The Hidden Cost of Game Streaming

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triznoy

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Edited By triznoy

The Hidden Cost of Game Streaming

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Google made a big hullabaloo announcing plans to dip its feet into the video game world recently. Whenever Google does something/anything nowadays, it garners interest both public and commercially. Of course, the interest wasn’t that Google was trying to involve themselves in this industry, but that they were trying (promising?) they had solved how to stream games to people negating hardware needs and costs. Of course in the most, Silicon Valley megacorp way possible they promised the world and well-regarded games-man Phil Harrison shouted a lot of buzzwords - “4K” “HDR” “Stream to anything” “Youtube functionality” “Low Latency” - but not much was said about distribution and cost. Like many things in this social media driven world, people are lining up on both sides for various reasons. There are clearly a lot of potential holes in Google’s perfect blueprint and at the very least Google has much to prove in regards to announcing some pie in the sky move and actually sticking with it. At the very least, even the staunchest of supporters for Stadia have to realize Google’s track record is wishy-washy at best. Only a handful of cities still only have access to Google Fiber, remember how hot Google Glass was and how much praise Google got for moving things forward… that lasted a good couple of months, didn’t it? Google isn’t the only horse in this race, of course, Microsoft is gearing up to be Google’s main competition at this point in the streaming game world, but Wal-Mart now seems interested, Sony and Nintendo are certainly looking at their own solutions, Apple is hanging around, and Amazon has been building up some internal game development and also has some experience with streaming services with Amazon Prime and Twitch. The reason they all are interested is that as game streaming becomes more viable, they need to create a hold on the consumer the same way Netflix did and Blockbuster didn’t. And if they can gain a Netflix like hold on the consumer it allows them to gain control on the pricing of the service.

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While the fear of losing access to the games you spend money on is partly a shift from how videogames have always worked, this fear is legitimate. If I wanted to play Zelda II (and I do because that game is great!), Nintendo has offered plenty of paths to do so that avoid me hooking up my NES with composite cables to a 4K TV. But plenty of NES games I love like Who Framed Roger Rabbit that doesn’t have the resellable value Zelda or Mario carry can also still be played because those games exist in perpetuity, on a cartridge. In 20 years this isn’t going to hold true for a game like Destiny. If you bought The Force Awakens on VUDU a couple of years ago and Wal-Mart decides to cut VUDU in cost-saving maneuvers, guess what, you no longer can freely watch a copy of The Force Awakens. The same can hold true for Google Stadia and can be especially so if they get into first-party development as it seems they are. Google stayed far away with anything having to do with price/stores with the Stadia announcement, including if they are even going to make this some sort of monthly service or if you’ll just pay a la carte. Microsoft already has experience offering a service to Xbox users for a monthly fee that has garnered mostly positive remarks. Though Gamepass provides downloads for users, it’s not hard to imagine their streaming service also going through Gamepass. It also provides Google, Wal-Mart, etc. a real-world sample of a games service working. And for as much herald Gamepass gets right now, myself included as it is a good deal, paying $10 a month to access a boatload of games isn’t going to stay. And this is the hidden cost of game streaming. I’m going to stick with Microsoft’s Gamepass just as an example because it already exists and has a price attached to it. It’s not hard to see the similarities between Gamepass and Netflix. But one thing nobody seems to include into the conversation is that Microsoft controls the pricing, much like Netflix does. So while it’s a relatively good deal for $10 a month to get access to a bunch of games including first-party titles on release day, is it really so hard to see that price at $15 or $20 by 2021? It is the way it is now because they need to win back the people they lost in 2013. Just like Sony implemented Playstation Plus and kept PSN free during the end of the PlayStation 3 to reach out an olive branch, Microsoft is doing the same now. But if Microsoft earns back the folks they lost with the new generation around the corner and add game streaming to Gamepass, when does the first price hike happen. If they add one new day-in-date third party/indie game a month does Gamepass go to $11.99? If they add game streaming and game downloads will it go up to $13 or $14? If they add 4K streaming games does it go up? If they buy out EA Access and make a deal for EA stuff to be on Gamepass, does it go up? If they start investing a ton in exclusives, ala Netflix, because that is the only true differential between them and Google and Sony, does it go up again? Do they cut out the storefront and only offer games via Gamepass at some point? What happens to people who only play a few games a year if that’s the case? Are they forced into monthly service so they can play 1 game? Not to mention they control what is available. Games already leave Gamepass, just like shows and movies leave Netflix. Microsoft at any point could say first party exclusives are day-in-date but they are gone after 1 year. Owning a game means I can still play Who Framed Roger Rabbit on my NES 30+ years later without hoping a curated service provides it for me, it also means younger players can see what foundation games were built on. While the long-term fear of losing control on ownership of games is fear towards the artistic and historic preservation of the industry, the short-term fear is losing control on pricing.

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reap3r160

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I may have missed some stuff due to the blocks o' text, but I think I get the gist of your blog post.

I don't think the costs are "hidden" per se. I think everyone realizes, or should realize, the problems that need to be solved. They success or failure doesn't wholly fall on google, but falls in part on telecommunication companies(namely AT&T). 5G will be the answer for this becoming a widely used service. While most homes can easily hit their bandwidth requirements, 5G will allow people who can't get lines ran to their homes as well as people with phones to experience this service at its full potential.

Another gray area is data caps and net neutrality being called into question, but that isn't just constrained to Stadia. Netflix and all these other streaming services will have to deal with that as well.

As for the monopoly, one could argue Netflix was in that same position and as the technology advanced and others started figuring it out, other services came along. This will be no different.

In my opinion, a lot of the neigh-saying around stadia, and I am not myself saying it will be perfect and an answer to all of gaming's problems, I have my doubts as well, is the same thing we saw when the push to digital started happening, in both games and movies. And now that is the widley accepted method of consuming that media.

People love technology, and because of that, there is nothing we can do about stuff like this. If it succeeds the early adopters will fuel it until everyone has to follow suit, if it is nothing like what is promised NO ONE will use it and it will die and we have nothing to "worry about".

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ltcolumbo

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Twenty years from now I’m not going to have a Blu-ray player either, so that copy of The Force Awakens that I’m already not going to watch again that’s taking up good space on a shelf is going to be even more useless. I have more confidence in Amazon and Walmart to preserve my digital purchases over decades than I do my own ability to retain and play physical media.

What you’re describing is a niche market of historians and the folks concerned about that will find a way to preserve history. That’s the way it’s always been. The fact that you can still buy DVDs, CDs, physical books and magazines even though the prevailing source is digital leads me to believe that market will continue to be catered to ad infinitim. It’s going to be okay.

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mikewhy

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Is this just the same "digital Games are bad", 2019 edition?

This post assumes:

- physical media won't degrade (it will)

- Nintendo will release all their old games in virtual console style (they won't)

- the internet situation in the rest of the world is as bad as America (it isn't)

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ll_Exile_ll

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#4  Edited By ll_Exile_ll

This all assumes that game streaming means the end of running games on actual hardware. It doesn't. Music and Movie/TV streaming has existed for quite a while now and you can still download that stuff if you want, or even buy them on discs if you desire. Even Netflix's original programming is available on DVD and Blu Ray. Streaming services and physical media can and do exist together. Google's service will be streaming only, but assuming that all games will be available only via streaming in the near future is silly. You will be able download or buy games on discs for years to come if you desire.