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Illustration: Axios Visuals

If you aren’t a gamer it's easy to miss why Google’s new Stadia streaming game service is such a big deal.

Why it matters: For gamers, Stadia offers the potential to make several long-held dreams a reality, but Stadia's innovations are about more than just the future of gaming. If Google can stream the most demanding applications to a TV with a Chromecast streaming media stick, it really can turn any screen into a powerful computer.

  • Players can compete across all manner of devices, including phones, TVs, tablets and computers, and a game they pause on one device can resume on another.
  • Gamers can stream their play directly to YouTube at the press of a button.
  • They can also share a game's state at any point for others to pick up right where they left off, opening up new kinds of challenges for friends and fans.

Details:

  • Beginning later this year, Stadia will allow consumers to stream games to a range of devices at, Google promises, up to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second — thanks, in part, to custom graphics processors from AMD running on its cloud servers.
  • Stadia can work with existing game controllers, but Google has its own Stadia controller with built-in buttons for sending game play to YouTube and summoning in-game help via Google Assistant.

The big picture: Google isn't alone in seeing the potential of cloud-based gaming. Microsoft and Amazon, both of which have big assets in gaming and significant cloud operations, are also said to be interested.

Yes, but: Google left some big questions unanswered.

  • Business: Google isn't saying how much the service will cost and how it will split revenue with game developers.
  • Device support: It's not clear exactly which devices will be supported and when. Google made specific references to TVs via Chromecast, Chromebooks, computers running the Chrome browser, and Pixel phones and tablets. But it also said it wants to expand support further over time.
  • Performance: Google talked about resolution and frame rates, but what it can provide under different conditions is unclear. Plus, there are concerns that even if Google gets everything worked out on its end, the service could be tough going for anyone who lacks the fastest of network connections.

Our thought bubble: Google has long been building an "everything computer" in its cloud — one big machine that already handles most of the world's search, much of the world's video, a ton of advertising, a huge volume of email, and so on.

  • Gaming is just the sort of hardware-intensive, boundary-pushing activity that, you'd think, would be least suited for the Google machine to handle.
  • By saying that its giant cloud brain is now ready to meet your split-second gaming needs, too, Google is saying that there's practically nothing it can't do.

Go deeper: The video game subscription wars are on

Go deeper

Pakistan PM will "absolutely not" allow CIA to use bases for Afghanistan operations

Pakistan will "absolutely not" allow the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to use bases on its soil for cross-border counterterrorism missions after American forces withdraw from Afghanistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan tells "Axios on HBO" in a wide-ranging interview airing Sunday at 6 pm ET.

Why it matters: The quality of counterterrorism and intelligence capabilities in Afghanistan is a critical question facing the Biden administration as U.S. forces move closer to total withdrawal by Sept. 11.

4 hours ago - World

U.S. wants nuclear deal done before Iran's new president takes power

Iranian negotiatorAbbas Araghchi arrives at the Grand Hotel Wien for the nuclear talks. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration wants to finalize a deal with Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal in the six weeks remaining before a new Iranian president is inaugurated, a U.S. official tells Axios.

Key quote: The official said it would be "concerning" if talks dragged on into early August, when Iran's transition is due to take place. "If we don't have a deal before a new government is formed, I think that would raise serious questions about how achievable it's going to be," the official said.