For decades, high-end PC gaming has been a relatively exclusive club reserved for the those willing to invest $1,000 or more in building an expensive computer. The term “PC Master Race” has become a running joke in the realm of online gaming, referring to the class of hardcore gamers who celebrate the superiority of their customized computers over ordinary video game consoles.
But as the years have gone on, the line between high-end PCs and powerful gaming consoles have become blurred and the most popular games are developed with both communities in mind. Now, thanks to constantly evolving cloud technology, companies like Google and Microsoft are ready to offer streaming video games with the same high fidelity graphics that gamers expect from a PC, but without the costly investment in hardware.
Google’s Stadia will launch this November and promises 4K visuals for popular PC games like “Doom,” “Tomb Raider,” and “Assassin’s Creed.” Players will have to fork over $10 per month for Stadia Pro to get full access to 4K streaming, but Stadia will also offer 1080p streaming for free starting next year. Again, this means that gamers using Stadia wont need to invest $500 in a new console or more than $1,000 in a new PC to see the best possible graphics from their favorite games.
Of course, PC gamers have access to hundreds of millions of games, while Stadia users will be limited to about 30 titles when the service launches. Similarly, if you’ve already invested in a PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Nintendo Switch, rebuilding your collection of games on Stadia probably isn’t worth it for the small upgrade in graphical quality. Those home consoles also have exclusive games that aren’t available on Stadia or PC.
Read more: Google just detailed Stadia, its ambitious attempt to upend the video-game industry and take on Xbox and PlayStation. Here’s everything we know so far.
That said, Stadia has the support of major video game publishers and will become a regular destination for newly released games in the future. Google is also planning to develop its own exclusive titles for Stadia, but they wont be ready until later in 2020.
Buying and playing games on Stadia will require only a controller, an internet connection, and a computer capable of running Google Chrome. Google will also stream Stadia games to the Chromecast, and their Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a smartphones as well. Stadia plans to add the service to more mobile devices in the future.
While Stadia is a convenient home solution, it also sacrifices much of the flexibility that comes with a powerful PC or standard console. You won’t be able to trade-in your old game discs or lend them to a friend anf you wont be able to customize your games with modifications, an important caveat for many PC gamers. And because Stadia is a cloud service, you wont be able to access your games at all if you’re offline, a far cry from the portable fun of the Nintendo Switch.
Streaming at 4K resolution via Stadia will require a strong and stable internet connection; Google recommends a 35 Mbps download for playing in 4K. Streaming at that quality will also use about 15 GB of data per hour, so players will have to be mindful if their internet service comes with a data cap.
Ultimately, with the technological breakthroughs of streaming services like Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud,hardcore gaming will gradually become less about how much money you invest in your machine, and more about how much time you invest in your favorite games.