Over the last decade, streaming has become one of the most disruptive forces media, changing the way we experience everything from movies to music. Now Google, with a new cloud-based gaming platform called Stadia, hopes to use streaming to irrevocably shape the way we play. Here are answers to questions you may have about it.
What Is Stadia?
Stadia is Google’s new cloud-based gaming service that will be accessible through multiple mobile devices including PCs, laptops, smartphones, and smart televisions and tablets. Instead of purchasing a game at a brick-and-mortar store or downloading a title on their console, gamers will simply stream the games running on Google’s cloud servers. As announced at Google Stadia Connect and Gamescom 2019 in August, the catalog currently includes 39 games ranging from Cyberpunk 2077 to Mortal Kombat 11, Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle, and Kine.
According to John Justice, VP of product for Google Stadia, the goal is to bring “all the games you’d expect to have” to Stadia, as well as games “only possible in the cloud.” Games are streamed from Google’s constantly upgraded servers, which means players don’t have to monitor (or wait for) downloads or updates.
And the platform is meant to allow for the multiple ways gamers play. As Google VP Phil Harrison told Eurogamer, “[The word ‘Stadia’ is] the plural of stadiums . . . A stadium is a place where you can have, obviously, sports, but it’s also a place where you can have entertainment. And so we wanted that to be our brand idea, which was a place for all the ways that we play and this idea of watching, playing, participating . . . where you could take a slightly ‘lean-back’ view of a game [if you wanted to]. You don’t necessarily have to be leaning into every last button press per second of a game.”
When Does Stadia Go Live?
Google Stadia’s Founder’s Edition will be released in November 2019 in 14 territories including the United States, UK, and Canada. Those who opt for the Founder’s Edition will drop $130—less than the price of a new PS4—for a Chromecast Ultra and a limited-edition “Night Blue” controller. These early adopters will receive not only the hardware, but also three months of free premium service (called “Stadia Pro”—more details below). They’ll also receive a three-month “Buddy Pass” so that a friend can also enjoy Stadia Pro.
Why Is Google Interested in Gaming?
A shift into the video game business may seem like a big move for Google, but gaming is a lucrative industry. According to market analysis firm Newzoo, the video game industry produced roughly $135 billion in sales in 2018. GlobalData predicts that number will balloon to $300 billion by 2025.
Who Is Google Competing against with Stadia?
As far as game streaming is concerned, Google isn’t the only company exploring this new frontier. Microsoft is in the midst of planning its own offering, called xCloud. Twitch is a well-known and popular platform owned by Amazon subsidiary Twitch Interactive and introduced in 2011, which focuses on video game live streaming. And Playstation Now, from Sony, allows PlayStation owners to instantly access a library of (mostly older) games for $99 a year, even as Sony promises to take that service “to the next level later this year.” Meanwhile, Apple will launch its own subscription gaming service, Arcade, September 19.
How Will Google Make Money off Stadia?
Although Stadia has been predicted to be the “Netflix of games,” the analogy isn’t a perfect one: Stadia is not primarily a subscription service. Gamers should expect to purchase, not rent, the games they play using the service (with the exception of some free releases). As Google’s director of games Jack Buser told The Verge, “We will sell these games like any other digital storefront.”
The service itself comes in two tiers:
- Players can get Google Stadia for free via Stadia Base, which is due out in 2020 and will allow streaming of purchased games with stereo sound. The catch? Gamers won’t have access to free game releases when they occur.
- To get all features, including 5.1 surround sound and access to the free game library, users will pay $10/month for Stadia Pro.
What we no one knows yet is what kind of advertising opportunities might exist with Stadia. Knowing Google, the company will figure out an ad model to support its online advertising business, which is fending off the rising popularity of Amazon Advertising and long-standing competitor Facebook. Stay tuned.
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