Diecast #318: Mass Effect, Stormworks, XCloud

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 5, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 63 comments

Even if you don’t listen to the podcast, I’m still curious what you thought of Raised by Wolves on HBO. About a month ago, I nearly spent a Tuesday column talking about how interesting and exciting it was. I’m glad I waited. That would not have aged well for me.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

00:00 Raised by Wolves

I’ve been bamboozled. After all of these years of cynicism and suspicion regarding writing, I managed to fall for the “Overwhelm the audience with New Information until they lose track of all the loose plot threads and unexplained bullshit” trick. This show punked me for 10 hours before I caught on.

If you can imagine Teller falling for a “pull a coin from behind your ear” gag, then you can imagine how embarrassed I feel right now.

13:48 Stormworks

Link (YouTube)

33:25 Mass Effect Remaster Delayed

It seems the odds of any particular game being delayed are directly proportional to how much I’m looking forward to it. So now Mass Effect remaster is delayed to 2021. I’d rather a game be delayed than release in a broken state. At the same time, I’d prefer it if someone would put out some games I enjoy this year.

I currently have just four games on my best-of-2020 list, and only one of them actually came out in 2020.

39:57 Diambert’s proposal to fix ME3:

If you’re hungry for STILL MORE MASS EFFECT ANALYSIS then here is Diambert’s proposal: The Intro and the conclusion.

42:26 Mailbag: Streaming vs. Consoles

Dear Diecast

Microsoft is launching xCloud…
It seems like a lot of people with money believe in this idea. Thinking back over your past discussions of streaming gaming I don’t remember much regarding how it competes with consoles.
What if the console generation after the one about to land is a $50 box and a $10 a month subscription instead of a $500 box?
For the consumer it removes the sticker shock and the upgrade cycle and it takes nearly 4 years for it to become more expensive.
For Microsoft it will be more profitable because the servers to run all these games are going to be cheaper than all those Xbox’s would’ve been. (The utilization is higher, you don’t need the pretty boxes and you can use industrial power and cooling solutions.)
So is that the end game?


From The Archives:

63 thoughts on “Diecast #318: Mass Effect, Stormworks, XCloud

  1. Daimbert says:

    Wow, thanks for the kind words and the mention. I’m glad you found it interesting. But one quibble: as you can see here, it’s “Daimbert” not “Diambert” [grin]. I took that screen name from the main character in the “A Bad Spell in Yurt” series.

    I don’t explicitly do the “Seal away but it costs” line, but the ending is entirely consistent with doing that. I just couldn’t really think of something like that when thinking about it and what was really ramping up my mind was the fix to TIM and Cerberus.

    1. Geebs says:

      So your solution to “far too much Cerberus” is “even more Cerberus”, and your solution to the Crucible is “more Crucibles”?

      I’ve gotta say, I admire your moxie.

      1. Daimbert says:

        I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more Cerberus [grin]!

        While lots of fans — like Shamus — didn’t care for the switch from the Reapers to Cerberus, that ship had sailed and as Shamus noted in his Retrospective that’s clearly what The Writer wanted to do. But putting that shift aside, it seems to me that the big issue is not the concepts themselves, but with the fact that they didn’t make any sense. So my goal was really to focus on making those concepts make sense, because if they did make sense the reception would have been a lot better. Making the focus on Cerberus — as The Writer wanted to do anyway — but as a plot directly subservient to the Reaper plot would allow everything there to make much more sense.

      2. Lino says:

        It’s so crazy it just might work! Or, it could be like using vodka to cure a hangover. Either way, the result is going to be interesting!

      3. ShivanHunter says:

        “More Cerberus” is actually… a much more interesting idea than I thought it would be. Personally, Cerberus irked me so much in ME2 that I’d rather write them out, and have you exploring what’s beyond inactive mass relays that the Reapers wanted to hide by starting the Rachni war, ending with a “suicide mission” on a dead Reaper that involves the loyalty system as it starts to screw with everyone’s minds, and at the end it could reveal the Crucible/whatever macguffin or information you needed – but I have to admit, I don’t know at that point what I’d do with ME3. You’d need a specific antagonist opposing the project, or it’d feel like a bunch of disjointed side-stories with no real climax.

        Speaking of Mass Effect: Was the remaster really “delayed”? I don’t recall where precisely the October 15 date came from, but there hasn’t been an announcement yet at all. (It’s pretty annoying to see people criticize companies for breaking promises they never made – not saying you’re doing that, I mostly mean people on the subreddit.)

