We have learned a lot over the past months about Google’s new cloud based gaming service, Stadia. The newest streaming platform, which is targeting traditional gamers, has announced a plethora of titles that will be available at launch. The promise of avoiding the typical disadvantages of a traditional video game console or a powerful PC is riveting on the surface; however, the cost of the Chromecast Ultra and Stadia Controller, as well as the cost of games and the Stadia Pro service, which offers up to 4K resolutions, exclusive discounts, and free games, makes for a convoluted pricing model. If a recent European survey of gamers are any indication, Google must work a lot harder to convince its intended audience that the future is now.
Gamers appear to be disillusioned by Google’s offering. A recent survey conducted by Ipsos MORI’s GameTrack in Europe found that only 15% of gamers are interested in a streaming service for games. Only 3% of gamers claimed to be “very interested in a streaming service at all. As more and more individuals become accustomed to streaming services, it is surprising to see such a tepid opinion regarding Stadia. The future is clearly in cloud based gaming, but traditional platforms such as PlayStation, Nintendo, Xbox, and PC continue to operate primarily through traditional digital downloads and physical media. Yet, this continued status quo not only shows that the technology may not yet be perfected but also that consumers might not be inclined to jump to a or add another platform that does not offer the first party titles, specifically by Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, as well entirely forgoing any “full” ownership of a game.
As easy as it may seem to compare the consumption of television and movies to video games, there is a difference that could prevent the complete adoption of leasing software instead of owning it. It is important to note that purchasing a title with Stadia, at full price, only enables the user to play as long as there is a stable internet connection. Steam and now the Epic Game Store allows users to access their games offline, provided that the software is not completely multiplayer. No internet or the lack of sufficient speed means no access to your games library. Europe, as a whole, has less consistent internet speeds compared to that of the United States. Even in the United States, there is a large disparity with connection speeds among differing states. Restrictions are still in place on the total allotment of data available for consumption through internet providers at home.
Nintendo has provided a glimpse into what it would be like to use Google Stadia. The Nintendo Switch has been widely successful in its mission of offering console quality gaming “at home or on the go”. It is a novelty that shows no signs of wearing off. Consumers clearly have a desire to play their games whenever and wherever, and as our lives have become increasing mobile, it can be difficult to find time to enjoy the best games at home. Still Nintendo’s hardware is not yet powerful enough to play most of the current generation titles without significant downgrades, although the Witcher 3 on Nintendo Switch looks to be promising. Google knows that a market does exist, whether or not gamers are ready to buy into the service.
Stadia can be differentiated by other streaming entertainment platforms through the ownership of the media. Users will still need to purchase most games out right on Google’s Platform in order to play them on Stadia’s service. While Ubisoft has announced that it will bring it’s “Netflix-style” subscription model to Stadia, it will add even more confusion about the subscriptions taken on by consumers. Gamers will need to pay for Ubisoft’s UPlay+ service on top of Stadia’s monthly plan, which does not include purchasing any other game at full price. Google will need to work hard with third-party developers to add support for Google Stadia, which is no small task.
There are issues and perceptions associated not only with Google Stadia, but video game streaming services, such as Microsoft’s upcoming Project XCloud and PlayStation Now, as a whole. Yet there are plenty of benefits to cloud gaming that will inevitably make it best way to enjoy gaming. Smartphones, Tablets, Laptops, Monitors, TV’s will all work with Stadia. Google will maximize its incredible infrastructure at 7,500 data centers in order to offer a low latency experience, which has been the Achilles heel for cloud gaming in the past. Games will now be instantly accessible, provided you have a strong internet connection.
Google plans on rolling out Stadia Base tier service in 2020, which will accompany its Stadia Pro tier. The Base tier will be a free service that offers resolution up to 1080p, but will forgo the additional free games offered by Stadia Pro and will not offer exclusive discounts on software purchases. Considering that Stadia Base will not offer a worse experience for gamers that do not have a 4K monitor or television, it instead may be the preferred option for those looking to try out the service.
Google is certainly working hard to make Stadia the best it can be when it launches in November. They have improved their data centers to handle the expected traffic and have engaged in extensive discussions with developers about expanding their lineup of games. At the end of the day, Google still has to convince gamers that cloud based gaming is feesible and readily accessible and can be a viable option for those that may otherwise avoid a streaming service.
*Photo Credit- UnSplash: Alex Haney