There is a trend in the industry, able to reshape whole gaming — including experience of players and all the background processes of the development and delivering final products to customers. This trend is streaming games in the same way as online services stream video.
This idea appeared quite a while ago, and it even has its practical implementation. Microsoft talks about their Project xCloud as a potential way to stream Xbox games to all sorts of modern devices. Apple has announced their Arcade service The Nintendo Switch consoles support playing the game Assassin’s Creed Odyssey through a cloud-based service.
Still, my attention was caught by such streaming technologies only after the presentation of Google Stadia at Game Developers Conference 2019. Mostly because the very scale of this corporation makes the idea almost unavoidable for the game industry. It’s like everyone holds their breath in anticipation of the outcome. In business, we should be prepared for potential global changes, so let’s review the consequences of the future release of Google Stadia — for everyone in the gaming world.
The way we play games
It’s nice to try and feel any kind of business from the position of our customers. By thinking in this way, we can understand the primary needs of people and the best ways to satisfy them.
With such streaming services as Google Stadia, gamers don’t need to buy expensive computers or consoles. Even mid-level devices will open access to the newest AAA-titles. This is definitely a benefit for gamers. And theoretically, environment — instead of producing many new devices regularly (with all their cases and boxes), companies should manage only industrial-like equipment, located in one place.
Players will not be owners of their games. That makes them dependent on big corporations (Google, Microsoft, Apple, or other companies behind cloud-based streaming). Also, in such a business model, gamers have to pay for the subscription or they won’t be able to play anything without this.
That’s the most significant moments to notice from the gamers point of view. For developers and publishers, the situation is much more complicated.
The way we deliver games
The situation in the industry is quite clear right now — developers know schemes of making business with publishers, and publishers know ways of delivering those games to players. Everything can become shaken and shuffled after the release of Google Stadia. One huge corporation with enormous possibilities tries to take the primary role in this business play, with almost unpredictable results for all the other participants.
If players pay for their subscription to Google Stadia, they may ignore any other services and gaming platforms. This makes one company a powerful monopolist with the possibility to dictate their terms. Also, this limits the experience of players, cutting them from amazing creative ideas of many gifted developers.
Business models in the industry may need a significant revision — especially because Google is so enthusiastic about Stadia and obviously ready to put all the necessary efforts in the development of this project.
I feel like many in the community can turn their views towards the birth of Stadia, making some small projects struggle from the lack of any interest. On the one hand, the revolution of streaming in gaming has the power to close some of many existing gaming initiatives. On the other hand, it can strengthen some really prospective ideas — if the teams behind them will be able to prove innovativeness and usefulness for the gaming community.
The future release of Google Stadia is a challenge, and maybe only the best will pass it.
Things, Stadia can’t give
Ownership of games gives us the possibility to play them whenever we want to and have such a possibility. Not so long ago, gamers had shelves with game discs — take any and play on your PC or console (many prefer such shelves even now). Then services of digital distribution appeared, giving the same shelves but in their virtual form. What’s the next step in this evolution?
Most of the current services allow users to rent games. Progressive technologies of the distributed registry (Tangle and blockchain) proves ownership for digital objects, including games. Developing of such highly protected services seems to be the best step for the industry, a logical sequence of the discs shelves evolution. Google Stadia is a move to a totally different direction.
People are used to renting films and watch streaming videos. Can we adapt to the same situation with games, which usually ask for much more time to accomplish and enjoy properly, to which we often return again and again? Stadia can’t give this feeling of ownership.
Also, a streaming service will have problems with keeping your collection of “around-games” items — like skins, or playing pieces, some in-game weapons, or unique collectible cards. You stop your subscription and you lose everything connected to our account.
Wait for more details
We don’t know all the details of this technological revolution in gaming, we don’t even know whether it will be possible. Internet speed is probably the most obvious issue for such a service. Still, there are those a few aspects, discussed in this article:
- How Stadia will affect existing relationships of developers and publishers?
- Will gamers get the same decent number of various titles, especially from indie studios?
- How renting games will feel like in practice? Is such an attitude suitable for the gaming community at all?
- Virtual items and digital collections have become part of our lives, and it doesn’t look like Stadia would be able to provide a relevant alternative.
Google Stadia creates lots of excitement for many gamers. People in the gaming business are rather cautious. We expect other big corporations to make their moves in the same area and hope Google won’t act like a bull in a china shop.