Google Stadia is an ambitious platform that will likely live or die on the strength of the technology behind it. At the official reveal in March, the company set high expectations for the game streaming service and at Google I/O 2019, the company put the platform’s potential into additional perspective while attempting to address some concerns.
“Latency is the first word we hear when we say we’re working on game streaming,” said Google Stadia Product Manager Khaled Abdel Rahman. “We did a lot of research about latency. As a matter of fact, we have constant weekly research sessions about every single aspect of latency in addition to our wider scale testing.”
“It’s important to note that different latency requirements, even within the same game,” he explained. “Even the same mechanic across two different titles can have wildly different behaviors and requirements.”
He followed up that statement by diving into the research done regarding latency and how it impacts different games and genres.
“Latency perception is closely tied to the player’s level of experience with a particular title,” he said. “A casual player can fully enjoy a sports game without significant latency perception even when we dialed those numbers up to absurd levels. On the other hand, a more experienced player may be looking to do some skill shots, special passes, and things that are not feasible at high or inconsistent latency levels.”
Latency in this context is the small gap of time between player input and the game relaying that input on the screen. While it is true that a more skilled and experienced player may perceive latency at a higher degree, any heightened latency could cripple even a casual gamer’s experience. The team behind Stadia is trying to find a sweet spot for performance and there’s a lot more going into the equation, as you can see in the full session on YouTube.
Considering the many different circumstances gamers have within their households when it comes to internet connections, latency and video quality are major concerns when it comes to Google Stadia. During the deep dive into Stadia’s tech, “balance” was the overarching theme throughout the sessions. Google is trying to find ways to prioritize different elements of the gaming experience on the fly, balancing the player’s gaming experience with the inconsistent bitrates and connections in different households.
Latency and video quality will be key points of contention when comparing Google Stadia to its competition. The team presented a wealth of internal initiatives and technology put in place to handle these different connection speeds, but the majority of consumers’ concerns won’t really be answered until Google Stadia is made available to them.