Ok, So Google is starting a gaming service. Is anybody excited? Tech writers are. But what about the gaming community? Even more important, what about the developer community? How well the Stadia service does will be all about how much game developers embrace the new platform along with the established platforms like PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo. Why are developers so key to all of this? Because the way Google is setting things up it will require game developers to port their titles on to the new service. This means more work for vendors in an industry that has already been well defined by established players and is quite healthy in its current form. There are millions of Xbox and PlayStation consoles on the market and a strong market for dedicated gaming PC’s.The current ecosystem is not begging for Google to come along and save it.
When I see a big announcement like Stadia it brings me right back to OUYA. The small start up console launched to great fanfare promising to be a community of creators that would deliver gaming in a new way. The only problem was that it didn’t have much of a catalog to offer in the first place. But once developers got going buy was it going to be great. Only thing is that developers never got on board. And despite lots of buzz the project never truly materialized.
Making a big gaming announcement without a cavalcade of titles is to put it politely, risky. We know nothing about how the service will attract customers. Is it something free that anyone can get into? Will it make money by selling the controllers? Where will people get the equipment to utilize it? Will the games work the same on all platforms? Will the service integrate with any consoles?
The service is going to be available via Google Chrome. This means that it will be dependant on Windows PCs. An obvious potential partner for the service would be NVIDIA which makes the Shield 4k gaming console and streamer powered by Android TV. But Stadia could easily be seen as a competitor to its own game service. Can Google force Stadia into the Android TV operating system or could NVIDIA avoid having a competitor built-in to its own branded device? Will it be available across all Android TV powered devices?
The approach Google is taking is rife with potential potholes. Sony, Microsoft, Nvidia and Nintendo have a standardized platform that they can depend on to perform exactly as designed. Developers can make games according to specific specs and know how they will work. Stadia could also suffer from the same thing that “Google TV” suffered from. Too many bad experiences. When a company tries to promise access from virtually everywhere it does so hoping that there will be enough bandwidth and processor power to handle what ever it is that it is selling. This service will require users to have dependable broadband speeds and according to the Verge users who do not live close to where the servers running Stadia are located are likely to experience latency problems in the games. That is a big deal for gamers, especially those who spend hours and tons of money on highly competitive games. If people try to use the service on underpowered devices like phones, or lower end laptops with undependable wifi they will hit the message boards and review sites with their horror stories. This could drag down the reputation of the service quickly.
In the end the service could be a kind of value added experience in the way that games on Apple TV or Fire TV are. Nobody buys the given device because of games but the fact that they are available means that there is always a chance someone will download or buy one. But expecting to create demand out of thin air at this point is a big ask.