The Strategy Gamer's Guide to Google Stadia30 Sep 2019 0
It seems as if every major publisher is trying to push their own streaming delivery games platform, with varying degrees of excitement. One of the earliest announced and most experimental is the Google offering, Stadia, which intends to discard the whole console paradigm and replace it with cloud storage, cloud saves, and cloud gameplay, with the I/O offloaded entirely across the network to your home.
There are a number of questions about how this will actually end up working and what the ultimate pricing for gameplay is going to be. Furthermore, if you’re a strategy gamer - what’s in it for us? What games can we look forward to?
From the perspective of the cautious, the big question is whether or not there are enough customers with high-speed last mile network access to make it reasonable to run games on specialized servers and stream up the controls while streaming down the screen. While Google has a number of "local co-location facilities" all over the world which house servers, none of that will make a difference if there just aren't enough high-bandwidth users (10 MB per second is the minimum suggested connectivity but for 60 frames a second in 4K you will need 35 MB per second) interested in a hybrid subscription/purchase system to bring in the big money.
On the other hand, the Founder's Edition is running $129 USD for the Stadia controller, a Chromecast Ultra, and three months of Stadia Pro (currently priced at $10 a month), plus a matching subscription for a buddy over the same period, all of which comes with a free copy of Destiny 2: The Collection for each of you. Stadia Pro comes with a plan for more free games to be released on a regular basis and exclusive discounts, while what is being called Stadia Base is going to be free to access, come with no free games or discounts, and appears to be structured very much like other digital storefronts.
This is clearly not a system intended to really compete with a platform like Steam or the Epic Game Store. This is firmly locked on trying to pull in console gamers who want to get out of the cycle of buying a $400 - $500 game platform every few years by giving them something which amortizes to less over the long term and integrates platform upgrades along the way "for free."
I can definitely see the appeal for the console player though I am well outside the target demographic for this product. If I were thinking about buying into the next generation of consoles, I certainly might hold off long enough for Stadia to make its appearance, at least long enough for me to get a test and a taste of whether my local bandwidth would be sufficient to keep up with the visuals being promised by consoles.
Nothin' But Games
No game platform can survive without games to sell, and Stadia is no exception. While the announced lineup is much slimmer than those associated with already extant platforms, there is an interesting selection of titles you'll be able to buy once the service launches, although there are no announced prices for stand-alone purchases.
It's a good bet that individual game costs will be the same across platforms.
This full list as it stands today. Games marked with a * are strategy or strategy adjacent games we think would be of specific interest to our readers:
- Assassins Creed: Odyssey
- Baldur's Gate 3*
- Borderlands 3
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Darksiders Genesis*
- Destiny 2: The Collection
- Destroy All Humans!
- DOOM Eternal
- Farming Simulator 19*
- Football Manager 2020*
- Get Packed
- Ghost Recon Breakpoint
- Gods & Monsters
- Just Dance 2020
- Marvel's Avengers
- Metro Exodus
- Mortal Kombat 11
- NBA 2K20
- Orcs Must Die! 3* (Timed Exclusive)
- Rage 2
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Samurai Showdown
- The Crew 2
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- Tom Clancy's The Division 2
- Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
- Trials Rising
- Watch Dogs Legion
- Windjammers 2
- Wolfenstein: Youngblood
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a definite preference for action and a focus on a lot of first and third person shooting, but some entries in the list definitely jump out as a surprise. Farming Simulator 19 in particular looks to be one of the more experimental choices on the list. From the perspective of a strategy gamer, pickings are slim to nonexistent. This isn't entirely surprising and it's certainly reasonable to expect that to change as we get closer to the real launch, probably adding at least one of the strategy titles which are popular on consoles at the moment such as Stellaris. Ubisoft has suggested that Anno 1800 will make the jump by launch. Still, it would be unreasonable to expect the Stadia to ever be the prime choice for strategy gamers.
Without the massive archive of oldies-but-goodies that platforms like Xbox and PlayStation can offer as part of their streaming experience, Google is going to be forced to sell this platform on the basis of new corporate licenses and relationships. I would certainly expect to see more Ubisoft games available for play, very likely more Microsoft games, and all of the AAA releases once the public can get their hands on the service. Smaller independent developers may have a much rougher time of it, especially since it is far more difficult to get your hands on a customized non-local cloud development server for Stadia right now than it is to simply order a development Xbox for Microsoft.
What I would like to see is Google opening development to smaller houses by opening their development platforms. Since they don't have to produce custom hardware and Google already has a strong attention on nonlocal development for a lot of the rest of their infrastructure, I would be surprised if it wasn't possible to make it easy and cheap – if not free – for indie houses to target Stadia as their primary platform.
There are still a lot of questions about the actual technical limitations of the infrastructure that would make Stadia seriously competitive in the console wars. The potential success of the pricing model, flexibility, accessibility, and whether or not developers are going to get on board in sufficient numbers are all potential problems. The potential is there and all that remains to be seen is whether the technology and Google are there to back it up.
Strategy games or no, are you looking forward to Stadia when it releases? Let us know in the comments!