This week Google announced Stadia, an ambitious game streaming platform that lets you fire up a video game on practically any device with an internet connection. It will boast drastically reduced loading times, synergy with YouTube and has more compute power than Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro combined. No need to buy a pricey gaming laptop or console. No need for hefty 50GB+ downloads. It’s even built on Linux and uses the open source Vulkan graphics API, which I appreciate. Despite its promise, there’s one anxiety-riddled question on everyone’s mind: will Stadia stick around?
Enter “Killed By Google,” a website that details 147 projects Google has sent to a digital graveyard. The site offers a brief description of each app, service or piece of hardware that’s been retired, alongside how many years it lasted. There are some I have fond memories of (Inbox, Google Reader) and others that probably should rest in peace (Google+). Divided by category, Google has put down 11 hardware devices, 11 apps and 125 services.
It’s no wonder people are wary when Google announces something new and shiny.
But let’s be realistic here. One does not enter a $138 billion industry lightly, and Google has spent years developing the Stadia platform. It has worked closely with AMD to develop a powerful semi-custom processor. It has worked closely with iD Software and many other prominent game publishers. Google has even formed its own first-party studio which will certainly yield exclusives — a practice that’s basically a requirement to become a heavyweight in the console game world (I know David, it’s not a console but Google will market it like one).
Google is also entering the picture just ahead of Microsoft, which has its own streaming plans to unveil at E3 2019. Beyond that, we now live in a world where streaming all other types of media — music, films, television — is perfectly acceptable.
Plus, Stadia is tapping into a service Google certainly won’t kill anytime soon: YouTube. In 2018 people watched a staggering 50 billion hours of gaming content on the juggernaut video site, and YouTube is fused into every Stadia controller sold. Not only can you easily stream to the site with the touch of a button, you can also start playing the game featured on that YouTube video you’re watching by simply clicking an embedded link (assuming you’re using Chrome).
While YouTube is a force in the gaming world, and YouTube is a Google property, this doesn’t translate to Google being welcomed by the world’s hardcore gamers. In the gaming world, it’s the early adopters who must give the seal of approval before wider consumer adoption starts happening.
‘Cloud’ Is A Dirty Word To Gamers
Google is a strong and resilient brand, but it has a lot of minds to change in the gaming community. The people who were impressed by the concept of OnLive but disappointment by the reality. “Cloud gaming” has become a dirty word over the last decade; a brilliant idea held back by internet infrastructure, lack of diverse game libraries or the anxiety that comes with not owning your games.
I’ve painted a fairly positive picture in the first half of this article, but this brings around my own biggest fear with Stadia. If game streaming fails to find traction and Google pulls the Stadia plug, where do your games go? Will you have access to them on other consoles or your PC? Not likely. There’s less fear from people buying digital games on Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony consoles because these are industry heavyweights who’ve been around the block and show no signs of pulling out of the race. They’re established. They’re (more or less) trusted.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about Stadia. Especially with Google tapping Linux and an open source graphics API like Vulkan. It has a lot going for it, but it has significantly more to prove. And there’s a graveyard of dead projects that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in a long-term investment from Google.
Hey, remember when Google Glass was going to change the world?
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