Slightly over a week ago, Google announced Google Stadia, a cloud streaming platform that aims to replace your average game console or gaming PC with just a browser and a fast internet connection.
If the cloud gaming page on Wikipedia is to be believed, there has already been many attempts by other companies both big and small to capture this supposedly untapped market. A few big names like Microsoft with Project xCloud, EA with Project Atlas and Sony with their PlayStation Now are already in the ring ready to duke it out with each other.
That said, I feel like it isn’t going to fundamentally alter the way people see games and as such, might just be another failed attempt by Google much like Project Aria. Remember, there is an increasingly large number of players that want in on the slice of the pie that frankly isn’t going to be that big in the first place.
It isn’t about the infrastructure
The tech giant, Google, has already been seen rolling out their physical network infrastructure named Google Fibre in select places in the US. The fact is that they already have the ability to improve network speeds going to homes that will break the long-time monopoly/duopoly the likes of Time Warner and AT&T.
I’m sure Google is more than capable of providing their fibre service across the entirety of the US eventually, perhaps on Google Fibre they will also be able to optimize their routing such that you might get better connectivity connecting to their cloud platform.
Of course, there is also the issue of varied latencies that would affect button input which is crucial to more sensitive genres like fighting or FPS that still needs to be addressed.
On Ownership, Games & Modding
But really this isn’t about the possibility of supporting such an endeavour. It is that the majority of people still would prefer physical copies of games that they own. Generally speaking, a physical game is going to be the easiest to preserve and allows the user full control of what they want to do with it.
With the advent of console emulation, you would think that with the increased accessibility of playing old games, gamers would no longer require old rare cartridges to play their games on and hence their price would drop on the resale market, right? Nope, here is a recent listing on eBay for an old NES game that still sold for thousands. I think it’s safe to say that the attraction gamers have towards physical copies of games is real and alive and probably not changing anytime soon.
While PC gamers have long been coerced by Gaben’s sweet-talk about a contingency plan if Steam ever goes under, he is not actually contractually obligated to do so. So, while we can hope that that never happens, it still could which is nightmarish to think about. Then there is the issue of modding; If you aren’t able to see the code in any way, then you are unable to modify or improve it which is really detrimental to games who only strive because of community-created content like Skyrim (though it would not surprise me if Todd Howard re-releases Skyrim: Cloud Edition for only the 60 billionth time).
Where is the pie?
Truth is, it’s just not going to be that big. If anecdotal evidence were to suggest, I literally have 0 friends who uses any form of cloud gaming or are interested in it. It is paradoxical for companies to believe that there exists a place where you could have a high-speed connection AND not have access to the hardware to run games on. No, the shoddy connection from your local Starbucks or even your own 5G mobile network is certainly not up to task to run such a bandwidth intensive service.
Its just not going to be a market that exists. Or if it does, is not going to be so big to have so many players on board.