Without officially attending the event Google’s still-to-be-launched game streaming service was on everyone’s lips.
To say this year’s E3 was anything more than a holding pattern would be an understatement. With new consoles expected from all of the big three next year briefings were mostly limited to information and games we already knew about.
With no Sony to be seen and Nintendo being Nintendo, Microsoft had the opportunity to own the show. We knew there’d be more details around their new console, but more importantly it was a chance for the company to solidify themselves as leaders in video games cloud-streaming future.
The week before Google had a crack at beating them to the punch. The company held a virtual conference of their own, away from E3, which gave gamers their first insight into what to expect from the Stadia service.
The reception was tepid at best however. Despite offering free access, games would need to be purchased. The same applies to those paying for access via Stadia’s Pro subscription service too. The monthly fee instead unlocking higher resolution streaming and surround sound.
Microsoft’s Project xCloud on the other hand had been rumoured to take advantage of the very popular Xbox Game Pass. Doing so would instantly enable access to hundreds of titles easily streamed to any mobile device wherever you are and whenever you want.
Instead, in what little time was dedicated to it, Microsoft announced that xCloud would have 1000s of titles instead of hundreds and moved on. Later in Xbox platform updates held behind the closed door’s of LA’s Microsoft Theatre it would be clarified that 1000s is definitely correct because instead of requiring titles to be rewritten for the service they’d be streaming them from rack-mounted Xbox One S’s as we already knew. The consequence of the number means however, the likelihood they’re planning on replicating Stadia’s model in games being purchased and the newly announced Game Pass Ultimate to incorporate the service, whence it should arrive.
With nothing else shown to the public and a big fat “More details coming in the Fall” smacked in everyone’s face, Microsoft have defaulted their lead to the newer player. Stadia is new, Stadia is sexy, Stadia is Google entering gaming. xCloud, which is still just a placeholder title by the way, is seen Xbox. It’s another one after three re-releases and updates in as many years. Its second fiddle in the current gen of console wars and it threw away its golden opportunity to make a name for itself ahead of trials later this year.
To prove my point, whilst watching Ubisoft’s presentation the Stadia logo briefly appeared after announcing “Just Dance 2020”. Immediately I wrote down the game along with “Stadia” circled a few hundred times as it was the first time I’d seen it outwardly advertised by a publisher. It didn’t take long before it popped up on the screen again, and then again, and again.
Fast forward fifteen minutes and Ubi CEO, Yves Guillemot, is on stage announcing their latest partnership. An exclusive, in which Ubisoft will become the first major publisher to bring their entire catalogue over to the Google Stadia platform.
From there it was on for old and young. The Stadia logo was flashed across not only title screens at briefings but on banners and posters on the convention floor.
“Are there plans to bring it to Stadia?” was easily one of the most common questions I heard at behind-closed-door sessions. The name spread like wildfire as the days went on.
No one asked whether or not a title was coming to xCloud. There’s no point, they all are! If it works on an Xbox then it will via xCloud and there was no new logo to put on a poster to show that.
Right now it doesn’t matter which one is better. The public has no reference point and the majority of us wont for quite some time. New consoles are landing next holiday season that will dominate headlines and our attention but behind them the streaming services will ramp up before replacing them. And even with Stadia requiring games be modified specifically to run on their service Microsoft have squandered a winning lead before the race had even begun.
Say hello to the streaming wars. They’ve only just begun.