When thinking of video game streaming, the first thing that comes to mind is Twitch or good old Ninja, but this one's a bit different. Vastly different. Consider PlayStation Now, a concept that has truly cemented this construct into the industry. Instead of holding on to your PS2 or PS3, Now gives you the option of saving all your old games in Sony's cloud gaming service, giving players virtually unlimited space and timeless amounts of fun. Now that Sony and Microsoft are collaborating on a cloud-based gaming experience, it's clear that there may very well be a future in this streaming endeavor, but is it worthwhile? Will it last? And, more importantly, which platform will win?
Google Stadia Is Mysterious, But Exciting
Initially known as "Project Stream," Google Stadia was announced and debuted in October 2018. The platform is supposedly slated for release later this year. Stadia offers a number of interesting specs, one of them being "State Share," which will allow YouTube viewers the ability to seamlessly launch the game from the same save state as the streamer. This is a revolutionary concept, which changes the way we experience levels in-game, as well as how developers can modify their playthroughs through beta testing and online support. That's only one of the many aspects Stadia will adapt to help both gamers and developers interact on a more fluid basis. Stadia also features 4k resolution, 60 frames per second, and supports high-dynamic-range, all while being a mere streaming service running on either Chrome or a Chromecast.
Is this the future? Personally, I do think Google will reshape the landscape of gaming itself once Stadia is released publicly. Google wants not only to prove itself in this new industry, but it also wants to make money. Though it may be an affordable gaming outlet, which is refreshing to see, you still need to have WiFi, plus the money to buy the game you want to play. Stadia is dependent upon WiFi capabilities, so if you don't have crazy high internet speeds, my advice would be to stick to the platform. Google is also servicing game creation, creativity, and communicative playability, which I think will all be a part of gaming's future. It's not solely for gamers. Stadia is for developers, as well. The fact that its sleek new controllers also must connect to WiFi is another thing that will add to the fundamental issues of Stadia upon initial reception.
Buy the games you want. Play them where you want. No subscription required! Stadia Base is coming in 2020. pic.twitter.com/nrZ86ghir3— Stadia (@GoogleStadia) July 22, 2019
Microsoft Knows What It Wants To Achieve
I love how even Microsoft knows its own product's destiny so well. It's the first sentence in the Microsoft xCloud blog:
"The future of gaming is a world where you are empowered to play the games you want with the people you want, whenever you want, wherever you are and on any device of your choosing."
Much like Stadia, xCloud will provide playability across all devices, from consoles to mobile. The inside scoop is that 3,500 games are already available on the platform and around 1,900 are still being added. Very little else is known in the way of specific specs for xCloud, as it is still being beta tested. However, we do know through some recently filed patents that a possible handheld device will transform our phones into gaming consoles.
It's unclear when xCloud will launch, but at this year's E3 event, Microsoft announced that public beta testing could begin sometime in September or November. Most of the speculation seems to hinge on xCloud coming out alongside the newest Xbox console, Project Scarlett. Despite most of the xCloud information remaining in the dark, we also know that servers won't be an issue since Microsoft has deployed data centers across 13 Azure regions. It's obvious that cloud gaming is an important facet for the future of Microsoft, but can it compete with next-gen consoles?
Head In The Clouds
I remember watching the Stadia press release, thinking all the while, "The PlayStation 5 will be out pretty soon and will most likely be ten times better." Though I do believe that cloud gaming will play an important role in the future of the industry, I don't think gamers are ready, nor is the technology. If we look at modern-day WiFi capabilities, chances are Stadia wouldn't do so hot in most households. I live with two others, and the WiFi in my apartment is already garbage to begin with, so I can imagine Stadia won't be a platform for me, and xCloud doesn't seem all that impressive yet. Add all of this to the fact that next-gen consoles are just around the corner, and it's clear that although the idea of cloud gaming is sound, it still has a long way to go.
Call me a skeptic, but I simply don't see the plausibility of cloud gaming. On the Google side of the argument, you have affordability and developer support, but it's also Google. When I read into the fact that the controller must also connect to the WiFi, I got a little paranoid. With a million different devices on one WiFi hotspot, the router gets clogged and can cause a major disturbance in service. I'm constantly taking my phone off my home WiFi simply to ensure I don't get booted off a Battlefront II online game. This, and many more concerns are what hinges on Stadia's success. To think that xCloud will rely on mobile gaming is another thing entirely. Look at the success of Nintendo's Switch—no one wants to play games on their phone other than Candy Crush and maybe Pokemon Go. So, why Microsoft is making mobile gaming its top marketable aspect for the xCloud is beyond me, but there's definitely something here.
It may not be the future of gaming just yet, but I do still have faith in the prospering of cloud gaming. I think after its initial release and a few tweaks, given time, it will grow into something truly revolutionizing. Until then, it's just a dead-weight service that few are looking forward to.