As passionate members of the gaming community, we felt extremely lucky to be in the audience for Google’s #Stadia announcement on Tuesday. The buzz around GDC and online in the aftermath of the presentation seemed to point to the significance of the move; but what exactly does Stadia mean for the video game market and the in-game advertising landscape? Here’s our thoughts…
For anyone that missed Tuesday’s big reveal, Google announced their dramatic entry into the world of video games with a new service called Stadia. Rumours have swirled for some time about Google’s entry into the sector, with those rumours gathering pace after the highly publicised #ProjectStream test with Ubisoft last year. Google’s anticipated move into gaming was jokingly referred to by their CEO, Sundar Pichai, as “the worst kept secret in the industry”, but whilst most people knew they were entering the market, few could have anticipated the seismic shift that the announcement represented.
Stadia will allow players to stream video games to any screen – be it phone, tablet, TV, or computer – via the cloud, and all they need to get started is an internet connection and the Chrome browser (or a Chromecast device for TVs). All of the processing power required to play games in high fidelity is handled by Google’s servers instead of traditional gaming hardware such as a PC or console (yes, really!). So what does this mean for the industry?
Rather than release a console to challenge the market dominance of the Xbox or Playstation, Google have skipped ahead a generation and created an entirely new way to game that could usher in a new hardware-free future. Cloud gaming as a solution is something that Playstation, Microsoft, and Amazon have been working towards quietly for a while, but those developments may now need to be fast-tracked thanks to the arrival of Stadia.
Being able to achieve the same high-end user experience without the need for a high-spec console or PC represents a game-changing moment (quite literally), and if Google can deliver on their promises we may see consoles and powerful gaming PCs consigned to the niche category going forwards.
Barriers (and records) will be broken
At this stage it’s unclear how much Stadia will cost or even how the revenue model will work, but early assumptions are that it will be a gaming-on-demand subscription service – creating the much fabled “Netflix of gaming”. What is clear to see at this point is the additional reach Stadia is likely to offer to game publishers and advertisers.
The Chrome browser has more than 2bn users around the globe. In the US alone, around 162m people own consoles, whilst approximately 312m people have internet access, and 49.3% of those use Chrome as their browser of choice – that’s a whopping 154.8m people that will have access to gaming without the hardware barriers that exist at the moment. This is likely to see audiences for AAA games grow exponentially as the experience becomes as accessible for casual gamers as it is for pro gamers. No installation required, no console needed, and the ability to jump into any video game within 5 seconds from YouTube on any device – the future of gaming has arrived. Provided the cost of Stadia isn’t unreasonably high, it seems highly likely we’ll see a huge spike in the audiences of games going forwards thanks to these innovations.
As mentioned above, Stadia will be fully integrated with YouTube (which is of course owned by Google) giving players the ability to jump into a streamer’s game save, and pick up where they left off. For example, you could be watching a streamer in a football or racing game, select a point in the match or race where it went wrong (e.g. a poor tactical decision or a misplaced braking point), and take over the game from any device from that moment onwards. YouTube will then record you from the moment you take over – creating content that can be re-shared by you or the very influencer who posted the original video! Those same streamers and influencers will have the ability to jump into other people’s content via YouTube, bringing a whole new meaning to interactive entertainment and turning the fun factor up to 11.
New possibilities for advertising
Yesterday’s announcement represented good news for Bidstack and our partners. Our exclusive, multi-year partnerships with game publishers such as Codemasters and Sega mean our clients will benefit from even bigger and more diverse audiences that will offer new possibilities. The news also provides a great opportunity for us to continue forging long-lasting relationships with ground-breaking game developers. Some concerns have already been expressed about what Stadia will mean for mid-size developers and for micro-transactions for gamers, but our in-game advertising network can work as an antidote to those issues by creating an additional revenue stream for publishers.
In 2018, over 50bn hours of gaming video content was viewed on Youtube and 9.36bn hours was consumed via Twitch – this increased the reach of the ads served in our games enormously as they are seen again and again by a secondary audience outside of the gamers themselves. With the gaming audience likely to expand even further (and with it the amount of content) it can only be good news for the innovative brands that have already embraced in-game advertising and for the new brands waking up to its endless possibilities.
Scope for innovation
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Stadia opens the door for improvement, innovation, and development that will keep driving our pioneering and exciting industry forward. Gamers will be able to move from screen to screen without any loss to their gaming experience, meaning that physical hardware ties that are typical of consoles and PCs will become a thing of the past. This freedom gives game developers something new to work with where they have fewer limits and fewer restrictions in what they can deliver. Enormous, physically accurate cityscapes will now become possible, and there is the potential to have 1000+ players in one battle royale or in one map enjoying the experience together. Google have launched their own gaming studio, and we’ll be watching with interest to see what they’re working on for the launch of Stadia in 2019.
We spoke to James Draper, CEO of Bidstack at the end of Google’s Keynote speech at GDC on Tuesday and he shared some of his thoughts on the excitement that he and others felt in the room:
“Rarely have I witnessed a presentation as game-changing as Stadia’s reveal today. It reminded me of when Apple first unveiled the iPhone – it was that kind of wow factor, it felt that big. High fidelity gaming will now have the same reach as casual gaming which is obviously fantastic news for our proposition. It was a privilege to be here. The general consensus is that we just witnessed the start of the next generation of video games.”
If you missed it, check out the Stadia trailer here.