Despite being a huge gamer, I never expect anything big from the annual Games Developers Conference. The show may all be about games but it’s focused more on the development side of things and it’s not consumer focused. But there was some big news coming from this year’s GDC and it was, from all people, Google.
Google is entering the quickly crowded world of gaming. But they’re not releasing a new-fangled console or anything like that. Being Google, they’re going to try something different. It’s going to be a system that, as long as you have a good enough Internet connection, you can play all those super state-of-the-art games like the new Assassin’s Creed game on anything. You won’t even need a beefy PC to play those kinds of games: even your mobile device will be able to play it!
Google isn’t just writing in Stadia as some kind of second-rate system. No, it seems like they’re going all in here. They plan to release Stadia sometime within this year, meaning they’ve been planning this for a while now. They also said that it’ll be more powerful that this console generation’s systems as everything will be done from their servers. You don’t really need all that much bandwidth as Google recommends Stadia users have a 25Mbps connection and you’ll have all the games run at 1080p at 60fps. Most games will be playable at just a click of a button! They even hired Assassin’s Creed’s producer Jade Raymond to head their first-party gaming division.
While I do see the promise of Google Stadia for the future, I just don’t have the same feels I have with something like Nintendo, Sony or even Microsoft. It seems really weird for me to even type out this sentence since there was a lot of good things Google said during GDC. So why am I still down on their new “gaming system”? Well, there are a couple of reasons…
First, Google Stadia has to always has to be connected to Google’s servers since all the computing will be done from their servers. Essentially, this will be the first gaming platform that will require an “always online” connection. Sounds familiar? This harkens back to the days when Microsoft said that the Xbox One will always need an online connection! How well did that go over with gamers?
To be fair, that was a whole six years ago. Times have changed and technology has moved on. There are now more games that rely on online connections thanks to the proliferation of experiences like Fortnight and PUBG. Online gaming is now a big thing and I have a feeling Google has spotted this trend and believe this is where gaming is headed.
I do admire Google for being forward thinking in that way but I still am a staunch believer of, you know, actually owning my own games and playing them even while offline? I just can’t shake the uneasy feeling of having the data on my phone or PC being transmitted into the Interwebs for Google to use. You’ll definitely have to agree to a extremely long EULA before you can use Google Stadia before you play and, somewhere buried in that massive wall of text, is going to be that little blurb of text that only lawyers can understand that states that you’ll be sending some bit of information that you don’t want them to know. That’s probably not going to happen and you can call me paranoid all you want, but I just don’t like that thought.
Another issue I have with Google Stadia is that it’s not going to be available in my location when it is released. Right now, Google is planning Stadia to be made available in the “richer” countries. The United States, Canada, United Kingdom and parts of Europe are going to get it first. This does make sense as they do have the infrastructure to support a live game streaming service. I guess Google has servers ready in those locations so it’ll work there at launch.
But what about other locations? No mention as to when the other “rich” countries like Japan and South Korea will be getting the service. Barely a peep for my country, the Philippines, as well. Not that I was expecting it but that means I will definitely not subscribing to the service when it does come out.
It also seems like Google is shooting itself in the foot by excluding markets like Japan and Korea. We all know that those countries have super big gaming communities and not supporting them early is a misstep. They would already have the networking infrastructure to support this kind of thing so it’s weird that they’re not giving Stadia to them early on. This might adversely affect how the game developers in those countries perceive Stadia. If Stadia isn’t going to be made available in their home country, why will they want to develop for it?
This leads to another factor as to why I’m not too high on Stadia: there isn’t a game lineup yet. The only game they showed in GDC was the new Assassin’s Creed. While that is an impressive game to show off your new gaming system, it’s nothing we haven’t seen on other consoles.
You have to realize that a gaming system is only as good as the games it carries. I’m pretty sure that Google Stadia, under Jade Raymond’s leadership, can produce some good first-party games for it as well as secure a good number of big name games when it launches. The question is how many exclusives will they get?
It doesn’t matter if they get the newest Assassin’s Creed in the future if each and every other console gets it as well. What Stadia needs, and every console that comes out for that matter, is a great exclusive game. That one game that’s only available on Google Stadia and it not going to be released on other systems. Stadia needs that killer app and I’m not sure if they’re really going for that. Google is throwing out the biggest net they have to get the most gamers but, unless they have that one exclusive, I’m not too sure if anyone will be saying that Google Stadia will ever be their “main” system.
And I think that’s my main problem with Google Stadia. I’m not getting the impression that it’s trying to win the console wars it’s trying to enter. It’s not trying to make new fanboys to hate other systems or anything like that. It’s just there to make money. There’s no spirit behind it.
At least, right now. Maybe Google can change my mind at E3?
What do you think of the upcoming Google Strada? Let me know in the comments sections below!