        And I wonder if I’m the only one who liked the barren planets in Mass Effect 1. For a certain value of “liked”: some of them certainly could have been easier to navigate. But they were visually striking, and a good break between the action, and they were realistically empty which helped sell the idea of these being uncharted frontier worlds. (Contrast with Andromeda’s planets, crammed full of nonsense quests and Ubisoft bollocks…)

        1. Thomas says:

          I want them to announce the game! It’s weird everyone knows it exists and they won’t acknowledge it, in the same way western reviewers haven’t had any PS5’s yet.

    2. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

      I could see Cerberus fulfilling the roll of Saren in classic 2-part trilogy fashion. I still think ME3 should have dealt with beating the the Reapers -and I continue to be annoyed that the obvious method of doing so was ignored in 2 and 3: human battle doctrine is not to hold planets, but to marshal enough force to counter-attack.

      The Reapers’ whole schtick is that galaxy evolves along pre-detemined lines so that when they invade they can shut the galaxy down and destroy it in detail. They aren’t able to take on the entire Prothean fleet at once, which is why it is so critical that they take the Citadel first and shut down the network.

      But that option isn’t available to the Reapers, because the Council now knows about the kill-switch in the Citadel, and can do something about it.

      Hell, I’ll even give you the final battle location: the Citadel fleets mass at Arcturus Station and counter-punch the Reaper Fleet at full strength at Shanxi.

      This is a layup! How do you miss this?

      1. Daimbert says:

        I think for that to work they would have had to signal that in ME2. The impression from the previous games is indeed that the Reapers are so powerful that even uniting the entire fleets against them wouldn’t make a difference, and Sovereign in the first game with some Geth support was about all the combined fleets of the major races could handle, and ME2 shows that there are a LOT of Reapers. You COULD pull some sort of move showing that a more diverse galaxy is a weakness to them by, say, giving them Ultra Boy’s powerset from Legion of Superheroes so that their shields can only handle one type of weapon at a time, and the more diverse fleets — even if derived from similar technology — present a problem for them since they use different weapons technologies that they can’t all shield against at once. This would tie back into them wanting to guide the civilizations along certain lines, which are lines that they can defend against.

        You could also have the humans, through the Protheans, develop a new technology that can either shield the fleets from Reaper attacks, or can breach their shields, or both. But, again, you’d need to hint at that earlier to pull it off.

        1. Sabrdance (Matthew H) says:

          Sovereign held off one fleet (the 5th) from one race (humans) who are the smallest of the major races. The “Citadel Fleet” being a massive fleet is a retcon from later material, which is itself later retconned in ME:3 when the turians, once again, have the largest fleet.

          Sovereign blasted through the Citadel Defense Fleet, and then was taken out by the Alliance 5th fleet which has -at most -1 dreadnaught in it (SSV Orizaba). Battle of the Citadel was a cruiser fight.

          Yes, it may be the case that Sovereign is hard to take down, but I imagine if all 81 extant dreadnaughts had converged on the Citadel, the hardest part of dealing with Sovereign would have been making sure the dreadnaughts didn’t hit each other.

          1. newplan says:

            On top of that the species of the galaxy are implied to have limits placed on dreadnaught construction as an arms race is wasteful if it can be avoided. After the reaper reveal those limits go out the window and the entire galaxy goes on total war footing which likely massively increases the galactic fleet power.

  2. Thomas says:

    I’m done with Ridley Scott sci-fi. He’s got some interesting ideas about robots and birth and, a wonky but sort of fascinating obsession with religion, but he’s never going to pull them together into something that feels complete. And the guy really needs to get away from aliens.

    1. Mephane says:

      As much as Prometheus and Covenant were rightfully criticized, the performance of Michael Fassbender as David and Walter makes both movies absolutely worth watching. The only other villain that ever gave me those chills was Madds Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter.

      1. Joshua says:

        Performance, definitely. The writing is what bothered me. Granted, I’ve only seen Prometheus (I gave up there), but I’m somewhat familiar with what happens in Covenant.

        I like RedLetterMedia’s take on the part in Prometheus where David deliberately infects Shaw’s boyfriend (for reasons) because he thinks the man will immediately go to have sex with Shaw and expects there to be some kind of reaction with Shaw: “Is he an Expert in things that have never, ever happened?”

