Cloud gaming services are really only beginning to take root in the collective mind of the internet. Though many services have been around for years (including the recently launched GeForce NOW that was in beta for a while), it seems the big players in the gaming industry are just now beginning to turn a real eye towards this cloud-based vision for gaming. Though the need for a solid internet connection is a pretty big hurdle for many, it seems entities like Microsoft, Sony, Google, and NVidia are unfazed and pushing further into the streaming game movement more than ever before.
With what amounts to a pretty splashy launch, NVidia’s GeForce NOW has delivered a very interesting and accessible version of cloud-powered gaming that allows for tons of devices to get in on the action with hardware they already own, playing games they already own. I’ve been quite impressed by their start and, with the incorporation of a solid web player, I am ready to say NVidia’s take on cloud gaming is more applicable for users like myself than Stadia is currently.
That could all change with the introduction of the right games and more players on board for Stadia, but we’ve not seen much movement in that general direction of late and it looks like yet another delay is on the way. Early on, Google stated that Stadia Base – the free-to-use version of Stadia – would be available in February of 2020. We anxiously awaited the Savepoint blog post at the top of February, hoping for a solid launch date for the free service, and we’ve heard nothing. Coupled with the lack of new game releases, it feels like Stadia is in a bit of a holding pattern it can’t really afford right now. Speaking to Protocol, Phil Harrison, head of Stadia, had this to say:
The big strategic difference is that over the next few months you will be able to experience Stadia for free. No money down, without having to put a box in your home, you can just click and play amazing games straight from our data center.
While that is exciting to think about, the fact of the matter is we should have Stadia Base in the next few weeks, not the next few months. While I think Google needs more games in the queue before any of the internal issues will get ironed out, Stadia’s free-to-play base would surely give the service an uptick in overall players. Sadly, it seems this will now get pushed out to sometime in the next few months, and that is troubling.
The main reason for concern in my mind is GeForce NOW and the promised web player that is coming. When that launches, I’d assume it will be up to par with what Stadia is offering, and that will be trouble for Google’s gaming platform. At that point, who’s to say how many games will be on offer from Stadia, if more Android devices will be usable with the service, and whether or not the draw of a free-play structure will lure more players.
On the flip side, GeForce NOW is already available on nearly every Android device, all Windows devices, and MacOS as well. Add in the web player and you pull Chrome OS into the fray and only iOS/iPadOS is left out. The service is totally free for an hour a day or $5/day for better access and 6-hour play sessions (their Founders level): currently on offer for 90 days for free upon signup. Add to this massive reach the ability to play your existing games on Steam, Epic Games Store, Battle.net, or Uplay against the PC competition and player base that is already available and thriving.
From that perspective, it really feels like Stadia has very little wiggle room for error at this stage in the game. When a competitor that delivers on so many fronts costs very little and comes packed with features your service still desperately lacks, the time is terrible for delaying anything. Stadia pushing their base tier back a few months may not sound like a big deal, but it already feels a bit like the air has been sucked out of the room, and NVidia is the vacuum. What happens when Microsoft, Amazon, and Sony bring their services to the field? I think it could be a hard row to hoe for Google.