Google announced a new gaming “platform” curiously named Stadia. It’s a lot of things, but in simple terms I’d call it a cloud gaming service, similar to that OnLive service that died a horrible death some time ago. But it’s more than that.
On first glance, I’d say it has about as much chance of long-term success as OnLive did. It sounds like a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. But it does have a few things going for it.
Primarily, it has the massive resources of Google behind it. Whether or not it’s a good service that fills a need, Google certainly has the muscle to force-feed it down our throats whether we want it or not. They will almost certainly be unloading truckfulls of money on any game developer who wishes to partner with them in the beginning.
But is Stadia something we need? Speaking only for myself of course, the answer is a resounding nupe. I’ve never once thought to myself, “If only I could continue playing this high-fidelity shooter game on my phone!” And as I get older, I *certainly* don’t think to myself, “If only I could use *another* game controller and hurt my thumbs even more!” On casual observation, the benefits to Google seem to far outweigh the benefits to the gamer. It furthers the general tech industry trend of trying to lock consumers into an ecosystem that they can’t leave, a continuing of the erosion of the “open” PC platform.
But as with any gaming platform, though, its success probably depends on whether Stadia’s first-party game studio develops an exclusive game that everyone wants to buy. The proverbial “killer app” that every platform needs to gain a foothold. And the price point. I assume it will be a subscription service, introduced cheap or free, with the price slowly raising over time.
Something else I find interesting about this is the sociopolitical implications. We’re at a point in history where the U.S. government is turning it’s Sauron-like eye upon Silicon Valley, finally noticing how much potential harm these massive platforms like a Facebook or a Twitter can do to society. Probably too late, but still, as far as I can tell, reigning in tech companies is the *only* political issue on which there is universal support right now. Stadia is going to be like a new Facebook, potentially locking a ton of consumers into a situation where at the very least, their privacy is at risk, to say nothing of the direct marketing potential. Every game you play through Stadia will influence the ads you see in GMail.
So, we’ll see. The technology is undoubtedly very cool, but does anyone trust Google to use their technology wisely anymore at this point? The consumer selling points sounded weak to me. I see no reason to touch it with a ten-foot pole, but the ball is really in the game developers’ court now. All we gamers can do is watch and wait.