Google announced its ambitious game streaming platform Stadia this week, and it’s a hot point of conversation for the entire industry. But does it represent a paradigm shift in terms of game delivery, and what does it all mean for PlayStation moving forward? Our esteemed editors weigh in.
Sammy Barker, Editor
Even a root canal extraction sounds good in bullet point form, right? No? Fair enough. The point is that Google’s Stadia presentation was as slick as they come, and if you’d have asked me yesterday what I thought of the tech giant’s proposition, I’d be tripping over myself searching for superlatives. (Yes, that pun was very much intended. Thank you.)
In the cold hard light of day, though, I do have questions. Not ‘what is the meaning of life?’ style questions, but more ‘is this actually going to be practical?’ style questions. Because I’ve been thinking: why would you ever blow 20GB or more of bandwidth streaming a 1.2GB game like Celeste – a Game of the Year candidate, remember – with added input lag. Pretty daft, right?
Even if you get beyond the not-so insignificant technological hurdles, like the little fact that the Internet is awful in practically any of the places that ordinary people decide to live, I’m still not sure how the games are going to be monetised. Are we talking a traditional digital storefront model? Subscriptions? Maybe even hourly rentals? Google’s being purposefully vague.
But at the same time, I love the concept. I’m particularly taken with this idea that you could theoretically share hyperlinks not just to games, but moments within those games. As the editor of a games website, the idea that you could literally link to an Easter egg or a hidden level or a boss fight is one that boggles the brain – this is next-gen stuff.
Except it’s probably not next-gen, is it? I think it’s next-next-gen. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the streaming future and think it will eventually stick. I reckon PlayStation, in the long-term, is going to become an app. But I think Google’s Stadia is probably going to end up being a product for the future – for the next ten years. It’s interesting to see battle lines already being drawn, though.
Robert Ramsey, Deputy Editor
I think Stadia's given us a glimpse of the future, but I'm not convinced that it's the whole future. The industry has been flirting with game streaming for years now – Sony was arguably the first to take it seriously with its acquisition of Gaikai – but Google clearly wants to establish it as gaming's evolution sooner rather than later. However, I think here in 2019, it's probably a bit too soon.
Stadia's an incredibly interesting concept, an idea that Google presented well during its briefing, but for me, that's ultimately what it boils down to right now: an idea. There was a lot of tiptoeing around key details like the minimum Internet speeds that Stadia will require, and we were even left guessing on how much the service will cost. No doubt all will be revealed later this year, but in my opinion, the whole thing's up in the air until we know for sure that it actually works.
From a PlayStation perspective, you've got to wonder whether streaming will play a larger role than we anticipated when it comes to the PS5. While I don't believe for a second that Sony would transform PlayStation into a pure streaming platform any time soon, I do think that with the reveal of Stadia, Sony could well be looking to push services like PlayStation Now harder than it had initially planned. Whatever the outcome, Stadia's announcement has made the inevitable PS5 reveal that much more interesting.
Is Stadia a direct PlayStation competitor? Not yet, I don't think – not until the PS5 hits. Stadia struck me as the first "next-gen" announcement, and if anything, I think it'll be compared to the PS5 and the Xbox One's successor. But then you could argue that Sony and Microsoft are in a better position to begin with. Both companies already have recognised consoles that provide traditional gaming experiences, and I don't think the market at large is ready to part with that for at least another five to ten years.
All in all, Stadia's got a lot to prove. The video games industry is a notoriously tough nut to crack, and Google seems to be brute forcing its way in by saying "hey, this right here? This is the future". The thing is, I'm just not sure everyone is willing to listen – not yet, anyway.
Stephen Tailby, Associate Editor
Stadia is a brilliant idea. Google has presented us with a strong pitch that gives a tantalising taste of the future. The thought that games could become as accessible as clicking a link in your browser is fascinating. It feels like the next logical step for streaming games, which is something we're able to do right now, but what's being promised with Stadia certainly takes things up a notch. Even the idea that the controller speaks directly to Google's servers over WiFi with no middle man to reduce latency is a big step forward.
However, this forward thinking vision is maybe a little ahead of its time. Anecdotally speaking, there's no way I'd be able to take advantage of Stadia in the near future. Some parts of the world have great online connectivity, but if you happen to live somewhere that doesn't – or you can't afford decent broadband – it seems highly unrealistic. Instant access to games is exciting, but if your connection can't keep up, your experience is going to suffer. Currently, downloading huge game files might be time consuming, but at least there isn't any lag between you and the game itself.
It's very difficult to judge how this announcement will affect PlayStation, although I suspect Sony has been looking at similar technology as it develops PS5. I could imagine a scenario where Stadia-like streaming is integrated into PS Now, providing members with the benefit of buying and instantly playing brand new games with no download to worry about. Perhaps for everyone else, content will still be available to purchase in the traditional way. Google's platform isn't going to make consoles obsolete in the short term, but it could well pave the way for where video games will go later down the line.
Ultimately, Google has left so many question marks, it's hard to pin down exactly what I think. As of right now, I'm not sure the world is as prepared as Google wants it to be, and that's the kicker. We'll have to wait and see exactly what the tech giant expects of players to achieve a smooth gameplay experience, but I can't see it being attainable for the majority. As my colleagues have said, it feels like a concept ahead of its time. Eventually, I can see games go down this road, but it just doesn't quite line up in 2019.
What are your thoughts on Google Stadia now you've had 24 hours to get used to the idea? How do you think the new initiative will affect PlayStation? Stream your subconscious into the comments section below.