Yesterday Google announced its long-anticipated streaming game platform, Stadia. In the news post we called it an “invasion” of gaming: this combination platform and delivery service has the potential to compete with consoles, PCs, and mobile games, all at once.
Google’s ambition is huge, but it’s appropriate to the task. The game industry as we know it is stagnating in terms of innovation, but its biggest corporate players are well-entrenched and experienced. If Stadia is to compete with the likes of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, it needs to nail three crucial elements when it launches later in 2019.
Get the Games
The most important piece in the gaming platform puzzle is, naturally, the games. Consoles live and die on their game selection, and securing exclusive and desirable titles (either from third-party publishers or developers owned by the console manufacturer) is the best way to make sure you’re going to succeed.
With Stadia, Google is already on the right track. Its best move is undoubtedly becoming a publisher itself. Google hired Jade Raymond, formerly a game producer and studio head at mega-publishers EA and Ubisoft, to lead its own game studio. Stadia Games and Entertainment, a separate but linked company under Alphabet’s ever-widening umbrella, will be developing its own games for the Stadia platform as well as wooing independent developers to bring their games onboard.
Another good move: announcing Stadia at the yearly Game Developer Conference, instead of at the upcoming Google I/O show or E3. By introducing Stadia specifically to game developers and publishers, including quite a lot of time showing off the unique design flexibility of its remote Linux- and Vulkan-powered hardware, surely ignited the imagination of a lot of game makers. Today, the day after the announcement, you can bet there are game directors and developers scrambling to meet with Google’s Stadia team at GDC, desperate to check out the platform and get games on at launch.
Stadia isn’t the first gaming platform to use a 100% remote streaming setup: the ill-fated OnLive eventually became Sony’s PlayStation Now, NVIDIA’s GeForce Now is currently in beta, and Shadow allows for a more techy, individualistic approach. Microsoft is almost certainly going to go into streaming in a big way with the next Xbox, and rumors suggest that Verizon and Amazon are looking into it as well.
But Stadia is the first streaming system to be built with streaming in mind from the ground up and upon the massive power of Google’s data centers and money. Demonstrating deep hooks in Chrome and YouTube (to capture the Twitch audience), powerful new ways to play split-screen and asynchronous multiplayer, and baked-in support for massively popular developer tools like Unreal Engine, Unity, CryEngine, and Havok are all smart moves for a new platform.
It means that not only will developers be able to port their existing projects to Stadia’s hardware easily, but they’ll also be able to create entirely new types of games that are only possible with access to Stadia’s web, streaming, and scalability functions.
During the GDC presentation, Google demonstrated partner projects with Ubisoft, Bethesda, 2K, Square-Enix, Tangent Games, Tequila Works, and Q-Games, but at the time of writing only Id Software’s DOOM Eternal has been confirmed for release on Stadia. Of course, Google can still mess up its initial relationship by limiting developers with restrictive platform rules, or by simply asking them for too much of a cut of their profits. Which is a nice segue into…
The Price is Right
One of the biggest omissions of Google’s Stadia reveal was the pricing model. Not only do we not know how…
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