SAN FRANCISCO — Google introduced a new video game service on Tuesday that allows people to play high-definition games instantly over the internet, joining an industrywide experiment to offer a so-called Netflix of gaming.
The new service, called Stadia, will work for anyone with a fast internet connection and a computer, phone or tablet. The service will also work with Google’s Chromecast, an inexpensive dongle that plugs into television sets to stream videos.
Google said Stadia would be released later this year but did not name a price.
By focusing on streaming games — titles that are pulled from servers instead of downloaded to the customer’s device — Google is trying to catch the next wave of gaming. The premise: users pay a subscription to access a library of games that they can immediately play, as opposed to the traditional model of paying for a disc or waiting to download a game.
There are pros and cons to each approach. The streaming model lets people try lots of games until they find some they enjoy, but the games tend to be superficial with rougher graphics. Downloaded games typically have more polished graphics, but they can take time to install and require a sizable one-time payment.
Console makers having been pushing into streaming services. Sony offers a monthly subscription to a service called PlayStation Now with hundreds of titles, while Microsoft said it planned to offer a trial service later this year to stream games to Xbox consoles, computers and mobile devices.
But video games still present a significant technical challenge compared with streaming a song or movie because of the amount of data involved and the unpredictability of game play. So the industry has continued to largely revolve around the releases of new game machines from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.
Google, though, is trying to take a leap beyond that — by starting with no game machine at all.
“This new generation of gaming is not a box,” Phil Harrison, a veteran video game industry executive who is leading Stadia for Google, said at the Game Developers Conference, an annual industry event in San Francisco where the service was announced. “We will be handing over the extraordinary power of the data centers to you, the game developers.”
Lewis Ward, an IDC analyst that follows the video games industry, said the viability of Google’s online games strategy relied on many factors that had not been addressed. For one, it remains unclear how much the service will cost and how revenue will be shared with game developers. And much of Google’s success will rely on building a library of deep, compelling games, meaning the company must attract game developers of blockbuster franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption.
“If the catalog that launches this year is overwhelmingly casual PC titles and Android titles, that will be a huge disappointment,” he said. “I don’t think ‘Candy Crush Saga’ is going to drive up Google data center traffic by a whole lot.”
This new service builds on Project Stream, a trial program introduced in October to iron out the kinks of streaming video games. It offered a select group of users the opportunity to play “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,” a game that is part of one of the industry’s biggest franchises, over the internet through a Chrome browser.
In a demonstration Tuesday, Google showed a YouTube trailer for “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.” A “Play Now” button appeared on the screen, and clicking on it loaded the game in five seconds.
Google also demonstrated a Wi-Fi connected game controller with a button to access the company’s artificial-intelligence assistant. A player could, for example, ask for help in defeating a certain level in a game.
The company said Stadia would rely on Google’s powerful data centers to do the heavy lifting and let consumers, including those with old, sluggish computers, stream high-quality games immediately.
“We are dead serious about making technology accessible for everyone,” said Sundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive.