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LONG BLOG

Google Stadia and Streaming: The Future of Video Games? Part 2

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And heres the second part, continuing on from the first. I'd reccomend perusing that before reading this. 

Internet connectivity 

In a perfect world, internet everywhere would be about approximate. Rural areas would get service piped to them to help expand internet infrastructure. Data Caps would be a stupid horrible idea that would get immediately smacked down, big companies wouldn’t run huge monopolies slowing down the internet and charging more and more for worse and worse service, and the government would step in to regulate that and make sure net neutrality is in effect. Additionally catgirls and giant mermaids would exist, no one would starve, go hungry or get sick and die, we could expand infinitely without running out of space, and world peace would exist forever. 

Yeah I’ll speak only for America here, but I imagine this carries to some other countries as well, but ISPs suck shit and American internet is hilariously pathetic in a massive amount of the country. And this is kind of one of the Stadias fatal flaws-one so glaringly obvious that I don’t understand how Google could release this and not seem to see the issues immediately. And the most bizzare thing to me is that...they could have done something to help with this? Google fiber could have rolled out to more and more cities, offered the needed service or forced other ISPs to fall in line and created a base of support for future internet based services. Instead service is going to be spotty, and a lot of people are going to have data caps. Hell just last year I had AT&T-they are horrendous btw-and I had data caps. I never got close to hitting those but even if I was to use the stadia in the comfort of my own home and had a datacap I’d have to worry about hitting it and then throttling my internet. 

According to PC gamer the 4K streaming will eat up 1TB of data in 65 hours. So if you game a lot you could brush uncomfortably close to a data cap-and if you think you’re not going to hit that cap just by gaming, consider also your streaming services for things like netflix or HBO or youtube, or downloading games or other media. So let's say you turn that down-you’ve already done damage to the value of that 10 dollar sub. If your internet is too shit to run it even at 1080, then you’ll have to turn it down further. And if you go out to play? Cell networks tend to price unlimited data high and they’re well known for throttling if you’re eating up too much data which will definitely impact your gaming experience. And free public wifi is vulnerable as well as not being overly powerful at certain locations which again limits the power you can run things at outside of your home. This all makes those higher settings far less appealing to my eyes, and make the experience less and less valuable. 

And of course. This is before we get to the big question-what happens if you lose internet or googles service goes down. How many always online games have we seen where the first few weeks are disasters and nobody can play the games they bought? Not to mention random sporadic outages. I remember not being able to play Far Cry Blood Dragon because Uplays servers went down and that game didn’t even have a multiplayer component. Now imagine that but with every game-not only do you have to deal with your internet going down, or your online games servers going down, but if anything ever interrupts your connection with google's servers you can’t play any of your games. 

 

And while things may be running smoothly for most of the prerelease and review coverage I’ve seen, that's all via very limited numbers of people having access to the service. If enough people decide to give this a go, whos to say what happens? Googles likelier than some companies I’ve seen to be able to deal with a massive influx of people but that depends on how much investment they’re willing to make and resources they’re willing to give here. Maybe it all runs smooth forever and has zero issues, but the history of online services makes me doubt that. 

Games and etc

Theres one part of the dtoid review that stuck out to me while I was reading it 

“If you do have a PC, you're also giving up modding and finer tooth visual tweaking.“

And we begin to get into more caveats. I hadn’t even considered this but in retrospect it's obvious-you can’t mod the games. They’re not local to your system, and I doubt google put any thought into the matter either. Even the PS4/XBONE have some games with systems for mods, but especially compared to PC this is a big disadvantage. Mods can be crucial for some games to even function right, or they can give players more control over their gaming experience, allowing them to tweak stuff just because or improve on the game in ways the creators hadn’t considered. Hell Bethesda's mainline games basically require mods at this point. So not having them in any form currently is not ideal, though that could change in future. 

There's also another question up in the air as of now for me. 

“One big bad thing (and this is more on Bungie): like other versions, there is no cross-play, despite support for cross-progression. Without it, you're at the mercy of the Stadia user base for games that are dependent on large amounts of players.”

Again this is something I hadn’t considered, but what's the crossplay situation going to be like? True this might be on Bungie but if one of the main 12 games on the stadia that has such a main focus on the multiplayer aspect of things couldn’t bother getting that ready for launch I don’t know what the future looks like here. I have to imagine google has planned for this since a stadia only user base seems foolhardy but...who knows. Like the 4K streaming this is likely something that will be on developers to figure out. And if they don't ...well that's not great. At launch it also has only 12 games to play, with one exclusive. Not ideal, that-a beefed up library at launch is generally good practice. It's not insurmountable but again with so many plates up in the air, it's just another reason to wait on it especially with googles track record. They needed to hit the ground running, not with a paltry offering like this.

Conclusions

 

Ultimately, streaming is where the games industry likely wants to go next. All the problems with it aside, I see the benefits to both consumers and companies for a model like this. I can see how this system would work, and how it could be beneficial-for people who want to game cheaply it could be a real boon to play on something that lets you get pretty good games and details on higher settings than a cheap potato might be able to run. I can’t pretend the allure of being able to play games wherever without having to lug around a physical system isn’t there either-even if my switch has somewhat filled that niche, being able to play games on my laptop on the go for vacations or visits to friends would be appealing. 

 

But in its current incarnation, from a company with a track record like google, and with the games industry that is more ravenous and controlling than ever...I don’t think this is it. It all comes back to that lack of a physical download for me-for all the benefits here, there's so much risk if it all comes crashing down and there's no security whatsoever. Steams no GOG, but even Steam can be played offline. Same applies to the current consoles. If valve exploded and died, I imagine there would be ways to still get those games working on your current system. If Google gets bored and shuts it all down, which games companies have shown in the past they’re more than willing to do, you’re potentially shit outta luck. There is no buffer or fallback, and again as pointed out in that dtoid review, lotta companies who own streaming services will randomly pull shit or as disney is doing, censor or crop things wrong for no real good reason. And if a game company decides to pull a game you’ve put several hours into and wanted to play more, or down the line...then you’re stuck. 

 

Ultimately I think the meat is here, and I can see a lot of appeal but there needs to be some bones. And I think Google's competition is in a far, far better position. If Valve gets off their ass and implements a system like google and they prove it works and they’ll actually support it, Googles potentially dead in the water. The console manufacturers seem to be hinting more and more at streaming being something they really wanna look at next gen, which again knocks the legs out from under google if they do it right and support it. And all of them will likely allow a downloaded copy to exist on your hardware which means that you have a buffer and promise of still having that thing around if the streaming service dies permanently or goes down. Who knows how the pricing will go, but everyone else is in a better position and if they see Stadia succeed they’ll all rush at the same target. I just don’t see the Stadia being something worth getting or replacing a rig or console with. Time will tell if that's the case. 

 

Feel free to share your own thoughts below, I’d be curious to see what everyone else thinks. Preciate you reading. 

- “If you don't like bacteria, you're on the wrong planet.” ― Stewart Brand


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About Gamemaniac3434one of us since 11:25 PM on 02.01.2013

Who am I? I'm an avid gamer, beer snob, coffee snob and aspiring microbiologist. I love all sorts of different genres of games and different games from different years and as of recent years I've tried to get more into multiplayer games. I also really love microbiology and if you get me started on it, you will never get me to shut up about it.
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