Hi, my name is who? My name is, what? My name is… Stadia.
A little over a week ago, Google officially announced their new entry into the game industry. Holding an hour long press conference, and while we finally learned about what Google has been working on, getting all that information raises many more questions. The presentation plants the Stadia on a very thin line between success and major failure.
When the new console was announced, all of our major questions leading up to it were answered for the most part, it is indeed a streaming dedicated platform. While there is no official box that comes with the package, a wireless controller set to connect to different devices around the house is an intriguing idea to say the least. Random connections and accidentally connecting to a new device is a genuine concern some people have had, but if the sensitivity is right then surely we will see that in only the most extreme cases. The idea of having a spotify-like competitor where any game a player desired is available at a moment’s notice would mean huge things for the industry and really help level the playing field between major first party developers and indie developers, creating an avenue for any game to be noticed at any time rather than the big marketed games being the big sellers. Games like Okami and Shadow of the Colossus could have performed much better and had a much deeper impact on their respective communities if this technology had been available previously.
One of the biggest highlights of the presentation was the Youtube integration built in. Not only will Youtube help Stadia, but Satida could potentially help Youtube if the technology does indeed work as intended. Being able to que up in a streamer’s game individually, at a moment’s notice, would vastly help Youtube catch up to Twitch in the streaming department. The mainlined interaction between influencer and viewer makes things so much easier for the one streaming. If the Stadia has the games and functionality to support this, then it could absolutely draw Twitch streamers away to Youtube.
However, the games lineup is one of the biggest questions coming away from the press conference. There were only three official games confirmed, with only two being officially announced. Both Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Doom Eternal have been confirmed. With a game from Q2 Studios confirmed for the platform but it is unknown what exactly that game is yet. It is worth noting that NBA 2K has been soft confirmed through the presentation even though they said nothing official on whether or not the game is confirmed to come to the platform. Those are really the only games we really know about though. After that, we don’t have anything, which in a world of a growing exclusivity arms race, Google is arriving extremely late to the game. What may be more concerning though, is how demanding the system is. Requiring a very strong connection to play, and downgrading the graphics on the game to guarantee as smooth of a play session as possible. That is a question that can’t be answered until it releases and by then it is too late to fix something that big.
Coming back to games one last time, one growing industry problem inadvertently highlighted by this press conference is the topic of game ownership. When a physical copy is purchased it is that person’s to play forever. However, with the growth of digital sales, ownership is being retained by the developer, meaning that a natural fear that a person may not own their game forever. Much like Netflix, video games can enter or leave a service at any time in the direction that the industry is going. And that causes a bigger problem for video games than other sources of media. With major deals across the board for music and movies, not to mention illegal pirates, some form of any song or movie or television show will be available at various prices. But with video games, often times a game is either on one console or all of them. Trending towards more exclusivity due to the most major publishers signing exclusivity contracts for sometimes a year at least, leaving fans of different consoles waiting and hoping for a version to come to the console that they bought.
The point is video game contracts are tricky, more than other mediums and video games can disappear due to legal reason’s at a moment’s notice, never to be played again. Look at P.T. or even the Iphone game Flappy Bird, both games taken down from their respective stores for different reasons, but now completely unavailable to those who want to play it legally unless they buy a heavily overpriced device than never uninstalled the games. It’s an unfortunate situation that isn’t going to solve itself soon. For now the decision is left to the consumer, going digital means risking your library on one bad accident, or decision out of the player’s control, all in the sake of convenience and the ease of downloading games on a whim. That being said, the majority of games purchased are digital, and that trend doesn’t look like it will be reversing any time soon.
The Stadia is a very risky bet from Google, if it succeeds and does what players hope, it could very well revolutionize the entire industry and make Google one of the top names in gaming. If it fails though, it will go down as another big name to flop in entering the industry along with the likes of Steam box and Ouya. Without a solid release date other than 2019, we can expect to hear a lot more about Stadia in the upcoming months. E3 could be a good time with a reduced presence for many of the biggest names in the industry confirmed to be taking a step back this year. Google definitely has a shot at becoming a major competitor in the industry, but it is for sure a long shot.
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