A reader takes a dim view of Stadia’s chances and suggests Google has rushed its attempt to become a video game platform holder.
You’d never guess it from the complete lack of hype but a brand new video game format is due to launch in exactly one month’s time. It’s not a console but it is a platform that plays its own games, that you have to buy separately just like a console or a PC. That format is Stadia and it was meant to be the future of gaming. But I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s going to be a footnote at best. Google has finally entered the video games business and they’ve half-assed it in spectacular fashion.
A couple of years ago there was a lot of fear and trepidation about giant tech companies, that previously had little or nothing to do with games, entering the games industry and making their own console or, as is more fitting nowadays, offering some sort of streaming service. Since they have their own games studios and own Twitch, Amazon was rumoured to be one of them but nothing has ever been announced.
Apple were another and the result was Apple Arcade, which is… excellent. For £5 you get access to a whole host of top quality mobile games that don’t use microtransactions and are really great indie experiences. It’s one of the best value deals I’ve ever seen and absolutely the best way to enter the games business because it’s something that didn’t exist before and isn’t some aggressive attempt at a hostile takeover.
Stadia isn’t either, but that’s not much of a comfort. When it was first announced everyone assumed it was the ‘Netflix of games’, a simple phrase that also seemed to be something that would be welcome and useful. The description got so overused that Google had to come out and specifically say that’s not what it is. With Stadia you have to buy games for full price just like a regular console. The only benefit is you don’t have to actually pay £400 for a console, but I’m not sure that’s enough.
The recent revelations about Stadia only really working properly with a TV are embarrassing, but the problem is that even if it did work properly Stadia doesn’t seem to have any benefits beyond the no-console thing. There’s the obvious problem that it’s probably not going to work reliably with ordinary broadband connections, especially for those outside large cities, and if they can’t even get a wireless controller working at launch I don’t have much faith in any of their other technical promises.
But the other issue is that they have zero exclusive games so far. Maybe there’s an indie one I missed but I don’t think so and there’s certainly nothing major that would count as a killer app. I mean, Destiny 2 is the game they’re promoting as the first big free game. Destiny 2.
The reason I say that it’s probably for the best that Stadia is going to fail is that Google just don’t seem to understand gaming and nothing they have done so far has offered anything even slightly exciting for the average gamer. Where’s all that picture-in-picture stuff from the reveal and talk of amazing new styles of games that can only be doing via streaming? That’s not even being previewed at launch, let alone released.
Compare what they’re doing to Microsoft’s Project xCloud, which is just quietly getting on with its beta tests at the moment and which I have much more faith in. They haven’t made any wild promises, they’ve just pointed to their worldwide servers and Game Pass, both things that are up and running and already known to be very good, and said that they’ll try and combine the two together.
They’ve even said that for the next generation consoles will still be more important, which seems very sensible and honest. Google, as happens so many times in the games industry, is just rushing through technology that isn’t ready yet and which is actually going to put people off it (remember motion controls?).
The worst thing is Google has a shocking track record of binning new ideas if they don’t work out (check out this website: Google Graveyard – there’s six they’ve shutdown just this month, including a VR headset!). That seems to me to be the obvious fate of Stadia, after a year or so of false promises and wasting everyone’s time.
By reader Hansom
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