It's been over a week since Google announced Stadia at GDC 2019. Since then, much of the discussion surrounding Stadia has been focused on potential latency issues and its lineup of games. Less attention has been given to the impressive split-screen and local multiplayer options that were shown at GDC, but if they're pulled off, they could stand as some of the platform's most exciting features.
During the presentation, the head of Research and Development for Stadia, Erin Hoffman-John, discussed Stadia's split-screen and local co-op capabilities. She explained that modern gaming has largely abandoned split-screen due to the processing power required to display two images at a single time, but Stadia's Stream Connect functionality will solve that problem.
Stream Connect will make it possible for Google Stadia players to enjoy split-screen without any performance drawbacks usually associated with the feature. This is because each screen will be powered by a separate Stadia instance, meaning that there shouldn't be any framerate dips or anything like that when playing Stadia in split-screen. Of course, that is assuming one's internet is fast enough.
Specific internet speed requirements for using Google Stadia's split-screen have yet to be revealed by Google. However, we know that the base Google Stadia experience recommends 25mbps internet speed. Based on how Google Stadia has been described so far, we imagine split-screen could see lowered resolution for slower Internet connections.
To demonstrate Stadia's split-screen capabilities, Google showed off a tech demo called Night Forest. This asymmetric multiplayer demo showed that not only can Stadia handle split-screen, but it can also have players take on unique roles from one another, allowing for truly new gameplay experiences. Hoffman-John also described the ability to call teammates' screens onto your own screen, which could not only revolutionize local multiplayer, but online multiplayer as well.
Like other Google Stadia promises, such as the claim that it's more powerful than PS4 Pro and Xbox One X combined, the platform's split-screen support sounds ambitious and game-changing. However, the true test will come when Stadia is available to the public. So while Stadia's split-screen support sounds great on paper, how it performs in practice is another question entirely.