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As many of you might have heard,
Google announced Stadia.
They’re entering into the game market
at GDC this year.
But it’s totally unlike what
anyone else is doing in the game space.
So what is it?
Is it gonna work?
And if it does,
what’s it gonna do to games?
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So, what is Stadia?
Well, it’s a 100% streaming game service.
This means that whatever games you play
aren’t actually being processed
on your console or PC,
and all the heavy computing
is actually happening on Google machines
in data centers somewhere nearby.
And then essentially,
a video of the game you’re playing
is streamed back to your screen.
Much in the way you’d
stream a video on YouTube or Netflix.
And in a lot of ways,
this is pretty incredible.
It means that if you have any device
that can take inputs from a controller
and send them out over the Internet,
you can play any game
that Stadia will run,
at high resolution and solid framerate.
The dream is that you could play any game–
Literally any game,
on your phone,
and then if you happen to be
near a TV or a computer monitor,
Just put your phone down in front of it
and keep playing the same game
at high resolution on a giant 4k screen.
And I’m not gonna lie.
That all sounds pretty awesome.
No expensive hardware to buy.
No updating your PC every few years,
and no having to lament
leaving your console behind
when you fly home for the holidays
or end up traveling for work.
Is it really gonna work?
I would say that’s a big maybe,
because Google isn’t
the first group to try this.
A company called OnLive
tried it years ago,
and ended up being a black hole
for a lot of VC funding.
Another company called Gaikai
also tried it,
was bought by Playstation, and ended up
becoming PlayStation now,
which wasn’t the most…
Successful of Sony’s offerings.
So what are the problems
with this idea, you may ask?
Well, one of the biggest is latency.
Every time you press a button,
It will have to be sent out to a server,
processed, and then the result
has to be sent back to you.
And if you’re one of those
people who hates
playing action game
at any less than 60fps,
just imagine having a tenth of a second
between every button press
and when it actually registers.
That won’t feel good.
And that of course is compounded
even further in a multiplayer environment.
This has basically killed all
previous attempts at streaming games.
But how do you mitigate that?
By having data-centers everywhere.
So no one’s more than a few miles away
from the machines
that are actually processing their games.
And quick quiz here.
What’s the one thing Google has a lot of?
Well, yeah that too,
but what I was getting at
is data centers.
There are maybe
a few dozen companies in the world
that has the infrastructure
to possibly pull this off.
Amazon, maybe Facebook,
and a handful of others.
And Google is certainly one of them.
So, is it gonna work?
Because as long as there’s Comcast
and other companies like it,
this promise is still pretty dicey.
I mean imagine you’re playing Dark Souls,
and your friendly local ISP
decides to hiccup.
if you thought the lag that happens
when you drop below 30fps was irritating,
and kills the pace of your play,
then let me tell you!
You’re gonna love that thirty seconds
where your screen goes blank
while your character is getting killed
on a server somewhere else,
because your internet
did a Comcast.
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There’s also the question of content.
Google doesn’t have the greatest
track record as a content creator,
and at times it struggled with working
with external content creators.
So if no one ends up
putting stuff on Stadia…
Well, then the whole thing’s
kind of moot anyway.
Ok, but enough of the nay-say.
Let’s look at the possible upside.
Besides having access to games anywhere,
the biggest benefit we see
is being able to play anything
on any device at any time,
but not necessarily for the reasons
you might think.
Gaming is still in inaccessibly expensive
to hundreds of millions
of potential players,
in parts of Latin America, Africa, India,
and many other places across the world.
If people could play on devices
they already owned,
even low-end smartphones,
It brings a lot of new exciting voices
into our community.
Of course this all does still depend
on internet access
and how Google’s going to handle places
that have data caps
or pay by the megabit internet.
But truthfully, they’re going to
have to address that
to make this really even work in the US.
And while I’m sure
there’s some discussions about that
going on with companies,
we’re not privy to them.
Another possible awesome thing
that they’re talking about
is the YouTube integration.
This idea that you could be watching
your favorite Let’s Player
blazing through some game on YouTube,
and if you think to yourself,
“That’s pretty cool.
I want to be playing that!”
All you have to do is
click on the video and bang.
You’re playing that game.
Right there, right then.
No download needed.
But this too also brings some dangers.
For instance, how modding is going to work
remains an open question.
Will Google add
a library of mods to their server
for the most popular games?
If so, what happens
to the rest of them?
Plus, there’s questions of ownership.
Questions of preservation.
And questions of what
it’s going to do to development.
After all, do you target
Stadia server hardware as you’re building?
Or do you still target
PC or console specs?
But to me, the biggest question
is one of privacy.
I know you brought it up before.
Google’s business is data.
Aggregating data is what they do.
And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing,
as it helps them streamline services
we use all the time.
And even in game design,
we pull tons of metrics,
that when used well,
are a huge help
in refining and improving our games.
But make no mistake.
Google is absolutely going to be
tracking things and pulling data
above and beyond whatever
your games are already grabbing.
This might be totally fine.
But we’re going to have to hear
a whole lot more
of exactly what Stadia we’ll be tracking
before I’m completely comfortable
with the idea of the service.
So in the end,
there’s a ton of potential for Stadia.
It can open up high-end gaming
to a huge amount of people
who were simply priced out of it before.
It can make games
more portable and more convenient.
And it might even help us
standardize development a bit.
But even though all of those things
that doesn’t mean that
it’s not going to come with some risk.
If anyone can pull it off though,
Even if that’s still a pretty big if.
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