My thoughts on the future of video game delivery

With all this talk about Google Stadia, I’ve been thinking about how the future of gaming seems to lie in streaming services. I suppose it makes sense. Music, Movies, TV.. streaming is taking control of many aspects of how consumers receive their entertainment these days. Now, I’m completely sold on streaming as being the future of gaming, it makes sense, there’s a bulk load of positive aspects to it. However at this stage, there just seems to be too many limitations coming from too many directions to make it a mainstream option for most gamers in 2019.

Google Stadia

First off I want to talk about Google’s announcement of Stadia at GDC. For me it was pretty convincing… not necessarily Google’s implementation per se, but streaming as a gaming delivery platform. Four days later I’m no longer as convinced, but I maintain that there are many advantages to streaming that make sense.

  • No lag from multiplayer gamers with a poor connection
  • Stacking servers for additional raw power to allow high level quality and performance
  • Compatibility across almost anything with a modern web browser.
  • With Stadia in particular the integration with Youtube seems very convenient for someone like me who’s always watching gaming content on Youtube.

Presumably there’d also be a low cost to the service much like you get from other streaming services, however on Spawncast they considered the possibility of the cost being $60 USD per game, ie. full price. Which in my opinion, this alone, is a complete non-starter, not to mention:

  • ISP data caps
  • Buffering and latency issues especially with fighting and FPS games
  • Internet drop-outs
  • Website crashes
  • Server issues including server’s for older games presumable being discontinued at some point.

I know in Australia, game streaming would likely be a disaster due to how behind the times we are with high speed internet. I mean for those who don’t know, we are literally rolling out a National Broadband Network where in some cases the new implementation is barely any faster than the previous ADSL counterpart.. because you know.. they’re still using copper in parts of the NEW network. Not where I live.. but still.

Now I’m still pretty interested in Google Stadia, but depending on cost will depend on how much I use it. If it costs $10/month I’ll get it and play games on it for the portability and convenience. I won’t play multiplayer games, or anything too intensive, but as a way to play some smaller games or simply try out a few larger games, $10/month is worth while for that end. However if it’s $60/game or you know… full price/game, I’ll probably skip it.. and maybe opt instead for X Cloud.

XCloud

XCloud is obviously Microsoft’s implementation of a game streaming platform, announced around the same time as Google’s ‘Project Stream’ as it was first called. To me it sounds a little more promising than Google’s implementation, simply because Microsoft has a better handle on what is required to satiate console/PC gamers, whereas Google would have a better handle on the casual gamer, which may be their target or not, we’ll see the kind of direction they take. Nonetheless, I’ve been very impressed with Xbox over the 1 & 1/2 years and feel like they are heading in a ‘gamer-first’ direction, and as such would be wanting their streaming service to reflect the same values. I guess I just have more trust that Microsoft can do the best job out of the competition. Not to mention game pass which I’m subscribed to and is, in my opinion an excellent service. So depending on the cost of XCloud I’d already have a huge catalogue of options from the get-go, which is where Google may very well fall short.

Other Streaming Services

Now there are other streaming services out there, EA has Project Atlas announced on October 29th, 2018. There’s Playstation Now, GeForce Now, Loudplayand Playcloud in Russia (In seems game streaming in Russia is quite popular!) plus a bunch more. There’s even the possibility of Walmart getting into game streaming! But it’s Stadia vs XCloud that seems to be the stand out’s among the bunch. Google being arguably the biggest name in internet services, Xbox being a trusted name in gaming and Microsoft themselves delivering reliable platforms and live services for decades. It stands to reason that if streaming was going to enter the mainstream, it would be by one of these two companies.

Future of Gaming

I’m excited to see what the future holds in this space even though I, like many others hold very close their physical game collections and the presence of one or multiple consoles to fill out their TV cabinet. There is definitely something meaningful and heartwarming about physically looking at devices like an Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo etc. or the games that you play on them and remembering when you last played it, remembering what caused the scratch or blemish on the case, holding on to an old game or console and playing it through again for old time sake. There is alot of value in the physical collection of video games because for alot of us.. it’s our childhood, adulthood and a big part of what makes us happy.

Personally I don’t see physical games going away for a long time.. I’m thinking 20 years. They’ll leave mainstream before then, but I imagine, much like DVD’s, sometimes people just want to physically own things. But when the time comes and streaming is the mainstream option, I don’t think it will be a situation of ‘gaming is ruined’ or ‘I hate this, I want physical’ or ‘game streaming doesn’t work!’ I honestly think we’ll be getting physical alternatives for as long as streaming is an awful latency ridden, buggy, buffer-fest. Then when game streaming is perfect, and I mean perfect.. ie. Zero latency, crazy graphical/computational possibilities at the server side, accessible by most people and simply the most sensible, convenient and affordable option. This is when we’ll be saying goodbye to physical games. For now.. personally I’ll dabble in it, but in the same way I dabble in mobile gaming.. because it’s there, it’s an option.. but by no means, because it’s the best way to enjoy gaming.

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