17 Jul The Case For Stadia
Feel free to comment or reach out with whatever feelings you wish, this is designed to be a conversation if you feel like it should. I know I’m a little late on this, but I think about Stadia a lot.
At the Game Developer’s Conference, Google debuted its new Gaming Platform. To the surprise of some, it will not be a console (Though I admit the Google Geist is a great name for the Xbox generation), but a streaming service they’ve dubbed, Stadia.
With Stadia players will be able to hop right into their games from any Google Chrome browser, essentially turning any screen or smart device into a video game console. They boasted that within just a few minutes of logging into Stadia, you will be able to play any game on the service, directly streamed to your screen. They then proceeded to show us Assassin’s Creed Odyssey running in a browser on a phone, tablet, low-powered computer, and ultimately a TV. It was fairly seamless, and quite impressive. Without getting too into specifics, Google essentially provides the computing power of their massive server farms to run the games, while streaming the video directly to your chosen screen. I had been expecting games to head this way for quite a while, it was remarkable to see occur in person.
Google tested this last year with Project Stream, a service that ran Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in a browser. Judging from the Stadia announcement, Google was happy with the success and decided to continue down this road.
The Case For Streaming
Streaming is not Evil I’m going to take a lot of heat here…I don’t think that streaming games directly is inherently evil. If anything I think it’s more altruistic than it’s getting credit for. Is Google a giant corporation that seeks to expand and make more money each year? Yes, but I think there are more benefits than what many are seeing here.
Video games currently present some legitimate boundaries to entry. The home console is a massive hurdle for anyone trying to get into video games. The modern game console costs between 300 and 400 dollars with controllers that range between 60 and 150 bucks with games that sell for 60. The installation cost for a new console is massive for a device that really only does ONE thing..play games. Yes, game consoles can play Netflix and Blu Ray and host other streaming services, but those are more like bonus features. If a consumer wanted a streaming device they could buy a Roku or Fire Stick for $30 and call it a day. Google is launching Stadia Pro for $9.99/month which gives subscribers access to a library of games. The founder’s pack comes with 3 months of Stadia Pro, a controller, a chromecast and 3 months of Pro to gift for 129.99. That’s a tiny fraction of what a console would cost. Stadia Pro also allows the user to run games at 4K resolution with a refresh rate of 60FPS. Once again, a fraction of what it would cost to have a 4K/60fps gaming machine. Non pro users will be limited to 1080p and 30FPS, which is still the standard on normal PS4 and Xbox One models.
Google hasn’t shown which games will be covered under Pro, but I expect it to be a small library of games that you have unlimited access to. There will be other games that you have to pay full price for, which is concerning, but I want to see it in action before I make judgments on that. I think of it more like Amazon for gaming as it looks to operate more like Prime Video than Netflix. From there, you’re in, playing some of the newest games on Earth without a need for console or a superpowered PC. That’s pretty intriguing, especially after Google announced that you’d only need to have 35mbs in order to stream games in 4k at 60 Frames per second. While that’s higher than Netflix and Amazon (5mbps and 25mbps for HD), that feels to be an easily attainable number for many people with a good internet connection.
Streaming services could open up the door to many people who currently feel too apprehensive to get into video games by providing an effortless method of entry. It could bring gaming to the masses on levels unforeseen in the modern era.
Do We Still Need Consoles?
You know what I don’t need, another game box sitting under my TV. Back when I first started playing and collecting games, the old consoles had character, they were interesting. Some had funky colors and others had unique shapes and designs. Nowadays every console is the same, as if designers got together and said “let’s make it look as much like a PC as possible…but it’s not a PC”. Consoles and physical media take up space, and as our living quarters get smaller and smaller, it would be nice to not need a bookshelf filled with games. The one exception I make is with Nintendo products as their innovation is driven by their consoles and they still make unique and interesting choices when establishing their products.
If companies like Google can effectively stream to any Internet-Ready device? Then we have ourselves a way to live a clutter free gaming life which excites me as someone who cares more about the experience than ownership.. Digital game sales have skyrocketed over the past decade due to ease and immediacy, but spacial concerns are important as well. Humanity is more mobile and is living in smaller quarters than we were 30 years ago. If I didn’t have to buy another console ever again, I think that I’d appreciate that more than many may think.
It’s a Natural Progression
Entertainment has gone fully digital. Books, comics, newspapers, tv, movies, radio, music, they’re all fully digital and available to be streamed via the internet. It only makes perfect sense for gaming to also head this way. Humanity has somewhat given up their beliefs of ownership for convenience. While there will always been holdouts who want the physical aspects of all media, digital distribution has revolutionized how we play games. Streaming makes it even easier and while I expect Stadia to get off to a rough start, it should succeed in the future. Imagine having unlimited access to thousands of games without taking up shelf or hard drive space? It’s more economical and cuts back on waste. While I used to love looking at a wall of games in my home, I’ve started to appreciate scrolling through my Steam library a bit more. All that access at the click of my mouse or X button? Yeah, I think I’ll take that deal.
Gaming is a Community
One of my favorite aspects of gaming is how it’s a community. Gamers can meet up online or in person and talk about their fan theories or chat about how to get through a particularly tough spot. In the case of games like Fortnite, the game itself is a meeting ground for friends to socialize. Through Twitch and Discord gamers can stay in touch with one another through the Internet and interact with other gamers. Stadia and other streaming services like that have the potential of expanding that community further. Access is incredibly important for gaming and by removing some of the pesky boundaries to entry that PCs and consoles have, the overall gamerbase has an opportunity to grow by massive amounts.
I want as many gamers gaming as possible. It helps give more legitimacy to the industry but also helps new gamers gain interest in the field. If the gaming community is expanded and there are more players out there, I would hope that it pushes more people to try their hand at making games as well. While this is a bit of a frivolous extrapolation, but Stadia could help the industry grow both from the number of gamers gaming, but also the number of creators creating. We do ultimately run the risk of there being too many games, but hopefully we’ll have the ability to skim for the best games around or tailor-fit our “storefront”.
I’m excited to see how Stadia works. I’m NOT excited for the first few months of Google trying to figure it out and addressing issues as certain corners of the Internet will say “TOLD YOU IT WAS A BAD IDEA!”. Google has done their research and will put as much money as they can behind this project to get it to work. Gaming has always been a medium that sought to push the boundaries on what technology could do and streaming is the next step in the process. While I fully expect Stadia to get off to a rough start, I’m optimistic that the mentality behind it’s delivery will change gaming for the better moving forward.