28 March 2019

The Verge: “Stadia is about the future of YouTube, not gaming”

Yesterday, Google announced plans for a new game-streaming service called Stadia. Besides the logo, the controller, and a single game — Doom Eternal — the announcement left us with more questions than answers. Primary in my mind has been the query of why Google needs to be in the gaming business at all. Isn’t it enough to dominate web search, ads, and browsers, smartphone operating systems, and maps? What part of our lives does Google not want to know about? And then it dawned on me that we might be looking at it from the wrong perspective: what if Stadia isn’t a case of Google aggressively entering a new business sphere, but rather a defensive one to protect its existing kingdom?

Yes, it’s cute that Google printed the Konami code on the underside of its Stadia controller, but look at the unique buttons the company has put on the top: one is for Google Assistant and the other is for screen capture. Those are your Google priorities printed in crisp white iconography atop a smooth black surface. The capture button is there to make sharing to YouTube as effortless and frictionless as possible, while the Assistant’s inclusion is there to help gamers stuck on a level find guides or tips on YouTube without having to leave their gaming session.

Vlad Savov

I have to say, I was rather impressed with the concept of Stadia. I’m not much of a gamer (although I spend too much time hitting ‘one more turn’ in Civilization), but something like this could radically change the gaming experience, especially in multiplayer, where virtual environments could accept many more players for more complex and engaging interactions.

The future of gaming has arrived. A new playground for every imagination. Introducing Stadia, an all-new gaming platform powered by the best of Google. Gather around

Of course, everything looks better in a staged presentation than in real life. Almost immediately people raised concerns about network load, especially on mobile. ‘Instant access on any type of screen’ apparently only includes Android phones and the Chrome browser on the desktop – not that I expected any better from Google. Not to mention the numerous times when the company failed to deliver on previous concepts, launched products only to scrap them a couple of years later, and their habits towards data collection. Allowing anyone to play together with YouTube streamers could develop into all sorts of other problems: I doubt streamers will be happy to have crowds of random people interrupting their games, or taking pot-shots at each-other, like they currently do in the comments. There should be strong controls to moderate this interaction, otherwise things will quickly spin out of control.

For me, one of the first associations that came to mind in relation to Google Stadia was… Westworld! Both are massive ‘multiplayer’ entertainment environments, combining artificial elements with human players on a scale like nothing before. I think this parallel could tell us much about the ultimate goals behind Stadia. On one side we have data collection about the habits of players (season two of Westworld), that could be used by Google for better ad-targeting across its platform – possibly combined with in-game purchases for some extra revenues. Going back to the first season, that one was focused rather on improving the hosts, enhancing their artificial intelligence to the level of true consciousness. As crazy as it may sound, Google may have similar goals here. Stadia could be used as a massive testing ground for newer, more refined versions of AlphaGo. These could serve as each game’s AI components, while at the same time learning from the interaction with players, from individual play styles and strategies. And I can’t help but feeling both excited and wary of this idea.

Post a Comment