In one point at least, Google has succeeded: the name of its new service, Stadia, was on everyone's lips on the night of Tuesday 19 to Wednesday, March 20, and especially those of professionals involved in the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. It is indeed within the walls of this show that the group of Mountain View (California) officially entered the video games industry.
In one hour of conference, the Web giant has unveiled the main lines of this project: an on-demand gaming platform available from almost any connected machine, be it a computer, a smartphone, a smart TV or a tablet, in the manner of Spotify for music or Netflix for movies and TV shows. "It's not a box, it's a service," said Phil Harrison, president of the group's video game division.
"It's the end of the era in which consoles could sell more than 100 million copies," says an industry consultant hinting at the PlayStation 2 or the Nintendo DS in the 2000s. The stakes are high for the entire industry. This is is a potential market of 2 billion people that hope to eventually reach the stage of on-demand video-gaming, getting rid of the obstacle of expensive dedicated machines.
Synergy with YouTube
If Google was careful not to communicate on the details of its catalog and its business model - will it choose a subscription-model like Netflix's or funding by advertising? - several ambitious features have already been presented, such as the possibility to join mid- game, from a YouTube video or a link on social networks.
If Google aims to target the very general public and no less than 200 countries in the future - more than there are at the United Nations - this first conference was mainly the company's desire to attract gaming aficionados first and foremost . Moreover, a very high speed connection will be essential to enjoy the service, making it very elitist, even though journalists have already noticed a very slight latency. Stadia will not be usable in a train or on a plane, and only partially in subways and rural areas.
But Google is in no hurry. This first release was aimed more at game creators than consumers , through several demonstrations of development tools of very simple appearance. The economic model is, in fact, barely profitable for the moment and depends largely on the number of registered users. But Google is not alone in the nascent video game streaming market: Sony, Microsoft or Amazon which already owns the live-streaming giant Twitch, are refurbishing their weapons.
As with Netflix, OCS and soon Disney in the field of video on demand, it is likely the catalog and the exclusivities of each actor who will decide on the winner. Several professionals commented on the "ultra-aggressive" used by Google, which does not hesitate to invest large amounts to acquire games exclusively. Another sign of the company's strategic interest is that the group recently announced that the Canadian Jade Raymond, a star of the industry who has worked for Ubisoft and Electronic Arts has taken the lead for Stadia Games & Entertainment.
A Worrisome Project
Given its financial strength and expertise, Google has the means to impose its service. Some are already worried that the virtual monopoly of the data hoarding giant is worsening, while the video game market was, outside mobile, one of the last major digital markets to escape. Others fear the environmental impact of this platform, which relies on a particularly heavy infrastructure that remote computation requires. Stadia works thanks to data centers, which are huge energy sinkholes. This might become a world without consoles, but not without consequences.