What is Google Stadia and how it can impact Indie Development? 2019’s Game Developer Conference held in San Francisco will forever be remembered as the event where gaming moved towards streaming in a significant way. As most of us know now, Google was the first of the major companies to reveal details about our streaming future and what it means for gaming.
Google first started releasing details in late 2018’s initial demo of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in stunning 1080p and 60 frames per second streamed right to a browser. Microsoft followed by announcing its xCloud platform, which is designed to work across consoles, PCs, and mobile devices.
There has been so much progress in the gaming world in just a matter of months that have got the biggest mobile game app development company in the world, calculating the impacts on game development in the coming few years. So fast forward to today, what have we learned from the Google Stadia announcement.
Well, for starters, the consumer experience being presented is browser-based and supports a traditional controller. Google boldly claims that users through this device could go from clicking a link to a rich console quality experience in the browser within a matter of seconds.
The significant change is that the code for a released game will sit in Google held data centers running on Google-owned fiber optic cable. The game here gets streamed from the cloud, and because of this, the previous template of downloading a game locally to your console or CPU effectively goes away.
How will Google Stadia Impact Indie Developers?
Google has already achieved partnerships with many of the major engine and middleware providers, including Unity and Unreal Engine. The expectation here is that the major engines will provide tools to support deployment to Stadia seamlessly.
So Developers will likely continue to create games in substantially the same way they always used to. In addition to this, Google also has its own Stadia Dev. The kit that they are piloting with select developers during this early phase.
What does this mean for an Indie Developer?
The streaming revolution presents an excellent opportunity for indie developers that require help scaling their studios. What is clear is that the platform holders represent a who’s who of giant tech; and an arms race for content between those players is likely on the horizon
The competition will likely result in offering incentives from big platforms to developers in return; for the exclusive distribution of top games on their platforms. If past console wars are an example of what is to come, exclusivity incentives may include; lucrative development financing, marketing, and promotion support or sales commission.
Smart developers will build platform demand for their titles in the early days of streaming; as the period of lucrative exclusivity deals will likely diminish as time goes on. Consumers become loyal to one service.
Cheating and Piracy:
Streamed content delivery is the thing that has changed for developers. For starters, if the game code sits on Google’s servers; this means that cheating by manipulating game outcomes by compromising the game code essentially becomes impossible.
This potentially represents a huge win for developers and especially those in the jurisdiction where pirating software is a problem. The global market for pirating software remains enormous; and streaming represents a big step in reducing the size of that global market.
Developers can expect to see fewer instances of their hard work being accessed unlawfully and experience fewer sales revenues.
Another outcome of code being streamed is that users may not be able; to manipulate the game for traditional modding purposes. Many games have enjoyed a vibrant community of fans; that adjusted the game via access to the game executable or select elements of code.
Many developers tried to support modders with tools and marketplace features to promote; the generation of new content, with some games integrating some of the popular mods into the game’s core build. It’s is still unclear how modding will move forward in the streaming future.
Streaming can also bring about a new pricing model for the gaming industry. Experts have been suggesting that the signals are there, that the major platform owners are looking to move away from individual purchases.
Gaming, like the video and music industries, is moving towards the reliably consistent revenue that comes with subscription payments. Electronic Arts, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony, have all signaled increasing importance of their subscription services in recent investor and media events.
Additionally, it has been said that the recent cross-play efforts between Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony are an additional predecessor of where the industry might be heading towards. Specifically, a future where subscription offerings could potentially move across platforms as Netflix does.
Imagine getting your Xbox Game Pass content on a non-Microsoft console or a streaming service? I guess we will have to see if that comes to fruition.
If the subscription does become the norm, some further questions would need answers.
- What happens to in-app purchases?
- Does the released cadence of games change?
- Will you see content released in sets like Netflix for binge gaming?
Developers will have to keep on top of how this progresses and tailor their content to meet consumer expectations.
One of the biggest concerns from Google Stadia reveals how latency issues will be addressed for users if they do not have access to a high-speed internet connection. Like Microsoft, Google has said that they are working on solutions, but the expectation is that users in remote areas or with bad connections will incur lag problems.
A recent user test showed a significant lag with Stadia when taking it out of Google’s controlled environment, which represents a big problem.
Offline gaming is a favorite past time worldwide when people don’t have proper internet access. Will the future of gaming only be available to those that can hop on high-speed internet connection?
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