Google announces browser-based streaming game service

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google announced on Tuesday a browser-based video game streaming service dubbed Stadia that attempts to capitalize on the company’s cloud technology and global network of data centers.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a Google keynote address announcing a new video gaming streaming service named Stadia that attempts to capitalize on the company’s cloud technology and global network of data centers, at the Gaming Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

The technology allows users to play games through their internet browser without waiting for content to be downloaded to a device, making access to games potentially as easy as watching a video from YouTube. But Google for now offered scant details on pricing or available titles for the service, which faces potentially tough competition from game publishers and from rivals including Amazon.com and Microsoft.

The “waiting game will be a thing of the past,” Phil Harrison, a Google vice president overseeing the new service, said during a keynote presentation on Tuesday in San Francisco at the Game Developers Conference, which is bringing together this week about 25,000 people who work in the video games industry.

Google said Stadia would launch sometime this year in the United States, Canada and much of Europe.

It declined to say how games would be priced or what games would be available on Stadia. It demonstrated titles from the Doom and Assassin’s Creed franchises on Tuesday and said that it would be developing some games in-house.

Though users may be attracted to the idea of quick access from any device, they may not get desired games. Analysts have questioned whether the tech companies will be able to charge consumers prices high enough to attract top publishers that have a lucrative business selling games on discs.

Game publishers also may decide to launch their own streaming services, as film and TV studios have begun doing for their content in the last few years.

Several technology companies are looking to boost services revenue through games streaming, including Sony Corp, Nvidia Corp and Microsoft Corp.

Google “has one key weakness – first party and exclusive content,” Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games for research firm IHS Markit, said in a note on Tuesday. “Both Microsoft and Tencent are better positioned” with a strong supply of unique top shelf games.

Google has shown mixed results in gaming. Video games are the best-selling category on its app store for Android mobile devices. It sold an estimated $21.5 billion worth of games last year, according to research firm Sensor Tower. And gaming is among the top three categories on the Google-owned video service YouTube.

But Apple Inc’s App Store sold about $33 billion worth of games last year, and the games industry views Amazon.com Inc’s Twitch, rather than YouTube, as the most popular video streaming service for content related to video games.

Google flopped in efforts to popularize games on virtual reality headsets and televisions.

Harrison said Stadia would work on desktops, laptops, TVs connected to Chromecast streaming media sticks, tablets and phones. Players could enter games from links on YouTube or other social media.

They will play using mice and keyboards, USB controllers or a WiFi-enabled controller that Google plans to launch this year.

Google’s hardware business is a top priority for Chief Executive Sundar Pichai, who opened Tuesday’s keynote.

Dozens of people are on the Stadia team, many of them formerly of game makers Electronic Arts Inc, Sony or Microsoft’s gaming units.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Nick Zieminski

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