        As far as criticism, I think Prometheus was too harshly criticized for the scene where the women are trying to run away from the crashing ship in a straight line. Well, it’s ridiculously shot, but my interpretation was that it’s just a stylized scene taking place within only a few seconds of time, the characters have diminished visibility with their helmets, other parts of the ships are crashing all around them, they’re in panic mode, etc. It makes sense to me why they wouldn’t just think “Oh, I’ll just rotate 90° and get out of the way”.

        The rest of the film’s idiot plot moments is fair game for criticism though.

    2. Grimwear says:

      I’ve always been intrigued by religion in Alien. Covenant especially. I find it interesting how our replacement captain, who happens to be religious (something no longer the norm), constantly makes appeals to reason and logic when determining whether to land on the planet. Which goes against the crew who appeal to emotion and faith(more emotion) for going down. Now granted it’s possible the captain is just overcompensating because the crew know he’s religious and he’s working extra hard to appear as secular as possible whereas the crew are more being empathetic rather than emotional.

      What is interesting is the case of David who is the peak of scientific discovery and advancement and how he becomes obsessed with godhood and becoming a new creator. Wow look how it comes full circle. Regardless at the end of the day it all gets ignored because the plot itself is a load of garbage and one of the worst stories in a movie I’ve ever seen. “O hey I’m the captain and David you are clearly evil. We’re leaving. What? O sure I’ll follow you down the stairs to this spooky basement and look into an Alien egg because you asked me to.” “I’m random crewmate. I’m going to shoot this alien but oops I slapstick fell in a pool of blood and shot the roof instead. O I’m going to shoot the alien for real this time. Oops I missed and shot all the explosive barrels. O no I blew up the ship and died.” Personally I’m wary of reading too deeply into movies where the makers are too stupid to create a coherent plot. If they can’t even make a basic story, how am I to trust them that they purposefully added in higher level ideas or meaning? I’m mostly talking big budget movies here and not artsy films like say The Tree of Life but I’m sure it’s different for each person.

  3. Steve C says:

    I watched the first episode of Raised by Wolves. I really wanted to like it. It just had too many flaws. I’m glad I didn’t give it the chance you did. My problem was it did not feel like a realistic world. It really needed something solid to underpin everything else they were trying. Instead all I could think of was the South Park episode with the otters and science vs religion. It felt like a bad parody of science and religion written by someone who doesn’t understand either.

    The lack of realistic world building is a death knell to a serious story when the primary characters are so weird and alien (pun not intended). The android characters and kids don’t act as you expect people to act. A story can have characters that act in unbelievable ways to believable circumstances. A story can have believable characters that act in believable ways to unbelievable circumstances. However a story cannot have unbelievable characters acting in unbelievable ways to unbelievable circumstances. If all three aspects are unbelievable then it is just a bunch of weird shit happening. Not a story. It’s got to have a core of something believable that the audience can relate to.

    I got the feeling that whatever point about the human condition “Raised by Wolves” was making/going to make was lost in all the strawmen standing on a mirage. If I had to guess, what Raised by Wolves was going to say was- “Using logic and reason isn’t enough. You have to be a dick to everyone who doesn’t think like you.” And that’s been done already.

    1. Steve C says:

      Oh, Shamus, @7:50 them all ending up on the same planet did make sense. It was explained in the first episode. It’s Keplar-22B. Which is a real planet. One on the shortlist of planets humans might actually colonize at some point. It is logical all refugees would end up all going to the same place. It’s not *a* interstellar journey, it’s the first interstellar colonization journey. One forced by desperation.
      It is one of the few times they did some believable world building. Sadly it was completely inconsequential and easily missed to boot.

      Want a good sci-fi show? Highly recommend The Expanse. It is based on a full length book series. It’s got oodles of payoffs to long term mysteries too.

      1. Syal says:

        I definitely enjoyed The Expanse, but it’s got that TV show feel where it eventually stops feeling like the show will ever fully wrap up. Even the episode where it fully resolved the central conflict with the major villains felt hollow, like it was going to be undone in a couple episodes. (Which didn’t happen, that plot did in fact end there.)

        1. Thomas says:

          If you stop in the first couple of seasons I think The Expanse works as a contained story. And they avoid the issue of dangling never answered plot threads by presenting the plot as a series of ever escalating situations triggered by the events of the first (a bit like scholck mercenary).

