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A playground in the cloud

By Jean-Claude Elias - Sep 12,2019 - Last updated at Sep 12,2019

By now most software applications have move to the cloud — most, but not all. A major one is going to follow suit next November. It is the brainchild of this mammoth player in the game, Google. The company is one of the famous group everybody refers to as GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft), or simply GAFA. It has just announced that it will introduce its online, cloud-hosted high definition advanced gaming platform two months from now, in selected countries. They call it Stadia.

 

Why is it so important?

 

Over the last few years cloud-based services have virtually made obsolete the same services that we used to process and use locally on our computer, independently of any networking or of the Internet. Music and video streaming are now the norm: Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, and so forth. Microsoft has succeeded with their Office 365 that works online and with subscription. The same is true for Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and the other modules of the company. Storing your personal files on OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox is the way to go, forgetting the hard disk on your computer. The list goes on and on.

One type of applications had not moved to the cloud so far, gaming. It is still the virtual monopoly of these amazing gaming consoles: Xbox, PlayStation and the like. It is important to mention here that the subject is advanced gaming, the kind that gives you glorious 4K resolution images, mind-blowing graphics, and ultra-fast, therefore ultra-smooth, better than life, 60 frames per second smooth action. Indeed, if we think of “simple”, old style low resolution, 2D, and slow action games, it has always been possible to play them online, but again this is not what Stadia and the upcoming generation are about.

Advanced games are very demanding in terms of computers’ technical resources: processor speed, graphics card, sound card and memory size, to mention only the essential elements. How is the cloud going to cope with these requirements? It is probably going to be up to the job thanks to the fast fibre optic Internet, mainly. With the higher speeds now in the range of 500 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps, we are in the age of real-fast connections. ADSL that seems so impressive yesterday is practically a defunct technology today.

According to Wikipedia: “Stadia will require at least 10 Mbps for 720p 60 FPS Stereo, 20 Mbps for 1080p HDR Video 60 FPS 5.1 Surround, and 35 Mbps for 4K HDR Video 60 FPS 5.1 Surround.” Therefore a good fibre optic subscription will be more than enough.

Moving advanced gaming to the cloud will open the door to a market that is expected to attract billions of players — this is quite a substantial part of the world’s population. Especially that it will be available on mobile equipment too and not just on full-size desktop computers or big laptops. Besides, we know how powerful high-end models of smartphones and tablets are.

It is expected that Google will offer free trials at the beginning. What better way to attract gamers?

Having found a “Stadia Founder Edition” already available at $129 on the web, I was naturally curious and clicked on the link, only to be served a screen saying “We aren’t in your country yet”! So the whole concept is still new and one has to be patient to see it in motion for real.

Reviewers on the French tech channel “Tech-24” are telling us “don’t discard your game console, yet”. Consoles will still be fashion and in dynamic action for some time, particularly for those who do not yet enjoy fast fibre optic Internet or who prefer to stay far from the cloud when playing. Still Stadia and the other similar online gaming products to come are going to change the face of advanced gaming as surely as Netflix has changed our video and film watching habits.

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