Google unveils Stadia cloud gaming service, launches in 2019
Google is launching its Stadia cloud gaming service at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who says he plays FIFA 19 “quite a bit,” introduced the Stadia service during a special keynote at GDC this morning. Describing it as a platform for everyone, Pichai talked up Google’s ambitions to stream games to all types of devices. Stadia will stream games from the cloud to the Chrome browser, Chromecast, and Pixel devices, and it will launch at some point in 2019 in the US, Canada, UK, and Europe.
Phil Harrison, a former Sony and Microsoft executive, joined Pichai onstage to fully unveil Stadia in his role at Google. Harrison says Google will amplify this game streaming service by using YouTube and the many creators that already create game clips on the service. Google previously tested this service as Project Stream in recent months, allowing Chrome users to stream games in their browser. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was the first and only game to be tested publicly using Google’s service, and the public tests finished in January.
Of course, Google won’t limit Stadia to just one game. Google demonstrated a new feature in YouTube that lets you view a game clip from a creator and then hit “play now” to instantly stream the title. “Stadia offers instant access to play,” says Harrison, without the need to download or install any games. At launch, games will be streamable across laptops, desktops, TVs, tablets, and phones.
GOOGLE WILL LEVERAGE YOUTUBE FOR STADIA
Google demonstrated moving gameplay seamlessly from a phone to a tablet and then to a TV, all using Google-powered devices. While existing USB controllers will work on a laptop or PC, Google is also launching a new Stadia Controller that will power the game streaming service. It looks like a cross between an Xbox and PS4 controller, and it will work with the Stadia service by connecting directly through Wi-Fi to link it to a game session in the cloud. This will presumably help with latency and moving a game from one device to another. You can also use a button to capture and share clips straight to YouTube, or use another button to access the Google Assistant.
To power all of this cloud streaming, Google is leveraging its global infrastructure of data centers to ensure servers are as close to players around the world as possible. That’s a key part of Stadia, as lower latency is a necessity to stream games effectively across the internet. Google will support up to 4K at 60 fps at launch, and it’s planning to support up to 8K resolutions and 120 fps in the future.
STADIA HAS MORE TERAFLOPS OF POWER THAN AN XBOX ONE X
Google is partnering with AMD to build a custom GPU for its datacenters. It’s a chip that Google claims will deliver 10.7 teraflops of power, which is more than the 4.2 teraflops of the PS4 Pro and the 6 teraflops of power on the Xbox One X. Each Stadia instance will also be powered by a custom 2.7GHz x86 processor with 16GB of RAM.
One of the first games to launch on Google’s Stadia service will be Doom Eternal, which will support 4K resolution, HDR, and 60 fps game play. Doom Eternal doesn’t have a firm launch date just yet, but it will also be available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One. Stadia will also embrace full cross-platform play, so developers can enable cross-platform multiplayer and game saves and progression.
Focusing on developers, Google also unveiled an impressive way for game developers to apply their own design style to titles on Stadia. It’s a machine learning-based style transfer tool that developers can use to simply drop an image into the video frames of games and have it mimic the style throughout. Google is also using something called State Share to let players easily share moments, so you can even share an exact link to a part of a game, changing the way games are typically shared. Q-Games founder Dylan Cuthbert is even building an entire game all around this new State Share feature.
YouTube is a giant part of Stadia, and Google appears to be relying on it to push gamers to its cloud service. More than 50 billion hours of gaming content was watched on YouTube during 2018, so Google is letting Stadia users highlight, capture, and share straight to YouTube or even let viewers play alongside creators. A Crowd Play feature of Stadia is designed to facilitate this, and it includes a lobby system to let you match up with YouTube content creators.
GOOGLE LAUNCHES ITS OWN GAME DEV STUDIO
Google is even creating its own game studio for Stadia-exclusive titles, Stadia Games and Entertainment. Jade Raymond, who recently joined Google as a VP is leading Google’s push for its own games. Raymond is an industry veteran who has previously worked at Sony, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft. Google says more than 100 studios already have dev kits for Stadia, and more than 1,000 creatives and engineers are already working on titles that will work on the service.
While Google unveiled Stadia today, it had no details on exactly when the service will be available other than 2019. Google didn’t reveal pricing or even how many games the service will have at launch, but is promising more details in the summer.
Google will naturally face competition from a number of rivals that you’d typically associate with games and gaming services. Microsoft is planning its own xCloud game streaming service, which it demonstrated recently, with public trials set to start later this year. Amazon also appears to be readying a similar service, and both Nvidia and Sony are already streaming games over the internet. Even Valve is expanding its Steam Link game-streaming feature to allow you to stream your Steam games from a PC to anywhere through the Steam Link hardware or the Steam Link app.
Toy Story 4’s new trailer reveals a spork-induced existential crisis
A talking spork makes Woody question everything he knows about being a toy.
Your next existential and emotional crisis has arrived: Disney released the first full length-trailer for Toy Story 4 on Tuesday.
The franchise, known for plunging our hearts into various emotional states and examining human frailty through the lens of plastic and cowboy-themed objects, is back again — this time exploring the idea of life’s purpose, duty, and fidelity because of a spork named “Forky.”
Last we saw Woody and Buzz and their fellow toys in 2010’s Toy Story 3, Andy (their owner) was headed to college — which led to an existential crisis of sorts for Andy’s toys. In the end, Andy gave his beloved toys to a new child, Bonnie, to take care of them.
