Google is taking its first steps into the world of video games, and while it might be a risky gamble, it could pay off. When Google announced the Stadia, gamers were both excited and concerned that this new option on the market. That's because, while it could be the first successful streaming-only console, there are a lot of reasons to be skeptical. Still, the idea is exciting and we want to explore why it could work, or how it could fail.
Unfortunately, as of this writing, we don’t know how much the console will cost. In fact, we don’t have hard facts on how Google plans to structure fees, but it’s safe to assume a streaming service will cost less upfront than a full-fledged gaming console. With rumors suggesting we’re at the tail end of the current console generation, Google could offer the least expensive option on the market (we’ll have to see what Apple’s price point will be to make a definitive statement about that, however).
Still, the only price users will pay, aside from the assumed service fees, will be the controller — and that’s optional.
Google isn’t the first company to release a streaming-only console. In fact, OnLive launched a similar product back in 2010. While the major parts of the technology were purchased by Sony in 2010, it wasn’t a viable replacement to traditional game consoles. Still, that was almost a whole decade ago, and the times have changed. Microsoft and Sony offer “Netflix but for games” options in Games Pass and PlayStation Now respectively, but those services require the user to download the game to the console.
With that in mind, Stadia may be a bit too ambitious by ditching a physical machine. Early gameplay even highlighted that with many complaining about apparent latency and lag issues. Still, with a few months to go, these issues could be fixed, but first impressions haven’t been good.
Google Stadia is more powerful than the PlayStation 4 Pro and The Xbox One X combined. At least, that’s what the tech company says. When this streaming service hits the market, it will undoubtedly be the most impressive home-console option available with 10.7 teraflops.
The service will offer 4K streaming, and Google has mentioned that 8K is in the pipeline. Those are some numbers worth bragging about.
All of those specs don’t mean anything if you don’t have fast enough internet. In fact, Phil Harrison, the head of Google’s Stadia division, suggested users have a minimum of 30 Mbps for 4K streaming in an interview with Kotaku. While 1080p gaming will be less. Still, for many around the world, that’s a demanding requirement, and it could turn off potential gamers for a long time.
The premise of a gaming streaming service is convenient compared to Microsoft and Sony. Stadia offers the ability to play games instantly, while the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One still require long install times. Sure, you won’t technically own the games like you would when purchasing a physical game or downloading a title from Xbox Live or PlayStation Store, but players won’t have to wait for their experience to install. Not only that, they won’t have to worry about filling up their hard drives. It really depends on what is important to your specific needs, but shorter wait times will be more welcome.
Ubisoft’s Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is one of the best beat-em-ups ever made, but if you didn’t buy it between its release in 2009 and when it was delisted on Xbox Live and PlayStation Store in 2014, you’ll never be able to play it. When dealing with a streaming service where players don’t own their games, this could happen over and over and over again.
Maybe we’re just the old man yelling at a cloud in this situation, but it’s a real possibility that needs to be addressed. If games can be removed at any time, it could make for an uneasy playing experience for gamers.
Google Stadia was pitched as a console where players can watch a trailer for Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and have an option to play instantly after. That’s pretty amazing if possible, and that integration with YouTube could be the next step in playing games. Many publishers have done something like this, by giving players a “purchase game” option on Twitch, so this isn’t really new, but that’s never been possible on home TVs and tablets as well.
Unfortunately, while Google showed off a lot of partnerships with publishers like Sega and Ubisoft, they didn’t reveal any exclusive content. Sure, they could probably get by on third-party content, but without a killer app, it will always be an alternative. Microsoft has Halo, Sony has Uncharted and The Last of Us, and Nintendo has Super Mario and Legend of Zelda. Google, however, only has games you can get on those other platforms.
Stadia is available on PC, smart devices, and TVs, the only thing holding it back is your internet connection. Yet, the user can decide the platform in which they want to play, offering a level of choice we’ve never really seen before. Not only that, the ability to pick up and play a game across multiple devices could offer more convenience than the Nintendo Switch, which has effectively merged handheld and home gaming.
At the end of the day, however, we like owning our games. Sure, Netflix and Apple Music have changed the way we consume our media, but when it comes to gaming, owning the experience is better. We’ve already touched on how it hasn’t worked that well in the past, but there’s also something nice about starring at our wall of games reminiscing about some memorable experiences. Sure, the times are changing, but there are some things we’d love to keep the same, and this is one of them.