Google is coming!
Google recently announced the creation of Stadia, an online video game platform that allows players to access games in their catalog directly from the Chrome browser. Stadia is also the game development studio created by Google to power the platform. The Californian company will also introduce its own controller, allowing especially to share its games on Youtube, owned by Google.
The idea recalls the current trend towards the dematerialization of entertainment tools and the online availability of content. It started with music streaming platforms, now cinematographic works such as films or series. We will also think of the concept proposed by the French company Shadow, which allows, at the price of a monthly subscription, to benefit performance of a high quality PC without having to change its current hardware. It was therefore normal for video games to be affected by this phenomenon at one time or another.
A dematerialized catalogue
The contribution of this innovation is the accessibility of a catalogue of dematerialized games directly from a browser, whereas before it was necessary to buy the game in their physical form or use the platform of console manufacturers. Here, Google bypasses manufacturers such as Sony or Microsoft, and places itself on the same level as them, without having the commercial constraint of selling consoles, since the tool to play is the Chrome browser, which is free and can be downloaded very easily. In addition, another backlash to the manufacturers, Google brings its own controller, which is quite intelligent since in the end, the platform should not be fully usable without buying this controller. As a result, customers who wish to play with the controller on Stadia are “forced” to buy the controller.
An important aspect of Stadia has not been announced, it is its business model. Les Echos, a French reputed daily newspaper, and other journalists talked about “Netflix of video games”, referring to a monthly subscription system giving access to the entire catalogue. But nothing of the sort has been proven. It may very well be a packaged system, for example in terms of hours played, but also the purchase of the game directly on the platform, like Steam or Epic Games Store.
Google has his own game development studio
Google has announced the creation of its own game development studio, but the concept has already been tested through a partnership with Ubisoft. The idea was to make Assassin’s Creed Odyssey accessible on the Google browser. Players had access to the paid version of the game developed for PC and could therefore enjoy it everywhere, as long as they had access to Internet on sufficiently powerful equipment.
Whatever we think of the idea, Google will face two drawbacks: first of all, consoles are hardware devices designed to run AAA games, i. e. games with very advanced and heavy graphic content, high processor power, so many features that are difficult to reconstruct through an Internet browser. Another obvious limitation, in addition to the aspect that we do not yet know the technique of monetizing the service, is the catalogue. To be attractive, the platform will have to possess a fairly extensive catalogue. However, the studio has just opened its doors, and we know that it takes at least 2 years to create a correct game, and partnerships with studios already installed, ready to offer their games on this new platform are not yet raining. Google will therefore have to greatly accelerate its content production.
However, it must be admitted that the arrival of a powerful player such as Google will inevitably change the industry. They obviously have the finances to overcome the barriers to entry into the industry, but they also already have powerful infrastructures (19 data centers around the world) and an army of technicians who are experts in their field. It is common knowledge that Google generally does things well because they put the means into it. It is therefore very likely that Stadia will quickly become a major player in the industry, without anyone really suspecting it.