With many Google watchers anticipating that its cloud gaming Stadia would open up a console-free gaming world, details announced ahead of the global video game convention E3, suggest that the platform will not be all that was imagined.
During its first announcement in March, Google left key questions unanswered: how much the subscription would cost, when it would be available, and what games you can play.
The basics: Stadia is available for pre-order now, and will become available to play on the 14th November this year. Several significant video game publishers have contributed titles to the system, including Bethesda and Ubisoft. Electronic Arts (the maker of global sports title, FIFA) is onboard, but has not revealed what titles it will be making available.
Included in the pre-order “founder’s edition” is a package that, for £119, will include a controller, a Google Chrome Ultra for streaming onto a TV, and three months of the service (alongside three months to pass onto a friend for free). After the first three months, the “pro” subscription will cost £8.99 a month for 4K game streaming and a handful of free games. Next year, Google will also release a free basic version.
There’s a surprise however, given that many watchers were anticipating the Netflix of video games: a subscription service that would open up a library of games for no additional charge. What emerged from the announcement, however, was that of a membership that would allow users to purchase games to play on the platform.
Analysts suggest that this might create a hard sell. “A subscription is a difficult proposition to sell to consumers unless you have a lot of content,” said Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush, in comments to the Financial Times. “If you want to be a Netflix of games you need to have 1,000 games.”
“Google has all the infrastructure and strong technology, but it is unproven in terms of content”, explains Piers Harding-Rolls, analyst at IHS Markit. Its new announcements “didn’t really change that, that it doesn’t have the content to compete.”
Instead, the new development means that Google is entering a similar market in which the established PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, and Steam currently play: effectively as app stores for full priced games.
“We will sell these games like any other digital storefront,” Google’s director of games Jack Buser told The Verge. However, the site reported further comments from the head of Stadia, Phil Harrison, who said that the firm expects game publishers to start thinking about their own subscriptions “in relatively short order,” something that Google will “support that on [its] platform, and we’ll see announcements in due course around that.”
Google is not the only tech firm entering the gaming arena for the first time. In April, WARC reported that Apple was spending heavily on exclusive content to attract players to its Apple Arcade platform. It is part of a broader pivot to services, just as it has beefed up its news and TV chops.
The rewards of gaming could be larger than those for news and TV subscriptions. An estimate by HSBC foresees Apple’s gaming service becoming larger than the TV+ service by 2022, and becoming a $4.5 billion business by 2024. But this is based on an estimated monthly subscription fee of $12.99, though Apple has not said how much the service will cost.
Sourced from Google, Financial Times, The Verge, WARC