To the surprise of no one, Google announced its entry into the cloud gaming marketplace with Google Stadia earlier this week. It promises, like Microsoft’s Project xCloud, to revolutionize the style we game. But will it actually?
In short, the answer is yes. Unlike previous attempts at setting up a cloud gaming service, Microsoft and Google have the means and the will to make it happen. If either is able to turn their promises into reality( and that’s a big if ), they are set to turn the gaming industry on its head.
To understand why cloud gaming has a much better chance of catching on now, rather than a few years ago, you have to look at the direction the industry is heading and the ways media intake has changed in the digital era.
The increases of games as a service
Like it or not, most industries are changing to a service model. For amusement, the same pattern emerged as some progress in bandwidth and technology permitted. First it was music, then it was movies/ TV, and now it’s games. The advantages for companies( and users) of services models are just too great to ignore.
For games, service-based models( read: microtransactions) are frequently adopted because they give developers a route to further monetize their work without increasing base costs. With a large install base, there is a much bigger opportunity to make money over the lifetime of a game, rather than only at release. Microtransactions may be controversial for many old guard gamers, but at this phase I’m afraid there is no getting rid of them.
Fortnite is a perfect example of what can be achieved with low hurdles of entry
Look no further than Fortnite, the most popular game in the world. It manages to maintain its dominance not by lowering the barrier of entry, but instead by virtually removing it. By making the game accessible to more or less anyone with a screen, the game’s potential audience is enormous. This paid off huge for Epic Game in 2018 — to the sum of $ 3 billion.
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There are a number of other advantages for gamers, as well. In addition to not needing to buy any hardware, you don’t need to take it around with you to use it. As long as you have a good internet connection, you can play your AAA games whenever and wherever you want. With 5G’ s incredible velocities and low latency simply around the corner, this may even apply when not on a Wi-Fi network — presuming you have an incredible data plan.
The other obvious advantage is that you will never need to upgrade your system. New consoles are released every few years, and the high-end PC gaming market changes even more frequently. By spreading the cost of upgrading hardware to thousands of gamers, the cost of gaming will be reduced significantly. Why pay $60 for a new AAA game when you are able to pay half that for a month of access to tons of games at 4K quality?
Sure, its own experience is somewhat worse, but if you think people won’t put up with a small amount of input latency in cloud gaming, try playing Fortnite on a phone. No, cloud gaming won’t compete with your $5,000 battle station, but it doesn’t have to. As long as it offers a decent experience for the masses at a good price point, it will succeed.
Plenty of room at the table
Many gamers assure cloud gaming as some sort of existential menace to their beloved console and PC titles. It’s as if this new way to devour games will completely erase the last 20 years of gaming history.
You could compare this again to mobile gaming. When big studios announce a new title in a beloved franchise like Diablo or Command& Conquer, then reveal it’s mobile exclusive, fan reaction is overwhelmingly negative. Never mind the fact that mobile titles are often the only things maintaining these older franchises alive.
Mobile gaming attains more fund than all other gaming marketplaces combined
The fact of the matter is that the mobile gaming marketplace is already making more fund than all other gaming marketplaces blended. The reason for this? Accessibility. There were 2. 1 billion active mobile gamers at the end of 2017, and that number is only going to rise. Cloud gaming devotes developers the opportunity to provide a console or PC-level experience to this new and growing audience of gamers.
If a big studio like EA has a chance to get at the mobile gaming marketplace in a big style, they will( in fact, they already have ). Even better if they can provide a true AAA experience rather than the watered down mobile versions that inundated the Google Play Store.
Looking at digital game marketings as a whole, it attains up more than 90 percentage of the entire gaming marketplace. This means that the leap from Steam to the cloud could be fairly seamless — if you’re someone who has already given up on physical media.
If you want to buy a game on a disc, you can. I still buy vinyl records even though I usually listen to music on streaming services. One is a collectors item that offer a unique experience, the other is pure convenience. There is a place for both in my life.
The bottom line
If Google Stadia or Project xCloud work as promised, they will perfectly revolutionize gaming. The games industry has already espoused games as a service as a style to boost revenue, and the market is ready to change even further into digital formats. The only difference is that now the console itself is digital, and gamers need to buy one device fewer to access the latest and greatest.
The real challenge now, and the reason Google was at GDC in the first place, is get developers on board. Once that happens, you can safely say goodbye to your gaming consoles forever.
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