Will Google's Stadia Game Streaming Platform Be A Dud?
from the stream-this dept
On November 19, Google is expected to finally launch the company’s long awaited game streaming platform, Google Stadia. Stadia is being heralded as the vanguard of a new push to eliminate your local game console, and shift all of the computing and processing power to the cloud. The shift to game streaming is likely inevitable, the only problem is that Stadia may be a little ahead of its time. And, like so many Google projects (like Google Fiber), game developers are apparently worried that Google may waffle on its commitment to the project:
“The biggest complaint most developers have with Stadia is the fear is Google is just going to cancel it. Nobody ever says, ‘Oh, it’s not going to work.’ or ‘Streaming isn’t the future.’ Everyone accepts that streaming is pretty much inevitable. The biggest concern with Stadia is that it might not exist.
Granted, that same developer then proceeds to point out there’s plenty of projects Google hasn’t waffled on:
“if you think about it like that, that’s kind of silly. Working in tech, you have to be willing to make bold moves and try things that could fail. And yeah, Google’s canceled a lot of projects. But I also have a Pixel in my pocket, I’m using Google Maps to get around, I only got here because my Google Calendar told me to get here by giving me a prompt in Gmail. It’s not like Google cancels every fucking thing they make.”
Having watched Google promise massive societal transformation with Google Fiber only to have Alphabet bean counters suddenly cripple the project without admitting as much, the worries still aren’t entirely unfounded. But while Google’s ability to stick with ambitious projects is a worry, there are more pressing concerns facing the project’s success. For one the launch lineup is fairly pathetic. There are only going to be twelve titles at launch, most of which (including three games from the Tomb Raider series) have already been out for years. As such, many view this as more of a proof of concept and a paid beta than a serious commercial launch.
But the biggest problem for Stadia, as we’ve mentioned previously, is America’s shitty broadband connections.
Thanks to limited competition and negligent regulators, ISPs have imposed monthly usage caps as low as 150 GB on the nation’s broadband lines. Stadia, according to estimates, can consume upwards of 15 gigabytes per hour at 4K resolution. Yeah, you can scale back the service to lower resolutions, but that defeats the idea of Stadia as any kind of symmetrical replacement for traditional game consoles.
ISPs, for their part, have spent years pretending that these caps are a good idea, despite the fact that even the industry has admitted they serve no real technical purpose outside of charging you more money for the same service. They’re glorified price hikes only made possible by a lack of competition and regulatory capture. To try and make the limits seem generous, ISPs love to measure them based on how many emails you can send or web pages you can browse. Here’s AT&T’s breakdown from the company’s website:
Whether Google is the company that will dominate the space or not, one thing is clear: ISPs are going to need a new schtick, and a lot of consumers are going to be surprised by the fact game streaming burns through broadband caps like popcorn shrimp.
Maybe Google succeeds in the space, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe Google sticks with the project, or maybe like Google Fiber Alphabet execs get cold feet and hang up on developers mid-stride in a year from now. Either way, game streaming is likely inevitable. From Sony and Microsoft to Verizon (net neutrality and zero rating should prove interesting in the case of the latter), there are any number of companies eyeballing this space. Who’s going to come out on top is far from clear, though what is clear is we’re going to need better broadband for the idea to gain widespread commercial appeal.