          But I did find in later seasons it became less and less believable that the same set of characters were involved in these conflicts. And some of the character arcs they’ve found natural ways to progress, but in others it’s beginning to feel like the character is treading water or going backward for the sake of having something to do.

          I still love the Expanse though, and continually try to convince others to watch it

  4. Mephane says:

    Even if you don’t listen to the podcast, I’m still curious what you thought of Raised by Wolves on HBO.

    I saw the trailer, was very intrigued. Saw it would be on HBO Max in the USA, which means there is no reliable way to predict where it would release here in Germany.

    Since then, I didn’t notice it being released on Netflix or Amazon Prime so far. Turns out, according to Wikipedia, it was released on “TNT Serie”, which is a channel available via Sky, apparently (pro-tip: avoid Sky like the plague). It is not clear to me yet whether this was shown literally as a stone age level TV program (let’s assume it is the latter, because the former would alread be a dealbreaker), but in any case the show is not nearly compelling enough to set up an account with and pay for yet another streaming service (the last one which pulled that off was Disney+ with The Mandalorian, and even for that we paid one month and binged the whole thing, then cancelled), let alone Sky, which, again, you should avoid like the plague.

    And anyway with this cursory research I am already way beyond the amount of effort that I consider reasonable in order to just find out how to watch a gorram TV show. And no, this is not my way of asking for better information or instructions. This is just a rant disguised as my response to Shamus’ prompt for commentary on the show.

    1. Mephane says:

      Oops, I lost part of a sentence, it should have said “as a stone age level TV program or video on demand”.

    2. AndrewCC says:

      Here in Romania they put it on HBO Go, and I get that for free just for having the cable sub to HBO on my TV.

    3. Lino says:

      What’s so horrible about Sky? Isn’t it one of the biggest TV services out there in Western Europe? I’ve seen it advertised a lot whenever I’ve traveled abroad…

      1. Mephane says:

        Terrible infrastructure, quality, service, interface, ads on top of a rather expensive price, and generally behaves like the Epic Games Store of TV.

  5. Joe says:

    I don’t care what Microsoft charge for their service, I’m not interested. If they wanted to pay me to use it, *that’d* grab my interest. I bought a 360, way back when. The two games I wanted were Mass Effect 1 and Too Human. Yeah, great trailers, the devs said all the right things… Anyway, I played those games and never felt the urge to buy more for the 360. I’ve learned my lesson about buying consoles for their exclusives. If something isn’t on a platform I already have, then I can cope without it.

    In other news, storm is one of those words that just sounds cool. You can stick it in front of anything to improve it. Stormworks. Stormtroopers. Stormsandwich. Okay, maybe not everything.

    1. Syal says:


    2. BlueHorus says:

      I dunno…I’d eat a stormsandwich…

      1. Geebs says:

        I ate one of those once. Gave me terrible wind.

        1. Decius says:

          Terrible, or awesome?

  6. Thomas says:

    You guys have come up with more compelling reasons why companies want to make game streaming work than I did. I figured they saw Netflix and said ‘What if that, but games?’

    I also bet it wouldn’t be so popular if all these tech entrepreneurs didn’t live in places like Silicon Valley. If you live there, sure why not stream games? Meanwhile in the rest of the world people are falling behind with each internet innovation instead of catching up. You have 5G access in a handful of city centres in the UK, whilst some people out in the countryside still can’t get proper broadband. And at the end of the day, digging trenches and dealing with property rights to lay cables isn’t really getting cheaper, and setting up 5G receivers every couple of metres won’t either.

    Perhaps we’ll invent a new kind of internet that can reach people without massive infrastructure cost, but until then people are going to game on machines.

    And one of the best features of Netflix, is you can download the films, in case you need to go on train / plane somewhere!

    1. Ancillary says:

      Perhaps we’ll invent a new kind of internet that can reach people without massive infrastructure cost, but until then people are going to game on machines.

