One of the biggest stories in gaming this year has mostly been ignored in South Africa. Google's Stadia is potentially one of the biggest disruptors in the gaming space.
Nintendo threw a spanner in the works when they released the Switch, which is currently out-selling PlayStation and Xbox. Google will be hoping that their unique offering carves out a share of the market in a similar way.
Sorry, South Africans, we're missing out
To be clear, South Africa will not be one of the countries included in the initial launch of the Stadia. Much like Sony's game streaming service, South Africa missed the cut.
This is most likely due to the low average speed of internet in the country and the relatively small player base.
This means that unless Sony and Google invest in local servers, there's no way they would be able to guarantee anything like a stable and consistent experience.
The pros and cons of streaming games
There are advantages to streaming games. The cost of hardware for the user is reduced and pushed upstream to the server-side.
However, the downside for consumers is that users can't just plug in a console and play. You need to be online, and you need to have a fast, stable connection.
The Stadia team at Google are making some massive claims about the performance of Stadia, and it'll be interesting to see if they're able to deliver. Google Stadia VP and Head of Engineering Madj Bakar says:
“Ultimately, we think in a year or two we'll have games that are running faster and feel more responsive in the cloud than they do locally, regardless of how powerful the local machine is.”
Google aims to predict user input
This is a bold claim and while it's probably possible that some games, probably those that would currently suffer from network latency and aren't running at the maximum limits of PC hardware could definitely run faster than it would on a PC.
Ultimately, having games running on servers would reduce the number of variables affecting gameplay, in theory. The Stadia team aren't happy to just reduce latency to zero, though.
The company is now talking about negative lag, believe it or not. Madj Bakar says that in future, the platform would be able to rapidly increase framerate to compensate for player side lag.
This includes predicting user inputs. Yes, Google is planning to read our minds while we play our favourite games.
There are no details about how this would work in the real world. I mean, surely Google can't press the button for me; and if so, what is the benefit of my Stadia knowing what I'm going to do next?
Either way, the Stadia is an exciting new direction in gaming that's sure to pose a whole new set of problems for developers and players alike.
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