The topic of my column this week is, shockingly enough, described by the title. Stadia makes no sense. Even if Google has truly invented a way to magically solve the latency issues inherent with cloud gaming, this is not something anyone needs. I think their target market is, “People who have top-tier internet, who never have to share internet with housemates, who love gaming but are unwilling to buy dedicated gaming hardware, who own multiple non-gaming devices and want to switch between them at random times while hanging around the house.”
Are there enough of those people to form a customer base? I can’t see how. I don’t think there even enough of those people to fill a Prius.
Based on what we’ve been shown, I think the ideal user of Stadia is, “Person who wants to show off cloud gaming on the stage at E3.” So far that’s just one guy, and I’m pretty sure he’s not a paying customer.
A couple of mop-up points in response to the comments at the Escapist:
“It’s no fair mentioning GoG might go out of business because they have no DRM and therefore you can back up all of your games.”
I am a huge fan of GoG and I’m happy to give them praise for their DRM stance. But the point wasn’t to condemn them. I was just contrasting them with Stadia to show how GoG was better. I didn’t need to meticulously list all the ways in which GoG is better. My point wasn’t to determine which platform is bestIt’s GoG, BTW., but to explain to Google why their product is inherently riskier for the consumer.
“It’s no fair mentioning that Steam might go out of business because Steam has offline mode.”
In order to use offline mode, you must first go online to download and install your game. If you back that game up and move it to another machine, it will not work. (It’s actually more complex than that because individual developers can opt out of Steam DRM. You can back up some minority of non-AAA titles, but most of your game library will vanish with Steam.) If you’re worried about your goods outliving the store that sold them, then you can’t count on offline mode to save you.
People are always saying that Valve head honcho Gabe Newell has promised some sort of universal unlock patch if Steam ever goes under. I see this fact cited constantly, but I’ve never seen the original quote. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying the source is danged hard to track down. (It doesn’t help that all references to this statement are paraphrases, so you can’t even search for a specific series of words.) In any case, this is a pinkie promise with no details, and it’s not beyond imagination that a company imploding / abruptly bought outNot many people know this, but Gabe Newell is actually a mortal human being. He’ll theoretically die someday, and someone else will end up sitting in the captain’s chair at Valve. might not have the spare resources or permissionIf you’re going under, then you are beholden to your creditors. They are not going to care about your customers. They care about the money you owe them. to roll out some global patch.
I know Steam seems so huge that it’s hard to imagine them going under, but people once thought the same thing of Pan Am, General Motors, Kodak, and Blockbuster. It doesn’t matter how big you are, history can still kick your ass.
Young people sometimes scoff at stuff like this. “Bah. Nobody’s going to care. In 20 years we’ll all be playing holo-games over our cerebral links and nobody will care about stupid Half-Life 2.” But to people above a Certain Age, 20 years seems like a relatively short time. Also, I’m still fond of games that came out 20 years ago. Now that interfaces conventions have standardizedIn the 90s, every game had their own unique interface, but these days we have established rules for navigating 3D spaces. and graphics have hit a plateauYes, visuals are still getting slightly better, but the WOW factor is gone. I can fire up a game from 10 years ago and it doesn’t really feel antiquated., I expect games will start living longer. Cutting-edge Doom looked dated after just 3 years when Quake hit the shelves, but after 9 years Mass Effect 2 could almost pass for a current-gen title. I played through Thief 2 (2000) just a couple of years ago.
Someday you’re going to want to expose your kids to your favorite games. Someday you’ll get the nostalgic itch to return to a beloved classic. Someday you’ll get sick of the games-as-service / microtransaction bullshit and you’ll want to play something that isn’t constantly trying to sell you something. Someday you’re going to want to re-visit a familiar story from your teenage years and see it from a new perspective as a parent / manager / scholar / aging crank.
My point is that games can easily outlive the platforms that provide them. This is particularly true in the case of Stadia, which is going to close the moment Google gets tired of throwing money into that hole.
 It’s GoG, BTW.
 Not many people know this, but Gabe Newell is actually a mortal human being. He’ll theoretically die someday, and someone else will end up sitting in the captain’s chair at Valve.
 If you’re going under, then you are beholden to your creditors. They are not going to care about your customers. They care about the money you owe them.
 In the 90s, every game had their own unique interface, but these days we have established rules for navigating 3D spaces.
 Yes, visuals are still getting slightly better, but the WOW factor is gone. I can fire up a game from 10 years ago and it doesn’t really feel antiquated.
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