      I believe that’s the main selling point of Starlink. (Not to say there isn’t a huge infrastructure cost with Starlink, too, but it’s going to be paid anyway and it doesn’t make any difference how rural its users happen to be.) We’ll see how that goes.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        The low-tech solution to providing internet, is to have wi-fi equipment with directional antennas every kilometer or so, to form your infrastructure. (Powered by solar panels and batteries.) The total bandwidth is limited by the points where the network connects to the internet proper, but I think it could work if big companies like Google actually cared to try. Last I heard, they were spending money on putting internet onto blimps and weather balloons, which as far as I can see is the exact same sets of problems, with the additional problems of keeping balloons up in the sky, on course, and full of fuel…

        1. Thomas says:

          I was wondering about StarLink when I wrote that line, but this perhaps could be even more feasible. In a place like Wales, which is only 274km x 97km, you could reach every rural community with a handful of stations (good luck on the sunlight though!)

          1. Decius says:

            Solar panels work in cloudy areas much better than many people give them credit for. They also work at much higher latitudes than most people think- they just need to have enough power and battery to deal with the longer night, and they need to be oriented at the right angle (perpendicular to the sun), and each solar panel casts a shadow that covers more square feet of ground (because everything casts longer shadows at higher latitudes), which means you need more surface area for a given power output- but most use cases for solar are limited by the cost of solar panels more than the cost of surface area for them.

  7. Lee says:

    I had basically the same reaction Shamus has to Raised by Wolves. Though my interest was slightly bolstered in the middle episodes by a mistaken idea that the fake Sol worshipper hearing voices was actually an android, and therefore only androids were hearing voices. I thought it was some kind of secret transmission. But no, it’s not, and there’s no logical explanation available.

    My adult son has a better opinion of it, but I’m pretty sure I’m done with it, even if it gets another season.

  8. Joshua says:

    J.J. Abrams is popularly known for coming up with all of these intriguing premises and seldom paying them off before moving on to the next mystery box in Lost, but I’d posit he did it before in Alias*. For the first couple of seasons of that show, I was riveted to find out what was going to happen next and have these big mysteries be unraveled, and then around Season 3 I learned that it’s pretty much all bullshit and writing by the seat of their pants.

    I’ve actually based one villain in my D&D campaign off of this show, where the woman has such a Complexity Addiction that the PCs are confused about her motivations because everything seems so convoluted and self-contradictory to become nonsense. Fortunately, in last night’s session, one of the group asked an NPC what they thought of her and if they trusted her, and she pretty much told them “no, we don’t understand her or what the heck she’s trying to accomplish either”. So, hopefully my players know that the nonsensical behavior is deliberate writing on my part, and not because I’m a bad writer. Hopefully. :)

    *I never saw Felicity, which I think was his first big show. Was it like this?

    1. Thomas says:

      This video by Patrick Willems goes through JJ Abrams’ shows and explains how his lack of ability to finish anything is a constant of his work.

      It’s been a while since I’ve watched the video, but I believe Felicity is different and does have an ending and Patrick uses it to make a semi-decent prediction about Rise of the Skywalker

      1. Joshua says:

        Really interesting. Thanks!

      2. Radkatsu says:

        Literature Devil has an excellent video talking about JarJar’s mystery box nonsense and why it’s garbage. Highly recommended.

    2. The Puzzler says:

      “We don’t understand her or what the heck she’s trying to accomplish either,” would not convey to me that her actions are nonsensical. I’d probably just be even more intrigued as to what the solution to the mystery is.

  9. Steve C says:

    I am willing to predict xCloud failing. The reason is Blizzard and Esports.

    Blizzard had popular esport titles with DOTA and Starcraft. Blizzard didn’t like that they weren’t getting ALL the money. So they learned a lesson. Everything in the future was to be locked down and completely under their control. It was too much. They attacked it from every side. It strangled the golden goose.

    @46min Paul goes over the points well. Control over mods, full update control, devs locked up, customers locked up, games locked up, coverage of games etc. This isn’t a good thing for anyone. Which includes the ones in control with the thumbscrews. (Good luck convincing them that though.) It’s too stifling. Being in total control also means that they have no margin to screw up. They have to get everything right all the time. If they do screw up, then they still retain control. There’s nobody who can step in to fill the void.

    Microsoft is going to do the equivalent of Blizzard and Warcraft III: Reforged. Look at all how much Blizzard dominated market share after gaining full control the mod scene, deleting player’s old versions of Warcraft 3 and turning off the servers. The market share pie graphs of that money pit will be very satisfying to someone. But it’s Microsoft. They won’t care. They’ll just get bored and find yet another money pit regardless.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I agree Blizzard will fight against being locked into someone else’s streaming platform, but I don’t think that will make the concept fail. If anything, I think it will lead to a number of streaming platforms from all the big companies, like what we have with video-streaming now. Medium-size devs will develop on the platforms because that’s where the money can be made, and consumers will pay multiple bills every month if they have games on different streaming platforms. I was going to say that indies would stay on PCs, but if all the tools and infrastructure are on streaming, they’d probably move too.

