A few weeks back, Google unveiled the concept of Stadia at the Google Developer Conference. Stadia is a streaming game service designed to run on everything from PCs and Android phones to Google's own Chromecast devices. You basically play a game remotely on Google's servers, thereby allowing you to play the game on any device with streaming capabilities and access to internet connection with a large bandwidth, 25 megabits per second for a 1080p 60 fps viewing experience to be exact. There have been several of these “cloud gaming” services over the years. One of the first and most notable ones were OneLive that crashed and burned, and in more recent times the list includes Nvidia GEForce Now, Parsec and PSNow. While cloud gaming has been a commercial success in places like Japan where many companies offer “cloud” rentals for big titles on Nintendo Switch, things haven’t really picked up elsewhere, especially in the US. Let’s look at some of the barriers to why cloud gaming hasn’t picked up yet:

ISP Monopolies in the US: The big corporation ISPs have created a huge barrier to entry for newer internet providers. Google Fibre found it difficult to roll out because of local government corruptions. With the steep internet package prices, slow and unreliable internet and more essentially data caps, cloud gaming is going to have a hard time to become accessible to most consumers. Data Centre Proximity: In order to have seamless cloud gaming experience, you’d require a LOT of data centres. The closer you’re to these data centres the less likely you’re to face issues like latency, data loss etc. That means Google might have to roll out more data centres specialized for cloud gaming. Latency: The base latency (when you live next door) is still in question. The physical limitations in how quickly data can be compressed, transferred and decompressed narrows down the list of games that can be played on cloud gaming. Single player RPG titles like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (as shown during the presentation) might be a perfect fit for cloud gaming, but it’s hard to imagine playing fast paced online multiplayer FPS like CS:GO or Apex Legends. Cost: It’s still being speculated how people using this service are going to be charged. For PSNow, you have to buy the game on your PS4 first and then pay a monthly subscription fee to use PS Now. On the other hand, this might be an all you can consume “Netflix” model, like the one unveiled by Apple for the Apple Arcade. But taking a step back, people who can afford to pay for a subscription for gaming and high bandwidth internet connection surely can afford to buy gaming hardware capable of running the games. So is there a need for cloud gaming at all? The same sort of argument were put forward at the early days of cloud storage, and look how big cloud storage business is today. Stadia boss Phil Harrison dodged the question regarding cost during his interview with Kotaku, saying details will be shared in “summer”.

Every big technology company has been at it to crack the cloud gaming, Amazon, Microsoft, Nvidia. A big part of the excitement around Stadia probably revolves around the fact that its being developed by Google, a company who has been at the forefront of the some of the biggest technological breakthroughs in internet over the past two decades. But even Google had its share of failures (Google Plus, Google Glass, Google Fiber) for a myriad of reasons. Whether Stadia becomes a game changer (YES it was intentional) or another beautiful failure way ahead of its time, we will have to wait and see.