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Google Panics, Adds 10 More Games To Stadia's Launch Lineup

Illustration for article titled Google Panics, Adds 10 More Games To Stadias Launch Lineup

Perhaps spooked by the fact the only people who seem to care about the impending launch of their Stadia home streaming platform are those noting everything wrong with it, Google has at the 11th hour—this thing is released in two days, on November 19!—almost doubled the number of games that’ll be available when it goes live.

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Originally intending to launch with 12 games, Google will now be releasing 22, with the extra 10—including titles such as NBA 2K20, Final Fantasy XV and Rage 2—having been bumped up from the list of titles that were originally expected to come to Stadia “later in 2019.

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22 games is better than 12, I guess!

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

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DISCUSSION

makerofthegames
makerofthegames

There are two problems with Stadia.

First is the simple nature of the technology, and how Google is positioning it wrong. Streaming is, in fact, possible - but it will be a distinctly worse experience. Latency is critical when it comes to games - and even in a best-case scenario, Stadia is going to have latency about equal to a 30fps game (I measure ~20ms ping times to Google servers - that leaves 13ms for rendering, perfectly reasonable, to hit an equivalent latency to 30fps while having 60fps display). 30fps is quite playable - but it’s not the quality tier of 60fps, or the luxury tier of 90fps+. So Stadia needs to be absolutely pitched as an entry-level sort of product - the market niche formerly occupied by Game Boys and DS Lites and Wiis, the $150ish system you can buy for your kids. Specifically, I think the place it’s going to shine is on smartphones. But instead, Google’s trying to sell it as though it’s a console competitor, hyping up how it “lets games put more on screen”, buying up temporary exclusives, making a system-locked controller, and other such bullshit, and pricing it ridiculously for what it is. Launching only the premium tier is also probably a dumb move - though it may help keep demand low while they weather the inevitable launch bugs. But what they really need to focus on is their messaging. Pitch it as “a way to play AAA games on your phone”, not “a way to ditch your Playstation” or “the absolute best way to play games”.

The second problem is philosophical. They’re charging a monthly fee (for the Pro tier), and requiring you to buy the games. Games which will become instantly unplayable if, or more likely when, Google shuts Stadia down. People are already not too at ease with digital-only games. We trust them with consoles, as all that will break when they shut the servers down will be the ability to download them, and they’ve sunk a lot of money into the console so they won’t shut it down until well after its lifetime. We trust Steam because they’ve been around so long and are so big, but I remember the early years where people were wary of it (I have a hard copy of every game before the Orange Box for this reason). A lot of people don’t trust Origin or EGS, because maybe they’ll disappear on us, leave our library locked on our own hard drives. The sentiment is echoed in the clamors for game preservation, trying to archive old games before they disappear, and revive the online services needed for them. It’s an issue that’s in the zeitgeist, and Google is just ignoring it.

If Google wants Stadia to succeed, they need to remedy that. If you’re going to charge a monthly fee, make it act like a gaming subscription service. If you’re going to charge for the games, make them transferable. There’s rumors Steam will be doing something of the sort - maybe a subscription service that lets you stream the games in your library, the rumors aren’t totally in agreement. That would probably work, because worst-case we still own the games. Sure, maybe you bought Crysis VII even though your current rig can’t run it, and after the streaming service shut down you can’t actually play it, but when you finally upgrade your rig, then you could, and that distinction matters.