      1. Addie says:

        I occasionally stream games off my desktop onto my laptop, so that I can sit somewhere comfortable to play without having my laptop cook my nads. Non-twitch indie games work great for this – Rimworld, Oxygen Not Included, Xenonauts, Dwarf Fortress – where the graphics stream well, and an occasional input latency spike isn’t going to get you killed. Seems more sensible than trying to run the latest CoD or DOOOM or whatever.

        However, I’m not sure I agree about indies moving too. Making games is already pretty high-risk and narrow-margins financially – developing for another platform, especially one with big up-front cost for learning, and additional ongoing costs to rent the server infrastructure you’d need for dev, seems even more risky. And I haven’t seen any breakdown of how eg. Microsoft’s game-pass splits the money that comes in between studios, but I’d imagine the AAA’s would take the lion’s share. It doesn’t seem particularly expensive as it is, so only getting a tiny fraction of that does not seem like a good deal.

      2. Steve C says:

        That’s not what I meant. I was using Blizzard as an example successfully getting extreme control and that failing due to that control. It is inconsequential if any particular company cooperates or not. Blizzard is the cautionary tale of what not to do.

  10. pattonesque says:

    speaking of mass effect, when’s Bob Case’s ME4 series coming back?

    1. tmtvl says:

      Scratch the ME4 series, when is the EVE series coming back? …when he’s got more spare time and motivation, probably.

      1. GoStu says:

        I’m still waiting for Rutskarn’s next Overhaulout.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          You and me both, man. Sadly, I think that ship has sailed, hit the iceberg, sunk, sat there, been refloated, taken to a museum and forgotten about…
          My guess is something happened behind the scenes, but speculation schmeculation.

          1. Radkatsu says:

            Wasn’t that around the time Shamus fell out with Josh and the others? Makes sense Rutskarn probably wouldn’t continue writing a series here after that.

            edit: I will just add that I don’t know the specifics of the break-up, and maybe they all stayed on good terms even if they no longer work on Spoiler Warning together any more. But I recall it being roughly around that time period that the Overhaulout series was a thing. Maybe I’m misremembering though :)

            1. GoStu says:

              I was unaware of any falling out, but if so, that’d explain the rest.

            2. Syal says:

              Overhaulout continued for a while after that. I remember a secondary comment-side flare-up of some kind, with no more posts after that, so I think that second one was the last straw.

              1. Lino says:

                Really? Do you remember on which part? I just looked over some of the comments on the last two parts, and I didn’t see anything too spicy.

    2. Gautsu says:

      Bob Case finishing a series successfully on this site (Witcher 3, Mass Effect, Baldur’s Gate, Eve) seems to be on par with J.J. Abrams successfully finishing a television show well

      1. Soysauce says:

        He did finish the GoT one, if my memory is to be trusted.

        1. Gautsu says:

          He finished the Witcher 3 too, but spent two posts at the beginning talking about how he was going to role play as a naked hobo fist fighter and half of one talking about all of Blood and Wine

  11. Chad Miller says:

    Re: Stadia vs. xCloud, there’s a major advantage I see Microsoft having over Google. It’s even gestured at in the classic Penny Arcade comic making fun of Stadia.

    Google is somewhat infamous for spinning up projects and then killing them if they become expensive enough without becoming immediately profitable. This represents a dual threat to the platform: on the one hand, there’s the risk the platform falters and lands in the Google Graveyard. On the other, the existence of the Google Graveyard means people familiar with the company’s habits are loath to invest in Stadia because of the perceived risk of the platform dying and leaving customers with nothing to show for it. The platform thereby becomes more likely to die because of people who believe its likely to die. Maybe Google could have avoided that by picking up a lot of cheap games and marketing Stadia as a budget/casual service, but they did literally the opposite of that.

    Meanwhile, remember how web browsers used to be something you could get people to pay for? And then remember how Microsoft used their operating system to essentially kill that market by giving away one for free?

