Google is hoping it can shake up the gaming market. But after revealing all its plans for doing so on Thursday, some big question marks might have emerged.
Google Stadia is the search giant's answer for the future of gaming. It's a cloud-based platform that will allow gamers to play some of the most popular games on store shelves without ever needing a console. Instead, the games stream over the cloud to a Chromecast you can plug in to a computer or television.
There had been some hope in recent weeks that Google's Stadia would be available at a flat subscription fee similar to Netflix. In that scenario, people hoped, it would have a vast library of games that you'd be able to access and play in the cloud for a set fee per month.
What Google unveiled on Thursday, however, is something decidedly different.
To start, there is a $10-a-month subscription fee. And although that'll give you access to a select few games, it's really little more than a way to get on to Stadia. If you want to play new or more popular games, you'll need to pay a separate price for the title.
Add that to getting a Chromecast for your television and a $70 controller to play games on Stadia and suddenly, things aren't looking so simple.
Of course, the reason Google needed to price its service that way makes some sense.
The problem with gaming has always been that it's expensive. Consoles have cost hundreds of dollars and games have cost $60 because of the significant costs associated with developing today's high-end games.
Google's decision to price a $10 subscription could be in part to offset the cost of operating Stadia's servers and paying developers to bring their titles to the service. But $10 a month isn't necessarily enough to pay a developer back on the millions of dollars they spent on the game.
For those developers, sticking to the old console model might offer better economics.
So, with the subscription and purchase systems Google Stadia offers, Google can offer more compelling revenue for developers. And those developers, in turn, can see value in bringing their games to Stadia.
And that, of course, leaves the gamer.
Your Internet speed will determine the quality of your game experience. The more the speed, the better your games will look. And according to Google, Stadia's servers are so powerful, the graphics at a high bandwidth should exceed what you'd get from a console.
In the Stadia model, the gamer won't need to pay hundreds for a new console, but will effectively be paying that sum--and perhaps more, depending on how long they subscribe to Stadia--in a monthly charge. They'll also need to buy games.
For those folks, then, Stadia might not be as cheap as they had hoped.
The big question, therefore, centers on whether gamers will jump at Stadia when the service launches in November.
It's tough to say, but I have a hunch Google might be on to something here.
I think consumers are now accustomed to paying subscription fees for services. And although it might sound annoying to pay for games in addition to the fee, it's something they're already doing on consoles.
Looking ahead, then, I think Stadia has some promise. But don't be surprised if its two competitors--Microsoft's xCloud or Apple's Arcade--have a thing or two to say about that.