New era in gaming: All you need to know about Google Stadia

Google has announced its fully-functional cloud gaming platform titled Stadia during a keynote at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The new platform makes quite the promise of allowing users to play AAA games on just about any device with a screen and an internet connection directly through a Chrome browser. Stadia aims to eliminate the need for expensive PC hardware by streaming games from a server in a remote location (data center) to a browser on your device.

Google experimented with the concept of cloud game streaming in 2018 – then titled Project Stream — by streaming Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey through Chrome’s web browser for a few trial participants.

The tech giant has come a long way since then claiming up to 60 FPS at 4K resolution when the service launches and up to 120 fps at 8K resolution in the future. Today, two of the most powerful consoles on the market – Xbox One X and Sony PlayStation 4 Pro can run certain games on 4K at 60 fps. Let’s put that into perspective, imagine being able to play similar games on a browser; any browser.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai, referring to AAA titles; “We learned that we could bring a triple-A game to any device with a Chrome browser and an internet connection.”

Stadia also aims to solve latency issues that most streaming services suffer from while streaming high-end games. In games where a split-second reaction can make the difference between winning and losing, high latency rates infuriate players.

Google has also released a controller aside their Stadia streaming service. The controller looks similar to most console gamepads with an additional button for capturing and sharing games directly to YouTube. To avoid lag, Google claims its Stadia controller can connect directly to the Internet by independently communicating with Google’s servers.

Stadia will allow users to stream games from the cloud to a Google Pixel phone, Chromecast or Chrome browser. Google claims that Stadia will launch in the US, Canada, UK and Europe at some point in 2019.

As e-sports pitch hots up, online gaming firms rope in big celebrities

Online gaming is picking up steam in India and to put more focus on it, companies are roping in celebrities to promote e-sports.

Parth Sharma, General Manager of Ballebaazi.com, told Moneycontrol, “I feel the market is so huge right now. People have taken Virat Kohli and Dhoni. Dream 11, that associated with cricketer Dhoni to strengthen its leadership position in the online fantasy sports industry, is already a market leader. They are easily churning out Rs 5-6 crore a day in service fees, which is a huge amount. These companies are bringing in brand ambassadors so that they can take the first mover advantage.”

Recently, Mobile Premier League (MPL), a mobile gaming startup, brought on board cricketer Virat Kohli as a brand ambassador for a deal worth Rs 12 crore for a period of one year. The company, which is 10 months old, has around one million daily active users. It is aiming to bring this number up to five million after its association with Kohli.

Another online gaming company – PokerStars India – signed actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui as its brand ambassador. Experts believe that this will prove to be an optimistic move for the platform’s growth in the country. Despite its global presence, the company has been struggling in India.

Online poker platform PokerBaazi was associated with ace boxer Vijender Singh as its brand ambassador since Jan 2018. With this association, the brand intended to leverage his reputation as a serious sportsperson and position Poker as a sport that flourishes on sheer skill and talent.

Sharma points out another reason for these celebrity associations. “When brand ambassadors come on board, they bring in trust and credibility factor with them. A lot of these companies have already acquired a lot of users. However, the problem that they are facing is people not depositing money because of lack of trust. Hence, companies rope in celebrities to bring the trust factor so that people start depositing money for companies to earn. There’s no other way to make money for these platform as there is no advertising on their interfaces.”

Indian gaming companies, in recent years, have seen many celebrities from the film industry, cricket world and other sports come on board. Adda52, online poker and card game site, had roped in actor Minishha Lamba and West Indies cricketing legend Chris Gayle. Sunny Leone was signed by Ability Games, a software and game development powerhouse, for its online game 11Wickets.

For all the companies focusing on cricket, the time is right for a marketing push as two major cricketing events – the 12th edition of Indian Premier League, and the ICC World Cup – are around the corner.

The appetite for gaming in India is increasing and the proof of this is the growing number of game developing companies in the country, which has risen from 25 in 2010 to 250 in 2018, according to a recent Forbes report.

