San Francisco (AFP)

On Tuesday, Google is launching its Stadia cloud video game platform, which promises its subscribers the ability to play from any screen, without a console or a powerful computer, a market that has not been very busy so far.

In 14 countries in North America and Europe, players can now subscribe to "Stadia pro" for $ 9.99 (or euros) per month.

This prize includes the use of remote technology, including 4K and 5.1 - picture sound and sound in very high definition, two free games (including Destiny 2, Bungie) and access to the rest of the catalog. paid games, 22 titles immediately available, and about thirty by the end of the year.

The tech giant has already fully sold its offer at 129 euros for pre-order - including a three-month subscription, a Chromecast Ultra device to connect to a screen, and a controller.

Stadia is primarily a virtual computer, rented remotely. Unlike streaming platforms such as Netflix, its business model will be based primarily on the sale of games per game, with a commission, as do other services (Xbox Live, Steam ...). Prices of securities usually start around 50 euros.

A free subscription must also be proposed in 2020, with less efficient technical characteristics (HD image, stereo sound ...).

- Promises -

Google promises, eventually, to switch from one screen to another without friction, starting a game on computer and continuing on smartphone then, for example.

Players will still need a very good internet connection and some equipment, such as the Chromecast decoder to play on their connected TV or a Google smartphone (Pixel 3 or 4), the only phone capable of receiving the signal from Google's servers Firstly. And even on Pixel, it will be connected to Wifi.

Other options will not be available at launch, such as the ability to access Stadia via YouTube.

"It seems as though they hastened to pull Stadia out before the platform was fully ready, which is worrisome because Google may not keep its promises," said Ovum analyst George Jijiashvili.

"The gaps will be easily hidden if the service is very reliable with high quality games".

The group has bet on very popular franchises such as Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Just Dance 2020, Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar Games), three titles of Tomb Raider (Square Enix) or Football Manager 2020 (Sega) and Farming Simulator 19 (Giants Software), which must be added by the end of the year.

There will also be some original creations for Stadia, like Gylt.

- Competition -

Other cloud video game services have been in existence for several years, such as French Shadow (Blade) in France or Sony's PlayStation Now.

But cloud gaming has never really taken off so far. Blade claims 70,000 customers for its dematerialized video game computer, far from the 100,000 customers expected by the end of 2017.

PlayStation Now has accumulated nearly 700,000 subscribers in 5 years. But the Japanese juggernaut, which has sold tens of millions of consoles, only offers part of its catalog on this platform.

Microsoft is preparing its own service, the xCloud, which is due out in 2020. "This is the most dangerous potential rival for Google," said Ted Pollak, video market specialist at Jon Peddie Research.

The manufacturer of the xBox has the advantage of being already a major player in the sector, with titles he has published (Halo, Age of Empire ...) and agreements with other developers to regularly offer games free in exchange for a subscription.

Microsoft also dominates Google in terms of market share in the professional cloud, with huge resources in data centers (servers).

Competitors will also have to decide on the "social" ground. Many teens and young people subscribe to Xbox Live or PSN (Sony) because these connected gaming services also allow them to find their friends online.

© 2019 AFP