The Role of TV in the Future of Videogames
How Stadia/Luna might unwillingly save the TV and kill the consoles.
I remember the day I told my parents that, one day, they would be using the TV set to play something, instead of passively watching something with no interaction at all. It was 1995 and I understood that the evolution of videogames was not just going to stop at some niche market composed of young emarginated males. I was too young to realize that there was an immense gap that needed to be closed before that would have a chance to happen: I was not realizing that my parents lacked the familiarity with the basic requirements of a video game, the need to “launch it”, the need to “configure it” and, most of all, the need to put time on it.
Videogames at the time were just not accessible, they required technical skills, a lot of patience, the will to suffer loading times, to understand the rules, to overcome the frustration of getting “stuck”. I was thinking that what was fun for me would be fun for them. Boy was I wrong.
25 years later the videogames have changed significantly, most of the games right prevent you from “getting stuck”, they won’t even allow you to die unless it’s part of the core experience… gaming evolved into a huge entertainment business that understands (well, tries to) the balance between struggle and satisfaction. Games became easier to play and more accessible. Computer consoles first and now Smartphones allow people to just “fire up” a game and play, no configuration, no loading times, no tech skills required.
Game quality has increased to the point that non-tech-savvy can appreciate the art, the storytelling, the score of modern games. Games have become a valid entertainment alternative to movies and theaters.
But we are still facing a big barrier preventing the “mass” from becoming players: the need for a purpose-specific device. To play videogames you have to commit to the purchase of a device that can execute them: a personal computer (very expensive but justifiable for study/work), a gaming console (less expensive but you can just play with it), or a smartphone (ubiquitous but VERY limited in its gaming interface).
While the gaming industry created more accessible products, it still didn’t address the access barrier: after more than 25 years, we are still asking the gaming “customers” to buy a platform to have a chance to play. Don’t underestimate how big this barrier is for a person that has not yet committed to playing. If you have never played a videogame and are not even thinking about playing a video game, how can you have a chance to try it? The need to acquire a “device” to play is a huge obstacle to onboard players (Customer Acquisition Cost is very high).
Since its existence TV has been strategic to let people discover the existence of new things.
After Google Stadia’s launch, something has changed for the first time in videogames history: the quality of the game you play is not bound anymore to the capabilities of the hardware you (have to) buy.
This is a game-changer. Today, we have proof that you can play a top-tier quality videogame by just having a good internet connection and a controller, systems like Stadia (Google) or Luna (Amazon) are showing game designers and publishers that you can code the game once and distribute it on ANY device. Any, really... not just computers, smartphones, or consoles but anything that has an MP4 decoder and enough bandwidth. And every household already has such a device, the well-known TV!
This is the chance to push the videogames on the TV set and expose an unprecedented mass of new “potential gamers” (buyers) to a new entertainment medium, to expand your gaming market by Nth times.
How many bored people that currently spend hours browsing the Netflix catalog in search of “something” might be tempted to try “Among us” or any other casual game that will be available on the very same device? Yeah, probably not my parents, but think about how many adults are not able to install games on a computer, do not own a console or a smartphone powerful enough to run modern games. Those are all potential customers for “casual games”, a gigantic mass of people that is not yet aware they are looking for the next Animal Crossing.
You won’t need to buy a console for $499+, you will start a free trial of an $8.99 subscription to play any game of that publisher, the same you are doing with Amazon Prime, HBO or Netflix. The barrier will be gone and the gaming community will be bigger than ever, pushing the entertainment business to new heights.
How long do you think it will take before you will see Stadia and Luna on our TV? I can’t wait for that.