COMMENT: Karl Puschmann takes a look at Google's push for the future of gaming
For almost 40 years videogaming hasn't changed much. At its core you buy a box, plug that box into your telly and play games through the box. This box might say PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo but they all do the same thing and all sit in the same place underneath your telly.
Google wants to change that. The search giant has just announced a bold power move into the lucrative - but risky - world of gaming. What they want to do will alter the future of gaming. If they can pull it off.
Google has all the money and all the resources but they still fail a lot. Anyone remember Google Wave, or Google + or Google Hangouts? That's just a few products Google's put in their great Recycle bin in the sky.
Coincidentally, this is also their pitch for the future of gaming. Not the recycle bin, obviously, but rather the sky. That's right, Google wants gaming to go to the cloud, baby!
Come November they'll launch Stadia, which is not an artificial sweetener but is a cloud based, subscription model, streaming videogame platform.
The sales pitch is that Stadia works on any screen you happen to have in front of you. So your telly, computer monitor, laptop, tablet or phone are all fair game. If it works - which is a big if - you'll no longer need to shell out $600 for a gaming box to play big blockbuster game franchises like Doom, Mortal Kombat, Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider or Assassin's Creed.
Instead, you'll just plug a cheap Google Chromecast Ultra into the back of your TV or, alternatively, log into the service on Google's Chrome browser and that's it. You're good to game.
This might not sound like that big a deal but it has the potential to be a massive democratisation of the gaming landscape. Google are essentially removing the expensive barrier to entry. Chromecasts are very cheap, but if the budget doesn't stretch to one the Chrome browser is free. And you can't get any cheaper than that.
But where one wall crumbles another is built and that's in the form of the subscription model. Again, Stadia will have a free option. This has lower specs than the premium - 1080p resolution and stereo sound instead of 4k and 5.1 sound - which for most people, myself included, will be totally fine.
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The real incentive for forking out the US$9.99 ($15.20) a month sub would be the 'free' games you'll get "regularly", staring with the blockbuster shooter Destiny 2 . This is standard stuff, as the big three Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft all offer similar deals. But again, you'll need their expensive box under your telly for that to mean anything.
There's long been talk of creating Netflix or Spotify for games and although this sounds like it could be, it's not really. Unlike those streaming services your monthly sub won't grant you access to every new release game or curated back catalogue classic going.
We imagine any game coming from Google's inhouse game studios will be free for premium subscribers, but banish the idea of playing, say, the new Ghost Recon for next to nothing. Instead, there's a discount on purchase. How much? Dunno. Google's not talking turkey yet.
Another interesting crinkle is Google's 'Come sub, come all' approach. As well as their own subs, Stadia will also work with subs from other game companies like EA and Ubisoft. If you play a lot of games those are pretty good deals, but it does make Stadia a little more complicated than perhaps it needed to be for the average person. And does rub some shine off.
It's a little like paying for Netflix but then also paying for a separate subscription to be able to watch stuff from the various movie studios or TV companies as well.
Being cloud based means no more discs, which some will huzzah and some will boo, but does mean that the biggest concern is internet access and speed. Gaming is demanding so you'll need a speedy connection and an unlimited data plan. And even then, a rogue internet drop out or momentarily dip in speed will be enough to derail your game. For the immediate future at least Stadia will not be a commutable option. Nintendo's Switch is still the best place for big gaming on the go.
But these are problems of the now and Google is clearly building this thing for the future. Speeds will get faster and data will flow freerer.
So, if you thought Facebook and Twitter were distractions at work imagine being able to simply open a new tab on your computer and sneak in some quality Doom time. It's a lot more tempting than that Excel spreadsheet...
Come November you won't need to imagine. Game on.