- Google just unveiled a huge new plan to take on video game industry titans like Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft.
- The plan is built on a streaming service, named Stadia, which promises blockbuster gaming on nearly any device.
- Though Google is promising a 2019 launch for Stadia, the company left a lot of major unanswered questions on the table.
When Google’s Stadia video game streaming service arrives, it won’t come in a box.
Instead, the service is said to run on anything from your smartphone to your television. Stadia will offer the same selection of games, and they will look nearly identical on whatever platform you’re playing on, because the games are powered by hardware in a Google data center somewhere else before being beamed to your screen.
That’s the broad overview of Stadia Google presented on March 19. The details are where things get murky. How much will Stadia cost? What games will it have? How does it work?
These are the biggest questions we still have about Google’s first major push into the video game industry:
1. What games are coming at launch?
More important than anything else, the biggest question we have is what games are coming to Stadia.
Google hasn’t said, nor has it announced any games in production. Instead, Google announced a new first-party games studio: Stadia Games and Entertainment.
So, what about third-party games made by publishers like Activision, EA, and Ubisoft? That’s a bit more clear: A handful of publishers had games included in Google’s presentation, from Ubisoft with “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” to Take-Two Interactive with “NBA 2K19.”
Only a single third-party publisher officially announced a game as coming to Stadia: Bethesda with “Doom Eternal.”
Given that Stadia is scheduled to launch at some point in 2019, it stands to reason that Google has solidified at least a few major launch titles – games that will arrive at or very close to the launch of the service.
What those games are remains to be seen.
2. What will Stadia cost?
Since Google Stadia isn’t a game console, but a platform, a major unknown is how pricing will work.
Is there a monthly subscription price for Stadia? Is the Stadia game library similar to Netflix, where your subscription gives you access to everything? Or is it an a la carte setup, where you buy each game? A mix? Something else?
Google hasn’t said.
The expectation, given the precedent set by subscription-based video streaming services like Netflix, is that Stadia will offer users access to its entire gaming library tied to a monthly subscription fee.
But that expectation would mean some pretty huge changes to the business side of video game publishing, similar to the painful transition experienced by the music and film industries as consumers migrated from buying individual albums/movies to paying for streaming services.
3. How serious is Google’s commitment to gaming?
From Google Fibre to Google Wave to Google Glass, Google’s history is littered with initiatives that started big and faded into nothing.
Though Stadia got a big rollout from Google, with the company going as far as to debut the service at the 2019 Game Developers Conference, it’s not clear if Google will actually stick with gaming.
This is an especially big question given the history of tech companies entering the video game industry. Microsoft notoriously took years of heavy losses before getting a real foothold with the Xbox brand, and even now the company still struggles to keep its focus.
Stadia exec Phil Harrison – a longtime game industry vet himself, having worked on both Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox – attempted to assuage this concern in an interview with Kotaku:
“I understand the concern,” Harrison said, “But I think that all you have to do is look at the level of investment that we have made and continue to make in Stadia. This is not a trivial project by any means. This is a very, very significant cross-company effort that isn’t just my team, but it’s also across YouTube, it’s across our technical infrastructure and networking team. It represents thousands of people who are working on this business.”
4. When will Stadia launch?
Google says Stadia will arrive at some point in 2019, and it will share more details about pricing and dates at some point this summer.
Stadia will only be available in a handful of territories to start: The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and “most of” Europe. It’s not clear when the service when the service will arrive in other parts of the world.
Given that Stadia depends on a strong internet connection and proximity to Google’s data centres, the service is potentially limited.
That’s pretty much all we know about the impending launch of Stadia.
Check out a condensed version of Google’s big Stadia announcement right here:
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