On Tuesday 19th of March, Google revealed their latest offering, Google Stadia, a project they have been working on for years. Instead of releasing a physical gaming platform to compete with existing offerings, Google has decided to focus on a cloud-based version of the gaming industry. With the Stadia, they are attempting to remove restrictions of how, when and what platform users can use to play their favourite games. Is it a winning recipe that will allow Google to penetrate this $180 billion industry? Let’s find out.
The idea itself isn’t exactly new; Netflix does it with movies and series and Spotify does it for music. In fact, even in the gaming industry, the idea isn’t entirely original. Google’s main competitor Microsoft offers Game-Pass, a subscription-based service for $9.99 per month where users have access to games they don’t physically own. You could argue the PS Vita is a similar offering. However, Google does have a unique selling point over Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo’s take on gaming; there is no specific hardware required. To use Stadia, users simply open their phones, laptops, PCs or even their Smart TV. They could use the new Stadia Controller, but it is not mandatory. Moreover, the Stadia platform will support cross-platform gaming from its inception, meaning people playing on different games consoles will be able to play with each other online, as well as 4K streaming.
The market certainly thinks it will succeed, reacting positively to the announcement, with Google’s share price rising 1.54% during the day. Having revealed a partnership with Advanced Micro Devices Inc. during the announcement, their shares rose 11% as investors anticipate the extra revenue this could generate for the company. Elsewhere, game developers such as Activision Blizzard Inc. saw a 5.2% increase in share price. Meanwhile, competitors saw a slight decrease in their own prices. Thumbs up from the stock exchanges it would seem.
Gamers also seem impressed. The ability to join online games at (literally) the click of a button appeals to many of them. Other exciting new features are also turning heads in the industry. Gamers who watch their favourite YouTubers stream gameplay online will have the option of playing in the same online match by clicking a link, joining others online in as little as five seconds. The new ‘State’ feature allows users to capture a moment within a game and share it with friends via a link, much the same as you would share an online article. For example, you could capture a cracking goal on Fifa to show it to others, or if you’re stuck on a level in Assassin’s Creed you could send a link to one of your friends and let them pass it for you from the exact moment you can’t complete yourself. By using an online data centre and decentralising the experience, Google will open up many new possibilities for gamers that could prove quite lucrative for them.
The new offering officially makes the Stadia Controller the latest addition to Google’s hardware family. The design is sleek and resembles a cross between a PS4 and Xbox One controller, so no complaints there. Interestingly, alongside the buttons you would expect to find are two new additions which differentiate it from others. Firstly we find the ‘Capture’ button. This allows players to take a screenshot or screen recording and instantly share it with whoever they want. Google is clearly addressing the growing popularity of video game live-streaming, an industry worth over $10 billion annually and growing at a fast rate. Secondly, there is a Google Assistant button on the controller. No longer will users have to write their cheat codes on A4 pages, as the button will allow you to ask for help on any parts of a game you may be stuck with, without having to even pause or take your eyes off the screen.
Everyone seems to be positive that this latest Google venture is destined for greatness. This, however, has not always been the case for the tech giant. Google’s attempt at a social media platform failed twice in the shape of Google Buzz and Google+. Other failed initiatives include Picassa, Google Helpouts and Inbox by Gmail, which will be shut down on April 2nd. Another issue is pricing, or the lack thereof. Thus far, there is no word on how much this exciting package will cost consumers. With the PS4 and Xbox One on the scene, will people purchase a subscription-based gaming service? Or will Stadia be another one of Google’s flops, failing to meet the hype? With a release rumoured for summer 2019, we’re sure to find out soon enough.
By Alex Lohier – Business Editor