Google Stadia is about to be released in November. What does it mean for gaming?
27 Sep 2019
The evolution of instantness
There is one common denominator in the history of gaming: people want to access content fast, even instantly. As technology evolves, companies offer a faster experience through their new devices or streamlined platforms, and that becomes the new norm. Unsurprisingly, people don’t want to go back to slower, clunkier, and more convoluted ways of accessing their favorite content.
The iPhone, along with other Apple devices, is a great example of how the fast ‘turn on’ function has set a new standard for what is expected from other phone and laptop manufacturers. On the entertainment front, people used to download movies to their computers, but with the arrival of Netflix and similar providers, streaming has become a norm, and no one these days would sit patiently for 10 minutes, waiting for their movie to be downloaded. Game streaming is a step in the same direction: a faster experience without any extra equipment, and without the hassle of getting it all set up, will become the new standard in gaming.
Mobile leading the way
Exactly the same rule of instantness applies to mobile gaming. People who have 3-5 minutes to play a game during their work break or in between train stops don’t want to spend one minute waiting for it to load. Fast loading first became popular among the most casual of games, but now even core strategy games such as Warhammer: Chaos & Conquest load in just a few seconds.
Mobile definitely leads the way here, as console games still battle the perception of taking incredibly long to load, and in some cases being difficult to set up. Players can easily complete 3 or 4 sessions of Clash Royale while waiting for their console game to be ready. With the arrival of Stadia, this trend will continue, and console gaming will soon be impacted as well.
The arrival of the multi-platform experience
The great thing about streaming is the diminishing role of hardware. People will no longer need a powerful gaming machine. Instead, they will be able to play on almost any platform and any device because it will all be handled by a server.
The concept we’ve been discussing for almost 10 years – people switching from console to mobile to PC and back – is now more likely than ever to come to fruition. People will also become more accustomed to having multiple screens running at the same time, or playing a console game in a living room and then picking it up where they left off on an iPad in another room. Streaming will help breach the cross-platform barrier, and it will enable the true cross-device ecosystem.
Content is king
Streaming of course relies on great games in order for it to be successful, and this is one area where Stadia will really need to step up to the plate. It might have a great tech backend and the corporate power of Google, but it doesn’t necessarily have the content, and in order to get it, Stadia will need to develop strong relationships with game developers.
Google needs to work with developers to create experiences that make full use of Stadia’s capabilities, taking advantage of all the tech and innovative solutions that streaming brings. In the world of instant streaming, content will become the center of attention, and Stadia will only work if its content is truly amazing.
Becoming more social in real time
When it comes to features on Stadia, social and multiplayer are the notable ones. Streaming will enable interconnected game communities to grow even bigger, because lots of different systems will be connected 24/7.
That, in turn, will lead to more people watching others play in real time, enabling platforms like Twitch to grow and become more popular. ‘Interactive watching’ might become the new standard after a while, leaving Netflix behind or forcing them to adapt.
Streaming & mobile games
Google and Microsoft are just now turning their focus to mobile gaming, while Hatch and other mobile platforms have been working at it for some time. Their advantage is that using these platforms, players can experience fantastic high-quality games, like Leo’s Fortune, on their mobile devices without downloading.
Hatch’s announced implementation of 5G gaming will further improve streaming quality, and some carriers, such as Sprint, now including Hatch Premium and cloud gaming with their 5G phones. Vodafone and Samsung are also amongst Hatch’s partners.
This all will open some markets where phones have lower specifications. With proper decoding capabilities and decent signal strength, players will finally be able to experience high-quality visuals with mobile controls. The mobile gaming experience will become a lot closer to that of a high-quality console.
The impact on developers and publishers
Will Stadia represent a positive industry shift for developers and publishers? That’s the big question. It depends on Stadia’s business model, among other factors. How will they pay developers and publishers? Will it simply be based on sales of their game, or will engagement and other metrics factor in? The answers to these questions will ultimately define who is successful in this space. Overall, it is good to be on many platforms, including Stadia, as long as developers don’t end up being squeezed financially.
Stadia’s impact also depends on the long-term evolution of streaming and its future business model. Ultimately, it’s the model combined with platform capabilities that needs to inform game development. Players might initially opt for one-time game purchases, but with time Stadia might move towards a subscription service to address market sentiment. As an example, the mobile gaming market started with mostly paid apps, but as it became heavily saturated, game developers switched to free-to-play. Streaming might go through a similar shift as it evolves from a brand-new platform to a fully developed gaming experience.
Streaming will continue to push gaming forward. Whether or not Stadia proves to be the biggest success, it has the right vision. In fact, many people wonder why it took so long for game streaming to arrive. Video streaming platforms such as YouTube have been on the market since 2005.
Written by Samir El Agili, President of Tilting Point