At GDC recently (the game developers conference hosted each year in California,) Google finally unveiled plans they have been working on for years in order to enter the gaming space. Past Google Play Games and YouTube gaming, they have been relatively quiet on the interactive front when it’s come to releasing and developing video games. However, this is no longer. Enter Google Stadia, a project they unveiled that threatens to turn the entire industry on its head.
Google Stadia, put simply, is a streaming service. One that can run on any computer, or any simple device capable of running Google Chrome. This way, you will connect to a GPU unit on a server with the Stadia platform running. This means that even with average to somewhat limited broadband, gamers are likely to play the latest 4K releases on any device with the graphical settings turned all the way up. This is astonishing, and if it works, is a true paradigm shift for how we think about the structure of games and how video gaming purchases work.
But what will Google Stadia, if successful, mean for the future of gaming? Consider the following:
The Death Of Game Ownership
More and more videogames are starting to go the way of ‘live services’ and digital retailing. Purchase a game on Steam and you’ll notice the contractual agreement clearly states this is for a rented license of the game, not an owned copy. The developer is willing and able to remove your copy at any time, or reserve the right to shut down their servers and stop offering the game for download. Because Google with it’s monopoly might will be in control of all publishing deals and retail delivery, they might be able to offer great options such as the Xbox Game Pass similarities, where for $15 a month you are given access to all the heavy hitters during the release schedule. But also, this means the death of game ownership. It’s been a slow process, but the more this norm is adopted, physical sales will decrease and live-procurement will be the new norm.
Because streaming options will connect you to a GPU and the graphical processing will be taken care of remotely, you will likely only need something that can run Chrome to experience the best of gaming. This means a lack of having to purchase a $500 console every five years. This means you could spend more money on the best 4K UHD 4KTV to prepare yourself for those experiences. Some who enjoy the hardware and console applications of gaming might lament this option, but it depends on your point of view.
Because Stadia will often run with ‘instances’ of the game playing rather than one single copy being presented, developers will be able to test and QA games using immediate saved ‘game states,’ allowing bug fixes, game testing and creativity to be developed in real time. The ability to spawn GPU-tied instances will also mean plenty for e-sports, as one imagines a solo-camera in the hands of casters being thrown around the in-game map to see where the best action is. This can only lead to developer creativity, and thus is likely being welcomed by them and publishers alike.
No matter your view on Google Stadia, if it works as intended, it will change the gaming landscape as we know it. We wait with baited breath to see how this all pans out.