The report also pegs India’s gaming industry at $890 million and expects the mobile games market to be worth $1 billion by 2020. These numbers are encouraging global companies to invest in India’s gaming platforms due to which more money is moving through the industry.

Relax Gaming signs with Max Win Gaming

Relax Gaming, the content provider and distribution platform, has enhanced the scope of its Silver Bullet partner program, striking a deal with Max Win Gaming.

Max Win Gaming will provide new and exclusive content, including the provision of two brand new titles in 2019.
The provider will also develop unique content for Relax Gaming as part of the agreement.

Daniel Eskola, CEO at Relax Gaming, said: “This agreement with Max Win Gaming is a great example of the positive market reception that our uniquely collaborative approach to studio partnerships is achieving.

“Max Win Gaming is an exciting new supplier with a strong history of proven delivery and we look forward to what it will deliver to the market.”

Martin Mitrovich, CEO at Max Win Gaming, said: “Relax Gaming’s commitment to open dialogue, clear route to market and commercial structure really appealed to us, along with access to an impressive level of regulatory expertise

“We’re excited to join the Silver Bullet partner program and believe the fit for our forthcoming content will prove to be a highly success one.”

Relax Gaming is a supplier aiming to offer fresh content and over 280 games. It has significantly grown its commercial footprint in recent months, agreeing numerous agreements with some of the industry’s most recognisable names.

Gaming addiction classified as disorder by WHO

Boys playing video game

Gaming addiction is to be listed as a mental health condition for the first time by the World Health Organisation.

Its 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) will include the condition “gaming disorder”.

The draft document describes it as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour so severe that it takes “precedence over other life interests”.

Some countries had already identified it as a major public health issue.

Many, including the UK, have private addiction clinics to “treat” the condition.

The last version of the ICD was completed in 1992, with the new guide due to be published in 2018.

The guide contains codes for diseases, signs and symptoms and is used by doctors and researchers to track and diagnose disease.

It will suggest that abnormal gaming behaviour should be in evidence over a period of at least 12 months “for a diagnosis to be assigned” but added that period might be shortened “if symptoms are severe”.

Symptoms include:

  • impaired control over gaming (frequency, intensity, duration)
  • increased priority given to gaming
  • continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences

Dr Richard Graham, lead technology addiction specialist at the Nightingale Hospital in London, welcomed the decision to recognise the condition.

“It is significant because it creates the opportunity for more specialised services. It puts it on the map as something to take seriously.”

But he added that he would have sympathy for those who do not think the condition should be medicalised.

“It could lead to confused parents whose children are just enthusiastic gamers.”

He said he sees about 50 new cases of digital addiction each year and his criteria is based on whether the activity is affecting basic things such as sleep, eating, socialising and education.

He said one question he asked himself was: “Is the addiction taking up neurological real-estate, dominating thinking and preoccupation?”

Many psychiatrists refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the fifth edition of which was published in 2013.

In that, internet gaming disorder is listed as a “condition for further study”, meaning it is not officially recognised.

Lots of countries are grappling with the issue and in South Korea the government has introduced a law banning access for children under 16 from online games between midnight and 06:00.

In Japan, players are alerted if they spend more than a certain amount of time each month playing games and in China, internet giant Tencent has limited the hours that children can play its most popular games.

A recent study from the University of Oxford suggested that, although children spend a lot of time on their screens, they generally managed to intertwine their digital pastimes with daily life.

The research – looking at children aged eight to 18 – found that boys spent longer playing video games than girls.

Researcher Killian Mullan said: “People think that children are addicted to technology and in front of these screens 24/7, to the exclusion of other activities – and we now know that is not the case.”

“Our findings show that technology is being used with and in some cases perhaps to support other activities, like homework for instance, and not pushing them out,” he added.

“Just like we adults do, children spread their digital tech use throughout the day, while doing other things.”