In this round, Bonnie has “created” a toy named Forky (by pasting googly eyes on a spork) who, apparently because of his past life helping humans consume soups and hearty lunches, doesn’t fully accept his newfound life as a toy. Of course, Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the toys don’t know anything other than being toys and making their kid happy. Forky’s existential crisis leads to running away, a reunion between Woody and Bo Peep, and Woody questioning everything he knows about his life.
While the movie doesn’t come out until June, the buzz surrounding it seems to indicate that it could be the final chapter in the Toy Story franchise. At the end of January, Tom Hanks, who plays Woody, tweeted what seemed like a thank-you and goodbye — seemingly as he wrapped up his voice work on the film — about how the cast and crew “rode like the wind, to infinity and beyond”:
Final line, final session as Woody of Toy Story 4. We rode like the wind, to infinity and beyond. Hanx
A few hours later, Tim Allen (who voices Buzz Lightyear) tweeted about how finishing his work on the film made him emotional.
Given the quality that Toy Story movies and Pixar are known for, the emotional journey about life’s vulnerabilities that’s in store for Woody, Forky, Buzz, and the gang in this installment, and this maybe being the final goodbye, it might be a good idea for fans to start bracing themselves now (or at least plan to bring tissues this summer).
Toy Story 4 will open in theaters on June 21, 2019.
Lollapalooza has sneakily announced a portion of its 2019 lineup. The Chicago mega-festival posted a video today in partnership with the animal shelter PAWS Chicago, which cleverly weaves clues about 2019 Lolla performers into footage of dogs available for adoption in the Chicagoland area.
The video promises the full lineup will be announced “soon.” For now, we know these artists will be there: Tame Impala, Janelle Monáe, Lil Wayne, ROSALÍA, Yaeji, J Balvin, Tenacious D, Slash, Gunna and his close collaborator Lil Baby, Calpurnia, Lil Skies, and Madeon. The artists’ photos were revealed by dogs moving plastic balls around in a ball pit while a narrator read off three clues about each performer. It’s definitely one way to break the trance that accompanies the usual procession of posters.
This year’s Lollapalooza runs from 8/1 to 8/4 at Grant Park in Chicago. Tickets are available here. Watch the dog-filled announcement video below.
When Apple released the impressive and wildly expensive iPad Pro last fall, I started thinking that the company could use an iPad XR. I imagined a tablet that takes the high tech found in the new iPad Pro, but cuts some corners to make it more approachable to the masses. The new iPad Air isn't that. Instead, it's like the 10.5-inch iPad Pro from 2017, except with a price cut and a few spec bumps. That's not very exciting. What's more, the iPad Air doesn't have the flashy bezel-less display, Face ID sensor and support for the new Apple Pencil like the existing iPad Pro.
But compared to the basic $329 iPad, the new iPad Air has worthwhile improvements: a bigger, better screen, a much newer processor, more storage and support for Apple's Smart Keyboard accessory. It's a logical step up from the base iPad, and it also says a lot about how Apple views its tablet lineup. Nearly every review of the new iPad Pro noted that it was powerful, impressive hardware that nonetheless couldn't fully replace a "real" laptop. The iPad Air is an admission that while not everyone needs the expensive iPad Pro, there's a market for a nicer iPad than the base model.
As it happens: I'm one of those people. I was smitten with the 10.5-inch iPad Pro when it launched, and now I can get what's essentially a new version for significantly less. No, the Air doesn't have the 120Hz "ProMotion" screen refresh rate and four-speaker audio, both of which are now exclusively available on the iPad Pro. But regardless of those omissions, it's an iPad I can comfortably use as my main device most of the time.
Strategically, the iPad Air is an extension of what Apple did when it launched the basic $329 iPad back in 2017. In our review of that device, we said it was "as if a designer tore a hole in time itself, reached into the past to grab an original iPad Air and stuck some more up-to-date parts inside." Nearly the same could be said about the new iPad Air compared to the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. That new, cheaper iPad helped turn around declining sales in 2017, and it's possible this iPad Air -- basically a cheaper iPad Pro -- could do the same.
Another piece of the puzzle could come this summer, when Apple shows off iOS 13 for the first time. iOS 11 made significant improvements to the iPad's multitasking capabilities, but many people want a more robust interface for these larger screens. Rumor has it iOS 13 will use tabs to display multiple "windows" of the same iPad app and also let apps show two different views of an app side-by-side as well. Chance are good that iOS won't let you stack up as many windows as you want like you can on a Mac (or Windows, or Linux, or Chrome OS), but improved multitasking should help Apple sell its iPad vision.
Regardless of potential software updates, the new Air and significantly upgraded iPad mini have put Apple's tablet lineup in a sensible place. Before, there was a huge gap between the basic iPad and audacious iPad Pro; the 10.5-inch iPad Pro filled that gap, but it still cost $650, or nearly double the price of the entry-level iPad. As for the iPad mini, no one in their right mind should have paid $400 for a device that's more than three years old.
Now, Apple has three consumer-grade iPads to which it can easily make spec-bump updates when needed, not to mention a premium line where it can keep pushing the tablet envelope. As we've seen with the Apple Pencil, Apple will eventually bring those Pro-exclusive features and technology to other iPads. That means we're probably a couple years away from seeing a $500 iPad with Face ID -- but in the meantime, we get to keep Touch ID and the headphone jack! And that upgraded screen will probably be a perfect vehicle for the video subscription service that Apple's going to unveil next week.
Nathan is the deputy managing editor at Engadget, keeping track of the site's daily news operations and covering Google, Apple, gaming, apps and weird internet culture. He now lives in Philadelphia after stints in Boston and San Francisco.