Well I guess this was inevitable but I didn’t think it would look like this. A controller and a little circular piece of plastic plugged into an HDMI port. The future is now! There are a lot of concerns about whether or not Stadia will actually work. Very reputable gaming journalists are asking questions such as available high speed internet speed in certain parts of the country and the world. Good luck streaming at 4K and 60FPS if you can barely load a video of a cat with bread on it’s head. That’s a fair concern but our question is, what if this works?
What are going to be the repercussions of a streaming service that can play the latest Assassins Creed on a 386 computer? Ok that’s a bit of a stretch because you’d have to fashion an Ethernet adapter to 1980s technology but you can stream AAA games without paying thousands of dollars for a gaming PC. That’s Google’s pitch anyway. Now the doomsday gaming purists will claim that consoles and hard copies will be a thing of the past. So what if they are?
Every 7 to 8 years we get an announcement from the big 3 that a new console is on the horizon and the hype train goes full speed. We get little announcements that new games could be on the PS5 or Xbox Scarlet. Then we get leaks about what the new controllers and consoles will look like. Then we get a massive presentation with Bill Gates or Jim Ryan standing on stage with the new box we’ll all take for granted one day. The internet goes ballistic and we get people who love it and people who hate it. The cycle continues.
Lets not forget that within the launch year is the most expensive a console will ever be unless you’re the Nintendo Switch. Here comes Stadia and it’s 129.99. It’s hard not to take it seriously because if it does become successful then the Xbox Tulip or whatever their next cute nickname will be is going to be a controller and that’s it. No more fancy boxes next to your dusty Blu Ray player and sound bar. Would that be a bad thing?
It all comes down to whether or not this is a customer friendly option. Here’s a little story for you hard copy purists out there. I went to Gamestop years ago. In the same shopping center where I buy my Spongebob boxer shorts there happened to be a Gamestop. Deus Ex Mankind Divided just came out and I wanted it and I wanted it now! So I walked in and what I thought would be a three minute exchange turned into twenty minutes of saying no to a used car salesmen who seem shocked I was only interested in purchasing a game disc then going home. I got offered the useless one year warranty, the “Edge” card, used games, pre-orders, etc…I had to tell the guy “listen I’m just here to buy Deus Ex and that’s all I’m going to do”. His reaction was nothing but confusion. He was legitimately surprised that I said no to everything. He even had to gall to say that this was a first. Really? This was the first time someone walked into this dying store and bought a game and walked out without your added on snake oil? He was flat out arguing with me. He started saying how I’m wasting money by not trading in games and it could be weeks before I see a copy of the new Call of Duty if I don’t pre-order it. There’s a Best Buy across the street who will have a mountain of copies and this isn’t 1995. I can download it on the release date at midnight if I damn well please.
Speaking of midnight sales I am reminded of another wonderful customer service experience at Gamestop. They wouldn’t open the doors for me for a midnight sale because I showed up at 12:20am. There were three employees inside who all shrugged their shoulders when I knocked on the door. It was like they were saying “too late buddy! Sucks to suck!” I get it it’s late. I work late too I went from work straight to Gamestop. I’m outside with money and they are a business. They are supposed to take my monies in exchange for interactive entertainment goods. The game in question was NHL 15. Not a good day. So I downloaded the game when I got home at 12:45am. I used to be an old school “I like a physical copy of the game” kind of gamer but it’s not worth garbage customer service.
I could of downloaded this at home in the first place. I wouldn’t of felt extremely angry and pissed off that day. You know when you’re so pissed you start ranting in your car because no one can hear you? Thank god we live in this era of Bluetooth because you can’t get away with that driving a Pontiac 6000. I only boycott two things in my lifetime: re-usable grocery bags and Gamestop. Why do I boycott re-usable grocery bags? Because I used them as garbage bags and they’re expensive.
Gamestop used to be my favorite store as a kid and I refuse to go there anymore. It’s like finally going to Disney World but your an adult and then you find Mickey Mouse keying your car in the parking lot. Well not really but that’s a funny scenario.
This is where Stadia can really take off and push a former retail giant like Gamestop off a bridge. I pick a game that I want and I download/stream it on the release date at midnight if I want. No edge card, no warranty bs, no trading in games for cents on the dollar and no ranting in my car like a maniac on the drive home.
Lets think big picture here and see if there are similar instances in which technology kicked something we love to the curb. When we look at consoles today we can see a growing trend in which Stadia wants to be the top dog. That trend is cloud based gaming. Playstation Now and Xbox Game Pass are jumping on this train hard. So if we compare this trend to streaming services such as Netflix are we really seeing the doom and gloom of digital media taking over? Is it really doom and gloom or are we afraid of change? A few things to consider: First, it’s technically environmentally friendly since we won’t need beautiful delicious oil to make plastic jewel cases and discs. Secondly, you won’t have some sleazy dick behind a counter trying to swindle you or ripping off your grandmother who ends up buying you a useless warranty for a hard copy of Metal Gear Survive for a console you don’t own. It all sounds like a good deal but will you actually own a game?
I like a ton of movies and some of them I like to own because of the collector in me. I love the film Cabin in the Woods but if Netflix goes under for whatever reason or they lose out on some deal with the distribution company it’s gone forever. Now lets say there’s no Blu Ray or DVD of Cabin in the Woods because everything is streamed off of the cloud. Now I have to subscribe to a different service that has Cabin in the Woods until Disney buys Lionsgate and now it’s only on Disney Plus. That is 100% fiction but would it surprise you if that were true? The fight for content happens almost on a daily basis these days. It’s only a matter of time before Disney throws it’s mouse-ear hat into the video game ring and buys everything you love and turns it into garbage.
Lets think about this scenario: Baldurs Gate 3 will be on the Stadia but I’ve never played it. A friend of mine raves about it and tells me I’m a moron for not even trying it. So to prove I’m not a moron I do exactly what he says and I try it. Lets say I love this rpg and I can’t shut up about it. Then one day I read about slumping Stadia sales and Google is going to stop supporting it. If Stadia disappears do I not own the game anymore because I can’t stream it? I only bought the license? Hopefully I can download it but there’s no guarantee that will always be the case. Maybe hard copies of the game are extremely rare and very expensive. Could I have downloaded Cabin in the Woods in the previous scenario? Sure but I’d have to purchase it after already paying for the right to see it. This is where video games could be headed. Stadia could be the end of game ownership and the start of game licensing. Again this is all assuming Stadia becomes mainstream and works consistently.
So the future looks like Playstation Now, Xbox Gamepass and Google Stadia. The tv streaming wars are in full force and now video games have started their own. No longer will we call this competition the console wars.
Begun, the cloud wars have. All that matters is we the consumers win.
The Bish Ninja
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