Google OnLi- uh, Stadia

An interview Variety did with head of Stadia, Phil Harrison:

Couple things that caught my eye:

  1. Still no word on how developers will be paid. However, apparently they’re “going to talk about that over the summer in detail”.

  2. There will be two more Stadia events in the summer, one for YouTubers and one for gamers.

  3. In response to concern about internet issues: “The vast majority of challenges that players would face were environmentally inside there own homes. What we will do and are committed to doing is helping educate and inform players so that they can set up their system the best and optimizing their in-home setup to get the best experience. In some cases that might mean the player needs to upgrade the router inside their home.”

  4. This quote has me thinking about Stadia exclusivity: “We just broke through that glass ceiling and we said the games are no longer device-centric. Games are data center driven and what that means for developers is a fundamental shift in the way that games are designed, made (emphasis mine) and played.”

I remain skeptical of much of the tech issues here, but as I’ve sifted through a bunch the press, it’s clear that they are making a lot of decisions based on reducing latency to the display that other efforts haven’t had the massive infrastructure support that is required to do that. I think Phil is understating how bad a lot of last mile and in-home infrastructure is outside of the valley and major hubs, but that’s his job.

I have had some time to think about some of the actually new things Google is bringing to the table, and I think they are good to talk about. Only one of them requires something like Stadia to exist, but it is super intriguing, and that’s links to game state. This could very well transform the state of games critque. Imagine, instead of just reading about how a particular game handled a tough subject, the writer could provide links so you could experience exactly what happened in the context of the article. Sure, you can post short videos, but that’s really not the same thing.

The other thing is the idea of integrating links from the inside of the game out. One really interesting way this could integrate with games is to create fan versions of developer commentary. If you can use game state to determine which links out are present, it wouldn’t be that hard to create layers that provide discussion and context while you are playing the game. This could be as pragmatic as walkthroughs, but there’s lots more that could go on there. This wouldn’t need Stadia at all, but it would need some sort of platform that is game state aware.

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these people truly haven’t stepped foot outside of silicon valley in years have they

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Sure, there are ways to set up your network that can give a smoother experience, but it’s not going to make your internet faster or more reliable. Not a great look to call potential customers too stupid to set up their own internet when what Stadia desperately needs is better public opinion. Speaking of which:

“What I mean by that is that game developers have built for a box, they have built the game to specifically take advantage of that box until they’ve come up against the glass ceiling of the capabilities of that box… We just broke through that glass ceiling and we said the games are no longer device-centric."

Hey Phil, your streaming video games. Maybe don’t compare a breakthrough in your endless struggle to let people play Assassin’s Creed on their phones to systemic discrimination.

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That quote regarding internet issues is almost identical to the sort of thing I’ve seen in response to complaints from this area of Scotland about our lackluster internet coverage. Intended to place the blame on the consumer and ignore the larger infrastructure issues that are the root of the cause. It’s disappointing if not surprising to see that same tact used here. Stadia is going to remain a pipe dream for huge swathes of people and Google is going to chock that up to needing a better router.

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cant wait to get absolutely dominated on stadia by a clan of salesforce employees gaming out of their fiber-connected condos in the mission

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So, uh, Sony and Microsoft are apparently working together on some kind of cloud/streaming initiative?

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Sony already had one that everyone promptly forgot about already tho? Odd relationship considering all the troubles over cross play.

Yeah they have PS Now, which isn’t the best, but they still add new games to the service each month which leads me to believe they’re still supporting it?

That coupled with the cross-play stuff you mentioned makes me very curious about what the plan is here.

I can’t remember which site I read it on (and can’t scan gaming news sites through my work’s firewall right now), but speculation was that this is Sony moving PS Now and PS Vue off of Amazon AWS and onto Microsoft Azure. There was something about Microsoft wanting to get their hands on Sony’s image recognition software for a new (non-consumer focused) Kinect in return.

On the one hand, this definitely feels weird. On the other hand, Sony gets money on every Xbox One sold because of the Blu-Ray player. We get wrapped up in console wars, but I get the impression that all of these tech companies are way more incestuous than the average person realizes.

This definitely makes me curious if Sony simply made the evaluation that they were better off paying Microsoft to use their tech for streaming rather than continue with Gaikai if they came to the conclusion that they’d have an inferior product. And then maybe MS arranges to get a cut of their PS Now (or however that service evolves) revenue going forward.

Technically, all the major cloud providers - Google, Amazon, and Microsoft - are also in games, but I would wager that Microsoft is the one whose technological goals for cloud computing in games most closely align with Sony’s. Sony could simply be happy with the service Microsoft provides, and Microsoft could be happy getting paid by Sony as if they are one of any thousands of other clients - no need to take an additional cut.

It’s also possible both are so committed to the console gaming market they’ve spent decades carving out that working together on actual hardware is an “the enemy of my enemy (Google) is my friend” situation.