The Stadia announcement is shaking up the Internet and time will tell what kind of long-lasting impact it will make on the gaming industry. Yesterday we talked about why, in theory it could be the most amazing thing ever, but today we'll be more realistic and take a closer look at some things that are worrying (Horrible).
Who owns what
Alphabet owns Google, Google owns Stadia, the developers own their IPs and you own nothing.
You’re paying for access to servers and the games available on them, if they for some reason decide to ban you, you are left with nothing. You never really buy anything and chances are that getting banned in one game, gets you banned from the entire service. So make sure to keep your political views, opinions, and thoughts to yourself, because if you do or say something they don’t like, you lose everything.
The files are where?
You don’t actually have access to game files, this is both good and bad. It’s good when it comes to cheating and pirating, it’s horrible when it comes to mods.
How are modders supposed to develop mods, if they don’t actually have access to the game files? How are you going to install a mod if you can’t access the files? Finally, do you think anyone is going to be allowed to upload files to Google's servers all willy-nilly? Of course not.
A big payday for ISPs
Streaming 4K at 60FPS requires a fast internet connection, who would have guessed it. The recommended download speed is 25 mbps, but some people that were a part of the Project Stream beta say that even more than that is required.
The official statement claims that even if a user doesn’t meet the required speed, the game can adapt resolution on the fly to keep gameplay smooth. As nice as that sounds, I’m not sure people would be happy with their games resolution jumping around.
Also, I think someone at Google didn’t actually check average internet speeds around the world, there are only about 20 countries with an average that matches the requirement or is better than it. Maybe they did check, and in a couple of months you’re going to see Google Fiber bundled with Stadia. How caring of them.
In case you’re using a different ISP, you’re going to end up paying more either way. If you already have a good enough speed, there is a good chance that they will throttle you, since streaming that much is a lot of bandwidth. So unless your ISP is really generous and doesn’t throttle you, you’re going to pay extra.
Besides speed, latency is maybe an even bigger issue. You can have a great download speed, but unless your latency is low, games will be unplayable due to input lag. Google claims that the latency on their side will be 5 to 6 ms. So do a speed test really quickly and add 8-9 milliseconds (let’s be real, 5-6ms is in perfect conditions) to your own ping. That’s how long it will take for your input to get to the game. You should probably invest in fiber optic if you haven’t yet, again I heard Google offers it…
Since we’re already on the topic of internet connections, you’re obviously required to be always online since it’s a streaming service. Even their gamepad is always online.
A growing monopoly
I’m not even going to go in depth on this one. We use Google to search the web, check maps, watch videos, send mail and so on. Do you really want Google to be the one place you go to for video games too or should I remind you of their stance on that one incident from 2014?
A growing list of questions
How much will it cost?
They talked about absolutely everything, except this.
Origin Access gives you many games for $4 to $15, PS Now is $20 and has streaming, Xbox Game Pass is $10 per month and will also feature streaming, how does Google plan to be competitive in price and still make a profit? I’m not sure if even they have an answer to that one yet.
How will the developers profit?
Will they get paid per minute of play? Will it be based on the number of players? Will what Google offers them be enough or will they start putting in more and more microtransactions to actually make a profit? Will there be premium games that are bought as if Stadia is just another marketplace?
Another question is, what will the developers be paying Google? Since they most probably will be paying for something, how will Google balance it out between Indie developers, AAA studios and everything between?
Talking about premium, will there be a sort of premium access?
If they add premium games, that you would have to buy separately, chances are you’ll also be able to pay extra for a premium membership that will include such games.
The YouTube push
So, Google also wants a monopoly when it comes to live streams and to make sure you don’t leave YouTube. Stadia is going hard on the YouTube push and if you’re wondering “Why would they do that, I already use YouTube constantly” it’s because YouTube isn’t exactly profitable for them and for years they have refused to release specifics on it and just bundled all that information with the rest of Google.
Even the controller has YouTube point and centre with the capture button. In reality, Stadia is about YouTube. They said it themselves, a large part of YouTube is gaming. Wouldn’t it be amazing (For them) if all the streamers just came to YouTube and streamed there and all of their fans following and then giving donations through YouTube?
When the developers leave
What exactly happens to games that developers stop supporting? Will they just be left in the corner for you to play when you remember them or do they get dropped to make space for newer ones? Not even Google has infinite storage and it’s questionable if even they have the infrastructure needed to have millions and millions of people concurrently streaming and so many games running at the same time. The more I think about it, the less convinced I am.
And the best for last.
Google is first and foremost an advertisement company. Do you really think that they will miss out on such a beautiful opportunity to send ads your way? Maybe they could also sell you a premium account so that you wouldn’t look at ads during loading screens, just a few dollars a month more. Sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it?
If a big company comes out telling you how much they care for you and how they made just the thing for you, remember that their primary focus is profit and you just happen to look gullible enough to pay up.
Maybe they should have tried to do virtual machines. Instead of just having games, you rent out a desktop. You could get specialized subscriptions that offer a customized experience, designer, developer or gamer and your virtual machine gets decked out with the programs you need for that package. Or you get a long list of available programs and apps and you build your own package. It would be a cool idea for startups, instead of investing thousands you pay a couple of hundred a month to get what you need to start working.
I’m aware of how cynical I am, but how could I not be?