Before the presentation of the streaming platform from Google, I thought that there was nothing to talk about: this is the same stillborn idea as stereoscopic 3D, the Kinect sensor or home VR gaming. Cloud gaming by subscription is not even a new concept, such services were first shown ten years ago, and still exist today, but they have not achieved success. However, the presentation of Google Stadia turned out to be surprisingly sane: the strategy looks more complicated than “the benefit is that with our service the user will not need to buy an expensive console”. For starters: Google Stadia has its own standard controller in a classic design. It seems like a small thing, but no. Any platform is determined by the default input device standard, if there is none, it is not a platform at all. Thanks to the controller, it is clear how a person can play the same game on a laptop, tablet, and phone, getting the same experience. Even if you can connect alternative devices, it doesn’t matter: there is a standard – the game is optimized for it. A standard controller plus streaming service can dramatically change gaming, at least on phones. Or, say, on smart TVs.
Controller and streaming alone are not enough
Why has cloud gaming been unnecessary until now? Because it offered access to exactly the same games from consoles or PCs, only in a different way (and worse because of lag, but more on that later). Yes, there were other advantages – for example, such games do not need to be installed – but they also do not concern the content, only the distribution method and payment model. The price advantage is also, in general, conditional. Seriously, how can you say that “now you don’t have to buy an expensive console” if almost any device with a normal screen is more expensive than an Xbox One or PlayStation 4? Moreover, it supports the output of pictures in 4K resolution. An office laptop, a modern tablet or a smartphone – they are all more expensive. In the end, I won’t be surprised if technically the main platform for launching Google Stadia will be just old models of consoles from Sony and Microsoft (and will be unofficially promoted as “the cheapest Google Stadia player”). And it would make sense if Google Stadia offered different games instead of the same ones.
What are we talking about? At the presentation of cloud gaming, they showed pictures that are usually needed at shows with the announcement of new consoles. Google Stadia (per user) has a specific performance in teraflops (twice that of PS4 Pro or Xbox One X), the service uses the capabilities of some new video processor from AMD (easily google details if interested), – classic slides about iron. In fact, it was a presentation of the console, only virtual. And it will allow you to make games differently: for example, with incredibly realistic destructibility calculated on the service (as it was intended to do in Crackdown 3, but it did not work out). And you can also make royal battles not for a hundred people, but for thousands. When there is a large reserve of productivity, and all the data is processed on the server (no need to drive traffic back and forth and synchronize users), you can come up with very cool things in online games and build fantastic virtual worlds in the spirit of Ready, Player One. Modern MMOs are forced to take into account that without the support of outdated, weak PCs, they will not get a massive audience, but Google Stadia will just equalize everyone. And, of course, protection against cheating is also good.
Given the paragraph above, it’s clear why Google Stadia has its own game development studio. To realize the platform’s capabilities, you need hits that are created exclusively for it. These can be exclusives or extended versions of finished products – there are different options. Taking into account the timing and the fact that nothing was really shown at the presentation, we should expect that for a start Google will pull several ready-made hits. Like the Epic Store, yes. Only exclusive games or exclusive experiences in familiar games can motivate gamers to move to a new platform.
Pure marketing stuff: the ability to instantly enter the game from anywhere, just by watching a trailer or stream. Probably, the techjournalist will think: “cool, I saw in the trailer how Dante spectacularly wets the demon, I press the button, and I find myself right in this scene – perfect.” But I can’t imagine a gamer who wants to start the game from the beginning. Moreover, it devalues, for example, the entire system of achievements, devalues the fact of passing to the end. Almost instant entry into the game from anywhere can be a good community feature: well, for example, it will allow friends to play the same game in turn, as if virtually passing a gamepad to each other. A kind of hot seat emulation. It is also very useful for organizing broadcasts. Not an idea that changes gaming, but not bad. And the concept is perfect for commercials.
Of course, the problem of lag remains. But Google is the best company on the market for streaming. If not Google, then who? Naturally, Google Stadia is not a platform for sportsmen who count microseconds, but there are actually very few esportsmen (in pieces) in the world. And there are many people who just want to run and shoot for fun. Whether Google Stadia will offer them a comfortable enough experience is hard to understand without testing.
The bottom line is this: In the short term, Google Stadia is the perfect platform for Fortnite-style gaming. Where, by the way, cross-platform multiplayer has already been implemented on different devices, where streaming is very important (in the classical sense) and where the capacity for sessions for thousands of people at the same time will be right in place. Google Stadia will collect a list of cases in which this platform is ideal (to complete Assassin’s Creed on the phone? Is it convenient to stream Dark Souls with a company of four people in four different cities?). And the pricing policy, of course, will also help (if it is sane). And in the long run, Google Stadia is another gaming platform, competing with the next generation PlayStation and Xbox, with several powerful exclusives and support for almost all of the multiplatform. The same “Netflix for games”.
Unless, of course, it works like with Google Glass.