We all love video games, but we’ve probably never been as thankful for video games as we have been during the past year. With so many other entertainment avenues taken away, video games and streaming services have got us through twelve dark months and provided us with countless hours of enjoyment. Those of you who are committed gamers have had the opportunity to do more of the thing you love than ever before. Those of you who are (or were) lapsed gamers have reconnected with the medium for the first time in years. It’s been a rough time in general, but it’s been a pretty great year for games – capped off, of course, by the launch of the PS5 and the Xbox Series X. If you’re one of the lucky few who’s managed to get their hands on either console before Christmas, we tip our hat to you.
Gaming isn’t all about the PlayStation or the Xbox in 2020. Nintendo has been enjoying a return to prominence because of unprecedented demand for the handheld Switch console. Amazon has dipped its toes into the gaming world with Luna, and the much-smaller company Nvidia has launched GeForce Now. Both of those platforms, which work by streaming games rather than running them from hardware in a player’s home, were inspired in whole or in part by Google Stadia. If you’ve never heard of Stadia, or you’ve heard of it but not given it a chance yet, you might want to start paying closer attention as we head into 2021.
Stadia is a revolutionary new way of engaging with video games – one that allows you to play any game anywhere so long as you have a controller to play games with and an internet-enabled device with a screen so you can see what you’re doing. It’s been accurately and quite rightly been compared to online slots websites. What makes online slots so popular and so successful in comparison to traditional casinos is convenience and ease of use. You don’t need to get dressed up or carry physical money on your person to play online slots. You don’t even need to leave the house. If you have money in your account and you have a reliable internet connection, you can play online slots with 10 free spins no deposit anywhere in the world. On the move, in the bath, on the top of a mountain – the choice is yours. Google has taken that idea and applied it to gaming, and they’re trying to make it the definitive way of playing video games for the new decade.
For all the praise we’re giving Google Stadia – praise which we believe the innovative format deserves – it hasn’t quite captured the Zeitgeist just yet. When the service went live in 2019, it was hailed as the beginning of a revolution by publications as significant as Time magazine. They predicted that it would change “everything” about the way we play games – but that hasn’t happened quite yet. In hindsight, it probably went live too early. It didn’t have the range of games that it needed to make a dent in the market, there were connectivity issues, it didn’t work on enough devices, and it still required the purchase of additional hardware. One by one, Google has started addressing all of those problems within the past few months. It now works on almost any device (even those made by Apple), it can be tried for free with a one month trial, and virtually any controller can be used to play the games on it. That just leaves the problem of not having enough games to play. Based on the news that’s been released within the past few days, that’s not going to be a problem for very much longer.
According to Jack Buser, who holds the enviable title of “Director of Games” for the fledgling platform, there are currently over four hundred new games in development for Stadia, made by two hundred different developers. Although he wasn’t in a position to give the full details of every single one of those games, he confirmed that all of them are currently on schedule for release in either 2021 or 2022, and many of them will be exclusive to the platform. Two hundred games per year is a frantic release schedule and will put Stadia far ahead of either Sony or Microsoft when it comes to the range of games available for any platform. As well as announcing the eye-catching figure, Buser confirmed that Google currently has plans for Stadia that run into 2023 and beyond, putting to bed the rumors that the company plans to pull the plug on Stadia any time soon. Google isn’t backing away from gaming. Instead, it’s doubling down and pushing even harder.
Buser doesn’t work alone in his department, and in recent months he’s been adding some ‘big hitters’ from the world of gaming to his executive team. Jade Raymond, who has worked as a producer at both Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, has come aboard, and he’s also recruited Shannon Studstill from Sony. Google owns and operates several small game studios of its own but also has partnerships with established players like Harmonix, who are hard at work making Stadia-exclusive content. One of the more interesting things promised by Buser is that some of the new games will be able to ‘do things that console games can’t because they’re free of hardware limitations, although what this means in real terms probably won’t be known until the games have been released and people have had the chance to play them.
Recently we’ve seen Google attempt to give away Stadia subscriptions and hardware free with almost every Google product. Even new subscribers to YouTube Premium have been offered the chance to receive a free Stadia controller and a Premium subscription package for a limited time. The company has clearly put a lot of money and effort into creating an attractive proposition for gamers and now feels that it has the games to back up the technology. All it needs now is players – and with four hundred games on the horizon, they might find the customers they’ve been seeking for the past twelve months start to show up in big numbers.
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