Xbox One And PS4 Don’t Need To Fear Google Stadia, Which Is Mired In Contradictions
Yesterday we saw the debut of Stadia Connect, a new livestream from Google meant to emulate its competitors, showing off features and games for its new streaming service that aims to ultimately replace consoles. The idea of Stadia is that its games are hosted on Google’s data servers, meaning there’s no more need for a physical console, and so long as you have a Stadia controller in hand, you can play AAA games as high as 4K and 60 FPS streaming anywhere with a Chrome browser.
At first blush, it feels like a comet coming to kill the dinosaurs, but when you get deeper into it, it’s hard to know how this actually poses a threat to traditional industry staples like Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, and the entire concept seems lost in contradiction.
With this being the second Stadia event, we have yet to hear of any games launching for Stadia exclusively. While Google is indeed starting to develop its own games in-house, it could take years for those to arrive, and there’s absolutely zero guarantee of their quality when they do. So until then, Stadia exists mainly as a peripheral to play third party games wherever, but Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all will continue to have their lengthy roster of must-have exclusives, while Stadia has few to none. That’s not great.
The other problem is deciphering who exactly Stadia is for, something I am not quite clear on across two presentations now. Google seems to be positioning Stadia as something to bring new players, or perhaps casual mobile players, into larger, AAA games. But with 200 million consoles sold every year and untold number of gaming PCs, I’m not the people who aren’t currently gaming are refusing to do so simply because they have to own a console that costs a couple hundred bucks. And if you’re trying to bring in the mobile crowd, that is not a group that is predisposed to sign up for subscription services or pay for full releases of games, which Stadia demands.
And that’s another thing. The obvious comparison here is that Stadia wants to be the “Netflix of gaming” even if it won’t say that out loud, but while it’s $10 a month subscription will get you access to a library of titles, most new games will still require you to purchase them outright, which goes against the core of a subscription. It’s like if Netflix offered you all the content you want from six months ago, but everything released after that you had to buy a-la-carte. Right off the bat, this offers something like Microsoft’s Game Pass the ability to eat Stadia’s lunch, as it not only has a long list of older games too, but it will be offering all of Microsoft’s first party exclusives as part of the pass from day one of their launches.
Then there’s the technical side. Google claims that you can run the best quality games at highest settings with just 35 mbps internet, and yet when I think of the places I’d probably be using Stadia the most, hotels, airplanes, my parents’ house, I have hunch that performance there is going to be…questionable, at best. And say I start using this as home instead of my current consoles for whatever reason. PC Gamer, running the numbers, says that 65 hours of 4K game streaming a month will use 1 TB of data, blowing past many caps from US ISPs in particular. And I have to believe that if you’re technically savvy enough to have high speed internet and ensure you don’t have a cap in place with your plan, you’re not the kind of gaming newbie that Google seems to believe you are.
Google Stadia seems unlikely to replace current or next gen consoles. The tech is too unproven and the allure of exclusives and stability and not streaming entire terabytes of data per month is going to be too attractive to the current crowd for them to suddenly abandon their consoles or gaming PCs. And I have to imagine there is only a very tiny crowd of non-gamers or mobile-only players where Stadia will produce some sort of light bulb in their mind that suddenly they want to play all these hardcore games because suddenly there’s no hardware to buy. I don’t think that’s as big of an obstacle as Google thinks it is. It’s a solution in search of a problem. At best, I can see someone like me, the hardest of hardcore gamers, doing this for a living, picking up Stadia to make sure I can keep playing my console games elsewhere when I’m traveling, provided they all have cross save (which isn’t guaranteed).
It will probably be the case that someday, there are no more consoles and all games will be streaming. And I mean, someone has to go first. But there are so many things about Google Stadia that don’t seem to fit in the current market, or constantly seem to contradict each other, that I’m not sure how this is going to go. We’ll find out later this year, it seems.
Source: Forbes. By Paul Tassi