Google’s new game streaming platform Stadia made its debut at GDC. Although still missing some intangible details (namely, pricing or a launch date), publishers and developers still have thoughts on this ambitious attempt at bringing streaming to the mainstream.
Stadia debuted with Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed as a key franchise for the platform. Ubisoft co-founder Yves Guillemot spoke in a statement on the potential for long term play “The power and accessibility of streaming will give billions unprecedented opportunities to play video games in the future. We are proud to partner with Google on Stadia, building on what we’ve learned with Project Stream via ‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.’ This is only the beginning, and we can’t wait to continue collaborating closely with Google on what’s next for Stadia.”
Likewise, Devolver Digital’s co-founder Graeme Struthers looked ahead in his own statement. “We’ve been excited about Stadia since Google first shared it with us and our development partners. As a publisher we look for the best and widest potential audiences for our games. Stadia represents an interesting and exciting future for our creative partners and we look forward to working with this innovative platform in the future.”
Other developers were more varied in their critiques. Cord Smith who worked for Pseudo Interactive, Square Enix, and UbiSoft – and is soon to head up his own independent developer – spoke positively in a statement to Variety. “I think most developers would prefer to focus on their craft, creativity, and producing great content. Any technological advancement that puts your game in the hands of more gamers, regardless of platform, is a step in the right direction– although obviously quite disruptive to the walled gardens we’ve been playing within for so many years.”
Current game consultant and former Blizzard producer Matthew Householder felt less enthusiastic. “[Stadia is] yet another variation on the so-far unsuccessful thin-client approach. Any new service like this without an exclusive, hit game will simply fail to compete with entrenched platforms. Odd that a company with a huge war-chest would choose a battlefield with a low barrier to entry. Perhaps, this is just a way to promote Youtube and Google AI.”
Mark Edmonds, formerly of Rare and currently of Starfire Studios, stated “So it’s another game streaming service – but with the huge presence of Google behind it. Great for casual games or trying out a quick demo and the fact you need no high-end graphics hardware (just a good internet connection). But the big downside for me, of course, is the input lag introduced by having to send your control inputs to the server, and then the rendering lag of sending the effects of your input back to your display.
“The resulting feel will never be as good as playing on dedicated local hardware. Game streaming seems a better proposition when it is also combined with local game hardware (e.g. a console) and is an added feature (Microsoft & Xbox). So you can demo a game quickly, or play one while it is downloading to your console, or play one while out and about on your mobile (then get the best experience when you return home and can play there again).”
Dylan Jobe, with credits on franchises like Twisted Metal, and currently a Senior Development Director at Creative Infinity, speaks to the potential of Stadia to change distribution permanently. “Several companies have chased, and failed, remote-hosted game streaming. Google is probably the only company on the planet that could have a chance of pulling it off. And if they can, it will truly be disruptive. And I don’t use that word lightly – It’s a buzzword that makes me throw-up in my mouth a little. But in this case, I think disruptive is totally accurate.”
Still, there’s a different angle to consider. What happens if Stadia fails? What happens to that content? Law professor and author of The End of Ownership Aaron Perzanowski shared his concerns with the rise of a streaming platform. “If this is structured as a subscription service like Netflix, at least consumers will be on notice that games may come and go. That would be frustrating if you put 90 hours into a game and the service’s license expired. But at least it wouldn’t give the false impression of ownership that consumers have with digital downloads. Either way, there are some major concerns here when it comes to availability, reliability, and archiving of content.”