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Ever heard of PewDiePie? He’s a young YouTuber (yes, it’s a job) and his channel is followed by more than 100 million subscribers. He mainly talks videogames and I’d understand if your eyes are already glazing.

What you should be interested in is his reach. Often we hear about these “youtubers” not reaching mainstream media yet. Mainly on NewsTV Channels. Now, that’s funny… On one hand we have the real number of people that check a video, along with a clear measure of their reaction to it. On the other, the statistically estimated reach of a blind broadcast over one-way satellite transmission. And NewsTV Pundit #1 agrees with NewsAnchor #2 that new media is coming but not yet here… Sorry guys, facts do matter, as you like to say with pomp and circumstance. One Hundred Million subscribers. Average video view; 4.5 million. That’s more than 99% of broadcast TV programs. Breaking News: Mainstream HAS shifted… Just because the telly didn’t say it does not make it untrue.

Gaming is just like that. Worldwide, they represent more individuals than the population of Europe. And the common thing they do? Play and Spend. Hey… look at that! The cornerstone of Capital and Business…

Rain, sun, snow, heatwave, or freezing temperatures; none of this matters when you are a Gamer. Daylight, nighttime, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snack. Does it affect you? The screen works 24/7; we invented tons of smart tools to control lights and blinds without us moving from the couch. Those are so advanced that we don’t even have to interact with a button anymore. “Hey, Google,” switch off the light. “Alexa,” game-night setup, please. “Hey Siri,” do not-disturb-mode mode on until tomorrow at 6 AM, which is usually the time to sleep after a long night ‘run‘.

How far along are we in the story-line? Where are we placing in the online competition? These are the things that matter to regular Gamers. And if you still don’t know that online gaming is a huge market, let me enlight you.

Wikipedia reads: the gaming industry in 2015 was evaluated at 91 billion dollars. Double the global cinema’s box office today and it still doesn’t get the same value. In 2018 the extended market of movies industry counts less than the gaming one. If you didn’t consider this as a growing market I hope this gives you at least one reason to learn something more about Stadia. Shall we?

Becoming the Netflix of games

November will be the turn for the “founders” to access the gaming network. For as low as $129 USD early supporters will get the all-new controller and one year access to tons of online gaming content. The platform will open to the public in 2020 and we already saw back in March a couple of demos. The bottom line is to bring games into a stream environment, rather than download an app or buy a disk that contains the game. You may ask yourself if this is a revolutionary approach… Well.

The modern player is a kid with at least 20,000 followers on Twitch. We have to make an initial analysis of the segment of the market, for you to understand how ground-breaking the newest Google streaming service truly is. I want also to stress that, at least for now, it seems that the platform is not going to follow the exact same business model of Netflix, rather engage players on the service and keep the extra payments in each and every game to unlock full version or advanced features.

So, let’s take a look at the categories of players I observed over the years:

Casual
Anyone who installed Candy Crush on his or her (felt important as 42% of players in this category are female) mobile, can be considered such. They are easy-going on their approach to games; they play to kill time and potentially lose their job doing it. The majority of them play games on mobile phones or tablet.

Regular
They have a relevant curriculum (the average 30-year old gamer has played at least 12 years continuously) in gaming; they are attached to Franchise-games and usually own one or more consoles to take part in the eternal battle of “Is Playstation better than Xbox?”. They also set monthly objectives, such as
– finishing the game XX
– reach level 46 before Paul
– obtain at least 90% of the secondary mission achievements
and so on.

Retro
As the regular ones, they share a big passion with a franchise or gross-winning games from the past, but they are quite reluctant to try new series or even new consoles. They are part of the aftermarket, the kings of the emulators and simulators, having tons of titles accessible for free. But they are also attached emotionally, so the gadget segment is a very fruitful market for those who wants to tap into it.

Hardcore
We are entering the cash-cows. These people spend around 10,000$ in hardware (did you ever check how much is a gaming chair on Amazon? Hint: more than the office’s ones and also more comfortable) to get the best possible experience. Usually, they are part of a large online community, free or subscription-based, and are often used as a pool for statistic projection on sales and trends. They also own consoles (plural) to access exclusive titles.

Pro
This is a sub-category of the hardcore gamer with switched rules: they get paid to play. Gaming is taken professionally here, constantly sharing content and feedback with the online and offline community. There is a huge aftermarket, where they run comparison tests on different screens or consoles to identify strengths and weaknesses. These are information sources useful to the developer and software houses to enhance their games and millions are spent on physical and online events. Twitch was created as an alternative to YouTube, just for them. Apparently they also created the Vegan movement, to save time on cooking food.

All the rest are uninterested, or they don’t have an internet connection. 85% of gamers are older than 18 years old, but among children (2-17), 91% play video-games. Again, there is a huge market waiting for something revolutionary since Metal Gear Solid.

Now we know the level’s boss, let’s look at the player’s stats.
Google has one significant advantage over gaming platforms: data centers. Consoles lack the hardware’s specs. Both PlayStation and Xbox are running on obsolete processor and GPU, dating back to the very moment they hit the market. Any gaming computer is more powerful and, most important, upgrade-able. Nintendo followed a more interactive and innovative approach and still is far behind the first two. We lived the physical and technological limitations that prevented an authentic leadership in this industry.