    It’s true Microsoft doesn’t have a monopoly on consoles right now. But they do have a monthly game subscription service. And they’re buying studios left and right to add value to it. And they’re now offering their next-gen console for a monthly fee (a monthly fee that ends up not even costing the customer money in the long run IF they were planning on subscribing to Game Pass Ultimate anyway). And their cheaper next-gen console that doesn’t even come with a disc drive.

    Maybe the numbers don’t add up for xCloud yet. But it’s easy to look at Game Pass and digital-only consoles and the zero APR 2-year payment plans and see a road to coaxing customers into xCloud. “Remember how you spent $34.99/month for the last Xbox and a subscription? What if we made it $19.99/month, and you don’t need the Xbox?” And maybe that transition plan works well enough that something initially unprofitable becomes profitable, if only they massage the market enough.

    Google’s plan was to make something no one really wanted, ignore their own reputation in the process, market it to the exact segment most likely to jeer at it, then go shocked_pikachu.jpg when people not only didn’t buy it but instead starting making bets on how long it would take to fail. Microsoft’s plan seems to be playing the long game, relying on their existing assets for now, offering things that many people reasonably want while simultaneously making consumers more amenable to the thing that they don’t want…yet.

    In the end, while I’m both skeptical and averse to game streaming for the same reasons as you guys, I’m not willing to say “Stadia failed, therefore xCloud failed,” because this particular battle seems particularly well-suited to Microsoft and ill-suited to Google.

  12. Zeta Kai says:

    What Hollywood needs to get through their thick heads is that the audience will pay through the nose for a satisfying conclusion to a story, but will feel cheated if the ending is disappointing. Sticking the landing is crucial for a narrative to feel like it was worth the audience’s time and money. Breaking Bad and The Lord of the Rings are beloved because of their endings, while Mass Effect and Game of Thrones are reviled for the incompetence of their climactic moments. Clever premises are a dime a dozen, and making compelling characters is a mature science at this point, but making an ending that is a satisfactory pay-off for the time and money that the audience has spent is an absolute necessity for a creator to do if they want their future projects to be successful.

    1. Steve C says:

      Whoever has the best story is worthy to sit on the Syringe Throne of Hollywood.

  13. GoStu says:

    Somewhat off-topic, but what happened to “This Week I played…”?

    1. Shamus says:

      I dabbled with the new No Man’s Sky update, but I don’t have much to say other than, “Yup. More of this. Same appeal. Same shortcomings.”

      Before that I played MS Fight Simulator 2020. Neat, but I don’t have much to say about it.

      Other than that, I’m barely playing games right now. Everything’s getting pushed back, canceled, or whatever.

      This will probably* change soon. In two weeks we’re getting Amnesia:Rebirth. Then before I have a chance to finish it, Watch Dogs Legion will come out. And then a couple of weeks later Godfall comes out, which I won’t have time to play because that’s two days before Cyberpunk 2077.

      So, six months of nothing and then more games than I can even think of playing before the end-of-year. This is so silly. I know the entire industry is doing this specifically to annoy me.

      * For 2020 levels of “probably”, because nothing this year is probable.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Just sleep a lot now, then play games 27 hours a day once all of these finally come out. Problem solved!

        1. Zeta Kai says:

          I’m annoyed that I cannot Like your comment.

  14. Gautsu says:

    My co-workers and I (about 150 of us) work long hours (12+ hour shifts), where we have a bunch of downtime and reliable internet connection. I don’t know a single one of them who play video games (including the diehard team Playstation among them) who aren’t excited about xCloud and to be honest, how well it actually works on your non-gaming phones. I know this is not anywhere near a legitimate cross section for any kind of official verdict on the service, but not everyone out there has doubts or apprehensions about everything Microsoft does

  15. Dennis says:

    I think 99% of the game streaming push is that companies want monthly recurring revenue. Same goes for subscription services like EA Play and Ubisoft Whateverthey’recallingit. Subscriptions are stable and predictable, which looks good to accountants and Wall Street. Apple’s stock has doubled in the past year, largely because of the pivot to services (subscriptions). Netflix loses money year after year, but their stock is buoyed by the promise of monthly recurring revenue.

    Still, I have no clue who the target audience is. See: https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2019/06/10/stadioid

    I think Microsoft’s Xcloud and Amazon’s Luna have better odds than Stadia though, because they’re just monthly payments, rather than “pay a monthly subscription fee for the opportunity to ‘buy’ games”.

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