Yesterday, Google announced its much-anticipated game platform Stadia. In the news entry we called it an "invasion" of games: this combination platform and delivery service has the potential to compete with consoles, computers and mobile games at once.
Google's ambition is huge, but it is advisable to do the job. The gaming industry we know is stagnant in terms of innovation, but its biggest business players are well-equipped and experienced. If Stadia is to compete with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, it must nail three important parts when it starts later in 2019.
The most important part of the gaming platform is, of course, the games. Consoles live and die at their game selection and ensure exclusive and desirable titles (either from third party publishers or developer owned by the console manufacturer) is the best way to make sure you will succeed.
With Stadia, Google is already on the right track. Its best move is undoubtedly to become a publisher himself. Google hired Jade Raymond, formerly a gaming producer and studio manager at mega-publisher EA and Ubisoft, to lead his own gaming studio. Stadia Games and Entertainment, a separate but linked company under the alphabet's ever-expanding umbrella, will develop its own games for the Stadia platform, as well as preserving independent developers to bring their games on board.
Another great move: announces Stadia to the annual game developer conference, instead of the upcoming Google I / O show or E3. By introducing Stadia specifically to game developers and publishers, including quite a bit of time showing the unique design flexibility of the remote Linux and Vulcan-powered hardware, they really hinted at the imagination of many fantasies. Today, the day after the announcement, you can bet that game managers and developers encrypt to meet with the Google Stages team at GDC, desperate to check out the platform and play games on the launch.
Stadia is not the first gambling platform to use a 100% off-stream setup: the battered OnLive eventually became Sony's PlayStation Now, NVIDIA's GeForce Now is currently in beta and Shadow enables a more technical, individualistic approach. Microsoft will almost certainly go into streaming in a big way with the next Xbox, and rumors suggest that Verizon and Amazon are also looking at it as well.
But Stadia is the first streaming system to be built with streaming in mind from the ground up and on the tremendous power of Google's data center and money. Showing deep hooks in Chrome and YouTube (to catch the Twitch audience), powerful new ways to play screen and asynchronous multiplayer and backed up for massively popular development tools like Unreal Engine, Unity, CryEngine and Havok are all smart moves to a new platform.
This means that developers not only can easily send their existing projects to Stadia's hardware but also be able to create completely new types of games that are only ] possible with access to Stadia's web, streaming and scalability functions.
During the GDC presentation, Google demonstrated partner projects with Ubisoft, Bethesda, 2K, Square-Enix, Tangent Games, Tequila Works and Q-Games, but at the time of writing, only Id Software was DOOM Eternal has been confirmed for release at Stadia. Of course, Google can still destroy its original relationship by limiting developers with restrictive platform rules, or simply asking them too much of an average profit. Which is a nice victory in …
The prize is right
One of the biggest omissions of Google's Stage revealed was the pricing model. Not only do we not know how much Stadia will cost when it starts, we do not even know what type of price structure it should use.
There are some different options here. A current industry development is what is commonly called a Netflix model: pay a single price, access all games on the service, no additional purchases and no restrictions. Sony PlayStation Now works with this method and costs $ 20 per month. Xbox Game Pass, EA's Origin Access and Humble Monthly, like anything you can eat game sets that still require regular downloads cost between $ 5 and $ 15 a month.
Google can also go in the opposite direction and offer Stadia to all users but charge full price for each game, like Steam. It seems more likely than a Netflix approach, for a couple of reasons. First, the game developers are Google, courting, not ready to release a fully paid release system so far: they depend on the huge revenue support from a new AAA title selling at $ 60-100. And secondly, during the presentation, Google VP Phil Harrison gave us a brief glimpse of Stadia's possible pricing.
That's about 1:08 in the video: Harrison (another gaming industry veteran) told the developers: "The Internet will be your store." He continued to say that players could buy games "from our Stages store." The fact that There is a digital shop window at all, instead of just a gallery or a launcher, indicating that at least some games will be sold normally.
Google displays social networking ads for the "Stadia Store", indicating the purchase of a la carte. Google
The third option is that Google will mix these two models, charge a small fee for access to the Stadia and additional gaming costs. It's still a small enough space to get in to getting in a lot of new users, especially those who are cautious about spending hundreds of dollars on consoles or computers. And game developers and publishers can keep their high launch prices. Google can include its own Stage G & E titles (as well as low-cost indie games or older titles) in the subscription fee as a loss leader.
This mixed model seems most likely to me, as it will give Google stable platform revenue, keep publishers happy with standard sales, and woo gamers if the monthly price is low enough. A free trial, always a popular approach to streaming services like Google's own YouTube TV, would be an obvious inclusion.
The last ingredient in Secret Sauce for a perfect Stage Launch is marketing, and it's one that Google is least equipped to get right. Google has never been good at marketing its products directly to consumers. The flock on the Nexus line with other good phones and tablets, Android Wear and Google Glass are all testament to Google's lack of labeling skills – a Google executive even said it a few years ago. Poor marketing probably contributes to Google's lack of forward movement in the Pixel brand, which can now be severely restricted.
That's a big problem. Not only because games are heavily dependent on marketing, but because Stadia is not a product that is easy to boil down in a 30-second TV scene (or a 5-second YouTube pre-roll ad). To sell to players, Google has to emphasize that Stadia is quite different from conventional computers and consoles, and why the unique streaming hardware enables new types of gaming experiences.
Get it in a lift and you can hang out with Don Draper. And by the way, Sterling-Cooper would probably have been better with the name than "Stadia".
"The future of the game is not a box," reads the commercial Stadia, "It's a place." It's pretty good, for Google. And it highlights one of the tools that Google will rely heavily on in its first push: YouTube. For all Twitch battles in Stadia's YouTube integration, Google's ownership of the Web's standard video platform is possibly the largest asset. During the first months of the platform launch, Google will measure players with ads on YouTube at virtually zero cost.
If Google has desirable games and eye-catching exclusions for Stadia, and consumers can swallow the price, it may be enough. Combine Deals – New Pixel Phones and Google Home Hardware, YouTube TV Subscriptions, and Google Drive Service Fees come almost certainly with some Stage Freebies for a while – and you have a real competitor I go ahead and predict that Google will offer the Wi-Fi powered Stadia controller and Chromecast Ultra in a $ 100 bundle as a cheap and easy entry point.
A brave new world
There are other obstacles to Google. Fast broadband internet is far from commonplace in North America, the largest potential market. (Gee, wouldn't it be nice if Google was trying to solve that problem too?) Now that Stadia plans are repaired, Microsoft, Sony, et al. will work to counteract it … and not necessarily with their own streaming expansions. They can simply lean on their existing relationships with publishers to make more appealing offers, starving Google out of the market until the threat passes. And of course, I assume that Stadia does not have massive performance or usability issues at launch.
As I said, I'm still optimistic. Stages can be the biggest shift in the gaming world since online multiplayer, if Google managed to hold the landing. If Google fails to blow everyone away, then Stadia can still be a much-needed competitor to the current major players.
And even though the Stadia crashes and burns into the ever-growing Google cemetery, it looks like the company will put its full force behind it for its launch. With some luck, it will shake the gaming market in exciting ways, especially with the next-generation consoles (and the tumultuous frenzy that accompany them) on the horizon.