Stadia and Retro Gaming

NES and Controllers

All the talk with the Stadia at the moment is surrounding its delivery of high-end gaming. The ability to play console quality gaming at 1080p at 60FPS or higher. A future where the promise of playing games from the comfort of your living room using any device regardless of its capabilities. But being able to experience the same high quality games only found on high-end PCs and consoles. However what about those of us who prefer the low-tech days of the classic computers and consoles of yesteryear? It hasn’t been discussed by Google yet, but there are immense possibilities to bring the world of Stadia and retro gaming together…

It seems these days that almost everywhere you turn, there’s a company releasing new retro hardware or software. Nintendo, Atari, Sega and countless others are all getting in on the act. You can’t escape the fact that it’s big business. For gamers old enough to remember classic games and hardware from the 80s and 90s it’s a chance to relive their childhood. Younger gamers are discovering a golden age where gameplay came first and are discovering titles that shaped the industry we know today.

Stadia And Retro Gaming

But what about Stadia and retro gaming? Right now all the talk about Stadia has been delivery of high end gaming. The fact that the platform can bring 1080p 60fps performance into the home to almost any device. Now while that is an appealing prospect, the technology isn’t there right now for everyone. Not every gamer has access to the 25mbps internet connection required by Stadia to deliver the quality of gameplay promised by Google.

That being the case, it leaves Stadia unaccessible for many gamers at launch. Or does it? At the moment the talk with Stadia is to bring new games to the platform or convert current titles but what if Google were to look to the past? There is a plethora of retro games that could be made available to run under emulation through Stadia that would be far less taxing for the end user.

Reduced System Requirements

Many of us have one or more of the current wave of mini retro consoles. They’re convenient and legal ways to enjoy old games and connect them to modern televisions. There are a few things they all have in common though. While they all output their visuals at 60fps, none use a 1080p display, instead settling for 720p. In reality, these games were produced at far lower resolutions so even when upscaled would require very little bandwidth for a streaming service.

Infact, compared with a speed hungry service like Stadia, a retro gaming stream running at 720p could cope at a fraction of that and still perform without any noticeable lag. The only things that would need to be resolved at Google’s end would be game licensing and pricing. Certainly a retro gaming service would be appealing to many, especially to those who don’t have the capacity to run the full Stadia platform. The popularity of mini consoles and retro games compilations is testament to that and if priced right it could be a perfect introduction to Stadia. But would it be something Google would consider?

Enter Antstream

However, it looks as if someone has beaten Stadia already to the world of retro gaming streaming. Antstream is a new game streaming platform launching later this year dedicated purely to retro gaming. Just like Stadia it is planned to run on a wide range of devices. But instead of offering the latest AAA titles and new games developed for the format, it will only offer classic games. The company behind it have been working on the system for over four years and are aiming to go to beta in the Summer and full launch by the end of 2019.

Headed by Steve Cottam and with industry legend Ian Livingstone on board they claim to have over 2,000 games confirmed already. Ranging from 8-bit and 16-bit classics from the Commodore 64, Spectrum and Amiga, to console hits from the Mega Drive mixed in with a myriad of arcade classics, on paper Antstream promises to be heaven for every retro gamer. The game licensing has been handled by Darren Melbourne, another games industry veteran. He has been responsible for licensing titles for countless systems including the C64DTV and most recently the C64 Mini.

Multiple Platforms

As I mentioned, just like Stadia Antstream intends to be available for a range of platforms but instead of running in a browser it will require a small app to be downloaded. Once this is installed, everything will then stream directly to the user’s chosen system. It is planned to run on Android, PC, Mac, XBox One, initially with other platforms coming at a later date including the Amazon Fire TV, PS4 and Switch. Antstream have stated that they intend to port their app to as many platforms as they possibly can. Google devices perhaps? In fact, one of their team, Jo, responded on their Kickstarter campaign when asked about future platforms:

If there is enough demand for any platform then we will happily add it to our roadmap. We don’t want to rule any platform out 🙂

A subscription model is planned with a single payment allowing access to the service on unlimited devices owned. It is already gaining a lot of support on Kickstarter and the willingness to support an extensive range of devices could well give it the edge over Stadia. Many do, understandably, have reservations about crowdfunding campaigns these days. But with the people involved having vast industry experience behind them it does give some degree of reassurance to the safety of your pledges of support.

I for one wouldn’t want to bet on the outcome just yet, but looking at the future plans for Antstream and the people involved, they may just well have beaten Stadia on this one before Google has even started.

(Main photo by Tomasz Filipek from Pexels)

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About Simon Plumbe 6 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe

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