- Google just announced its intentions to enter the video game industry.
- Instead of making a video game console, Google is launching a streaming video game platform named Stadia.
- The announcement promised a lot, and it sounds good on paper, but it was missing one crucial component: Games.
Google is making a huge bet that it can create the first Netflix-style video game streaming service in Stadia, the video game streaming platform it unveiled on March 19.
The plan, on paper, is simple and powerful: high-end, blockbuster-level video games on any device, with no additional hardware required.
Google calls it a “new generation” gaming platform – an intentional shot at the decades-long video game business model built around selling physical game consoles that play physical and digital games.
It’s an ambitious plan, and it’s one that could potentially upend the video game industry. But there’s one crucial component missing so far: Games.
If you’re launching a video game platform — whether you’re Nintendo or Google — you need to start with games.
In the lead up to a new video game console launch, there’s a lot of hype around hardware bells and whistles. Forum threads light up with spec comparisons, and people furiously break down the potential benefits and liabilities of using particular types of RAM (or whatever).
That stuff matters of course, but horsepower and gimmicks don’t sell video game consoles – it’s the games.
Look no further than Nintendo’s wildly successful Switch console for proof: Launching alongside “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” a fantastic game that could only be played on Nintendo hardware, was a crucially important move. The game was so good, in fact, that it sold millions of consoles. People bought a Nintendo Switch solely so they could play “Breath of the Wild.”
There’s a term for these types of games: System sellers.
When “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” launched soon after the Switch, it compounded interest – now there were two system sellers on the Switch. By the time “Super Mario Odyssey” arrived, later in the same year, the Switch had gained serious sales momentum.
Do people buy the Switch because it’s a tablet? Because of its adorable little controllers? Because of the touch screen? Sure, that stuff helps. But the reality is that people buy the Nintendo Switch because it has a ton of great games that can only be played on the Switch.
Without that – great games that can only be played on Stadia – it’s unlikely that Google will succeed.
Google showed off a few games on stage, from “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” to “Doom Eternal.”
Only a few games were teased during Google’s Stadia reveal event this week, but the one big standout was “Doom Eternal.”
It’s the next major game in the classic “Doom” first-person-shooter series, and it’s particularly notable here because it’s a pretty demanding game in terms of hardware. It’s a series known for being tremendously fast, and its fans demand pixel-perfect control.
In so many words, it’s a great test case for what Google is promising: lag-free video games over modern broadband connection speeds.
Moreover, it’s a clear sign of support from game publisher Bethesda Softworks – the same publisher behind the “Elder Scrolls” and “Fallout” franchises.
It’s also clear that “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” publisher Ubisoft is on board – 2018’s “Odyssey” has become a go-to demonstration of Google’s streaming tech. The game was even used as the test for Google’s Project Stream beta test in late 2018 (Project Stream was a public test of Stadia’s streaming technology).
Two other notable publishers had games in the keynote: the “Final Fantasy” and “Tomb Raider” publisher Square Enix, and the “NBA 2K” publisher Take-Two Interactive.
These are all meaningful partners to have in the video game business. Ubisoft, Bethesda, Square Enix, and Take-Two are critically important multiplatform game publishers. But none of them are producing games exclusively for Stadia, and the company’s first-party efforts are just getting started.
Stadia Games and Entertainment, a first-party development group within Google run by gaming industry vet Jade Raymond, is taking the lead on Stadia game creation.
Going beyond working with various third-party game developers and publishers, Google is creating its own game-development division headed by the veteran video-game executive Jade Raymond.
The studio’s goal is to “build experiences designed exclusively for Stadia as Google’s own first-party game studio,” Harrison said as he introduced Raymond.
It’s not clear exactly how large the studio will be, or how many projects it will work on, but Raymond is known for her work on huge franchises, such as “Assassin’s Creed.”
What is clear is that Raymond is new to Google, and it often takes years to build major video games. It’s entirely possible that Google’s had a game or two in the works for some time now, but there were no big reveals of games from the newly-formed, first-party Stadia Games and Entertainment group at this week’s event.
Outside of concepts, no games created by Google were shown off.
There were a few demos demonstrated on stage that Google created – but they were very much tech demos, like “Night Forest” seen above.
When Business Insider asked Google’s director for games, Jack Buser, about what first-party games will be available when Stadia launches in 2019, he said: “We’re not talking too much about content just yet. But games are in my blood and I cannot wait to talk to you about it. We will definitely be able to talk more in 2019, so stay tuned. One thing I can say is that gamers should be quite impressed.”
Google representatives said the company will share more details about Stadia – including a release date, a pricing model, and games – at some point this summer.
The service is scheduled to light up in the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe at some point in 2019.