of writing, we are on the cusp of the full release of Google's Stadia gaming platform. The platform is a subscription-based gaming service that boasts an impressive selection of AAA games from the likes of Ubisoft, id Software and Larian Studios. But unlike Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft, Google's gaming service is both streamable content and streamable hardware. Players can expect 60fps, 4K, HDR playback and smooth gameplay all without a fan-cooled box of GPU power sitting next to their televisions. All that's required is the subscription, a controller and a small receiver (for the controller), similar to their existing digital AV media player dongle, Chromecast.
Pretty impressive! But perhaps what this represents is all the more powerful. Streamable hardware on subscription is something that has penetrated the consumer market so far only predominantly in the form of storage – think Google Drive/Photos and iCloud, and voice recognition AI - Alex and Google Home. Google Stadia is (probably) the first time serious compute on subscription service that is being packaged up and sold to the consumer market.
There are some real gains to be had too, so long as the service is successful – gameplay interrupted by latency or buffering would mean it’s game over! More people using intensive compute in the cloud means a huge opportunity for Google to not only rival other games console brands, but also get another leg up on rivals in what is a fiercely competitive space.
So what’s next? What if similar technology was trialed with mobile devices. With major rollouts of 5G, what could stop cloud companies offering streamable hardware for mobile? This could be the next game-changer in smart-phone technology. Subscription hardware for mobile would mean mobile upgrades are simply a case of changing your subscription package. Mobile hardware, in turn, could become far simpler, sturdier, longer-lasting and more alike to the Chromecast dongle: An internet-connected streamer of a virtual computer rather than a computer in its own right. Your old iPhone 3GS could outperform an iPhone 11 Pro Max! And, most importantly of all, more sustainable mobile devices means less demand for new handset devices creating a less wasteful, more earth-friendly technology solution. Something worth trying?