Showtime for Stadia cloud gaming service

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SAN FRANCISCO — 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 on Tuesday, the internet giant is aiming for a piece of a global video game industry expected to top $150 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 $129. 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 $10 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 centers, 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.

"If there is a one-day problem at launch, it isn't the end of the world," he said, stressing the potential for Stadia to let people play without investing in consoles.

Stadia aims to lead the way to hosting titles in data centers, letting people use whatever gadgets they wish to access console-quality play.

US technology veteran Microsoft has been testing a Project xCloud online game platform that it plans to make available on Windows-powered personal computers next year.

Sony Interactive Entertainment has a PlayStation Now service that combines cloud gaming and title downloads that is synched to its latest-generation consoles and Windows-powered personal computers.

Having titles sit on powerful servers in the cloud could allow for unprecedented features such as thousands of people playing simultaneously or environments as detailed as the real world.

The Google move comes following the launch of the Apple Arcade mobile game service, which offers custom game apps downloaded to devices. A rival Google Play Pass charges the same $4.99 monthly subscription price as that of Arcade, which focuses on games for Apple iOS devices — AFP


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