In October 2018 Google’s Project Stream – now Google Stadia – launched in beta mode. News of the streaming service, a novel idea brought about by one of the world’s biggest tech companies was a real showstopper. Not only because of the technology that it ran on, but also for what it told us about Google’s ambitions for gaming.
Now almost one year on as we head into October 2019, what’s been the outcome of Google’s test phase? And what impact may Google Stadia have when it officially launches in November?
In order to understand Google’s future in gaming it’s critical to understand gaming’s past. Today we see video games permeate a whole range of areas in our daily life. From mobile games we play on the train, to ads we see for new blockbuster launches on the side of a bus, to Hollywood movies like Doom and Pixels which celebrate the heritage of gaming across the generations.
Yes, today the gaming industry is very strong – but it was not always the case. The 1980’s saw the collapse of Atari, the 1990’s of Sega. The early 2000’s also saw Nintendo in a ton of trouble trailing Sony and Microsoft before the Wii’s launch in 2006 – which alongside a deliberate and greater diversification into handheld games, and making some previous exclusives available on other platforms like Apple’s iPhone – ultimately brought them back into the daylight more recently.
Nonetheless, these experiences show a gaming company is only as strong as its current market performance – and Google’s launch means current market titans like Sony and Microsoft will face a new and complex challenge to its customer base. Especially because the core of what Google offers is not something Microsoft’s Xbox or Sony’s Playstation (alongside Nintendo with their current console the Switch) can easily compete with.
Google’s Unique Offering
What Google offers with its streaming is a simple but outstanding proposition. It’s allowing people to do away with the need for a console, separate (TV) display, and all the associated costs. Better still, you don’t even need to install the game in a traditional way – it runs direct from a Chrome browser.
Google’s trial run of Stadia with Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey in December 2018 was a masterclass in its capability, and also savvy marketing. In partnership with Odyssey developer Ubisoft, Google offered a copy of Odyssey for free to anyone who signed up to Stadia and played for an hour. While the reviews for the trial were terrific, it’s important to acknowledge Stadia’s potential drawbacks.
You’ll still require a high-end gaming PC to play the latest games. You’ll also need to buy an external controller if you don’t feel comfortable playing on a keyboard. It’s true too there are already many gamers out there who – for various reasons – play their console primarily on a computer monitor instead of a TV screen.
If you lose connectivity this will also be a problem. This isn’t an issue confined to Stadia – online play of console games will deliver up the same problem – but console games will typically have offline mode, like a single player campaign that means (at least some form of) play can continue. Stadia is completely reliant on connectivity, so if you lose connection that’s the end to gaming.
Nonetheless, what Google is doing here is simplifying the accessibility to gaming. The specs of the service also look good. Anyone who uses Stadia can expect to have up to 4K resolution and 60fps, alongside HDR and 5.1 surround sound. In complement to this, access to the Google Library which has over 31 confirmed games already.
Among them a number of renowned titles like Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, NBA 2K, Baldur’s Gate III, the Tomb Raider (reboot) trilogy. There’s also confirmation of TBA titles from Electronic Arts and Rockstar Games among others.
Certainly a few dozen titles won’t compete right now with the hundreds available on PS4 and Xbox. Yet in having a strong foundation of AAA titles available at launch – something consoles like the Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo GameCube failed to do – it’s a promising start for Google. It also serves as a solid foundation which it can build on by enticing other gaming studios to add their titles to the catalogue.
The war isn’t ending, but evolving.
The news in May 2019 that Sony and Microsoft would begin a strategic partnership together raised eyebrows in the industry. The producers of the Playstation and Xbox have long been fierce rivals. This partnership has been seen as a response to the threat Google poses to traditional gaming consoles. Even with their online offerings in the era of cloud gaming.
For although the future will surely see them both make a splash in this space – and indeed with Playstation Now Sony has actually been at it for a couple of years – ultimately Google is offering a product that will be more streamlined than Sony and Microsoft’s current products. It will also capitalise on streaming capability in a way that Playstation Now hasn’t yet been able to.
Google’s Stadia in combination with their pre-existing software catalogue and advertising reach means it has a huge potential audience to market Stadia to, and proven expertise in making a success of such marketing with their other products. For Sony and Microsoft, their recent efforts in this space will cushion the blow once Stadia launches.
Consoles won’t disappear overnight. There remain many questions surrounding Google’s offering, and it is yet to really be pressure tested in the same way console giants have been year after year. Unquestionably though, while Xbox and Sony may feel strong now, the video game industry also has a history of tables turning fast. Just ask Sega.
Their failure to build and consolidate a market niche in the streaming space before Google arrived on scene may one day be looked back as a sign there they were asleep at the wheel if Google’s bombshell arrival on scene converts into a market lead.
It’s also important to keep in mind the emergence of other competitors on scene, like Apple and their plans with Apple Arcade. Though recent years haven’t seen Apple able to repeat the success it had over the past decade with its iPhone and iPad launches, it’s a company with form in taking a pre-existing product, optimising it for the masses, and reaping the rewards of its popularity. But what is clear is any shift towards wider availability of games is good news for consumers.
Especially because Stadia not only offers the unique option of playing 4K games in a Chrome browser, but also the opportunity to stream it to TV via Chromecast and even play on smartphone – which is sure to drive competition and innovation among gaming businesses.
Stadia will be available from Google in November. Further info about specific launch packages and prices can be found here.
If you’re excited about Stadia but unsure your current computer has the specs it needs to run it? Get in touch with the HorizonTech team today! Were big computer fans and big gaming fans – so for us computer gaming is the perfect combo of two of our most favourite things. We’re always here and ready to serve you to ensure you’re gaming device is up to speed and ready for plan!
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