The development environment of the game itself took a hard turn as mobile phones became influential as dedicated consoles. Even so, smartphones are still far from custom gaming computers, and here is where Google wants one more piece of the pie. The demo was astonishing. The basic concept of Stadia is to use a streaming service to play the game on any browser or device. This has two immediate advantages: no more hardware limitation and seamless online multiplayer capability. Doesn’t it sound already too good to be real?

The good

I mentioned data centers. Tons of main hosting venues and even more edge cloud services make the Stadia a real power never seen before in gaming platforms. Already packs of professional gamers started drooling on the screen while Google’s presentation was show-casing one of the most famous franchise gaming, Assassin’s Creed. Having access to such computing and space numbers is almost unbelievable.

Another point scored by Stadia is the delivery. No need to deal with the initial burden of buying a console, nor compare the specs to get a dedicated gaming computer. Your existing environment is enough to start playing right away, and this is a real crash in the initial barrier for many casual users. Your current phone, laptop or tv will work. Add the aforementioned optional controller that looks neat and purposely designed.

Let’s talk about streaming: that activity we so dearly wanted to be legal. Since the dawn of online piracy, I never met anyone that didn’t wish streaming to become a legit service. Netflix and Amazon Prime proved it right in a couple of years, and still, some people can’t grasp it. Gaming companies first. Google started with a dedicated channel on gaming for creators streaming their game-play, which is ultimately the new marketing model for most game developers, both independent or software house.

User experience seems incredibly well thought. They implemented a flawless sharing option, a player’s wet dream: switching seamlessly between devices is already a revolution. Only Apple was able to do that for document creation between Mac and iPhone or iPad. Additional and mostly important, players can share checkpoints with the community, to give even more continuity to the social process. There’s an “ask to Google” function integrated into the platform itself: no more back and forth betweem the game and the phone to do research online. Simply put, it is one of the best experiences I’ve seen in recent digital history.

Arguably, gaming stands as one of the most influential factors pushing technology. Perhaps second only to “adult movies”. And if pushes technology further toward better, faster, and more powerful internet access I’m all for it. High demands for graphics and a good connection worked in the past to create and finance the current status of the internet as we know it today. I feel like giving a big thanks to Google for exploring this part so profoundly and so closely to its users.

The bad

Local and state-wide internet service provider (or ISP) relationship is the key. Internet connection is still a pain in the rear door, regardless of your service provider. We spend enough time on the phone with “The Operator” that will ask us to test the connection speed out of the primary router, and what the hell is the main router, I am paying for what? Getting a phone diploma in networking?

What Google claims is that they can cut out the ISP connection problem by using a dedicated connection to the closest data center. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it seems. They showed how their demos could run smoothly in every event we found on YouTube. But what about places with data cap (it’s estimated that Stadia will run on an 11GB/hour) or total absence of fiber connection? This will definitely influence the latency while playing.

A whole new platform to port and test. This is not good news for developers: no one likes to start selling the same product on a platform that limits the entry. What about the franchise games? Google has none of those. Starting with the in-house developer teams is the right way to go, but it will take time to attract an adequate number of developers to fulfill user’s expectations on a monthly subscription.

Talking about subscription, over-saturation can also be a problem. Many players started noticing the recent trend where we all have a console subscription to access discounts and titles, and gaming software houses are coming up with their subscription to buy extensions, expansion packs, mods, and more. This redundancy is not helping: I shall remind everyone that piracy exists where the price paid is too high, and the user experience is not satisfying or cluttered.

Last but not least, Google introduced Stadia is a cross-platform. Yes, on the paper. Menlo Park’s company owns a very minimal market share of mobile devices. Incredible to see how giant companies start with the best intention of integrating services, and everyone relegates their users in a fenced wonderland. I got quite tired of it, to be honest, and I hope Linux is listening.

The summary

Looking at the long terms possibilities that a gaming streaming service can offer and all the incredible experiences it could deliver, the future looks bright. Consider that also the leading player are adding similar services, but starting from some unique selling points such as broader games availability, franchise and exclusive titles, and gamer’s affection.

Other than that, at the moment, the response lag is the major draw-back. It is happening in some games today, giving some genuine frustration to purist players. I can’t see it gaining too much traction if this is not solved. Competitors aren’t watching. Apple itself just launched a new offer, called Arcade, and while it’s approaching the same retainer model it highlights the off-line perk that will effectively benefit the same target: casual players.

Unless this is the first step to sell a hardware companion that will give Stadia a shortcut in the console war, which seems still unlikely I believe that only time will tell us what users prefer. It is a very creative solution for a growing and very diverse community. Given the muscle of Google, they can fail a couple of experiments. Yet, I don’t think it will get much close to the heart of a purist and loyal player even if he or she can avoid looking up the phone to communicate. There are still too many wireless headphones in the world.

The Tech Guy
A mix of logical thoughts and stream of consciousness led every decision in his life. Interested in sport, technology, and human behavior; unhealthy diet and sleepless nights are the results of a disturbed mind, keen to learn anything new.

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