Get into Google's Stadia game service for free

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I tried it earlier and while free is great and it worked fine. I’m not sure I’m the target audience. I have video game consoles and a gaming PC I’d pick that over this service.

That said what is the target for this service? Gamers who don’t have gaming equipment but have a controller laying around and a decent internet connection doesn’t seem like a good base for Google to build off of.

If you try it, and like it, more power to you, but I’m just going to leave these here (profanity warning):

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The pitch seems exclusively to be based around 4k gaming at high refresh with ray tracing without having to buy an expensive PC that’s barely capable of it on new games. Same with the other cloud gaming service.

The desire for that in the first place is pretty niche. And the people I’ve seen most excited about it are console owners who are very concerned about biggest fastest hardest. The sort who believe PC gaming is too expensive, because unless your running everything at the absolute theoretical max settings you’re being deprived of something.

Which is a niche of a niche of a niche. With broadband in major markets where it’s at, I don’t see them getting a broad base that might wanna play some games. But doesn’t want to deal with equipment. I just don’t think enough of the worlds major markets have the connections neccisary, distributed enough for it to work.


They’re not the only ones doing it. I think a lot of companies believe that the era of consoles is coming to an end, so whoever can win this battle now, regardless of current demand, will own the future of gaming. And I suspect they are right. How many households’ only computer is now a phone?

This actually describes me pretty well. I have the best internet service I can manage in my area and happened to get a bluetooth SteelSeries game controller for xmas.

I’ve been out of gaming for a decade or two and the quarantine has me trying to figure out where to find an entry point that won’t cost me hundreds of dollars.

Anyone have a suggestion for a game to get started with? I’m not a big strategy fan where I have to spend a lot of time building up resources. After all I’m from the 80’s where our gaming resources were quarters.

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Good question: I’m such a casual gamer these days I have the sense I’d get nothing out of any of the games on offer, and I’m certainly not going to fork over $70 or whatever it is these days for a new title that requires teen-cyborg reflexes and full-time commitment. Basically on Minecraft and Civ V right now, which my piddly laptop can handle. Got Riven from GOG, but just can’t string together enough time to actually attack it in a serious fashion.

Penny Arcade


Yeah, really. I didn’t understand it before, but it was even less understandable to me now that I know that the initial fees they have gotten rid of if you play via PC - for the Chromecast device, controller and set-up fee - amounted to $130. Add in the $10 a month for the service itself, and it’s getting into console gaming costs, except you have to keep paying to keep your games.

If they can pivot to be more of a “Netflix for games,” that’s another thing entirely.


What were you playing back then?

Duke Nukem (2? 3?) Drawing a total blank… A bunch of different network based FPSs. Carmageddon
I was never a very serious gamer and as I was starting to get into it more I had some kids.

I was thinking of some kind of game where I could explore the world with the occasional FPS mayhem.


To let you know how long I’ve been out of it, I can say that Borderlands is basically an FPS version of Diablo. Maybe that’s available? Elder Scrolls is kind of a First Person Slasher with lots of exploring (full disclosure, haven’t played since Oblivion).

No COVID-19 deals, but there apparently also this:

Ars Technica gave them better reviews, but since their strong showing publishers have been stepping in to prevent their titles being used (kind of nuts, since often these are games you already paid for).

Almost makes you wish for the days of physical media.

Oh FFS! Stadia doesn’t support wireless controllers

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Even stranger is Nvidia’s approach. Their system only allows you to stream games you already own the PC version of through a 3rd party digital store.

Which only makes a lick of sense if you plan to launch a store. But they’re going with a monthly fee (though it’s a free beta right now).

What’s worse is they neglected to negotiate with certain devs and publishers to host certain games. And in other cases apparently never followed up with major publishers and devs who agreed to participate in the test period. Leading to the bulk of available, popular titles being pulled just as the beta expanded and they keyed up to launch the full version.

So it’s basically what Steam already allows you to do, but from the cloud rather than your PC. Sans the very useful digital store. And they clearly don’t know enough about media licensing to handle it. Producers clearly don’t like what they’re seeing, and rather than lining up they’re fleeing.

It’s all quite strange. The major consoles are already doing a sort of Netflix for games with limited sets of titles available as part of monthly online fees. But in more sensible download it fashion.

Steam and most digital stores are already sorta doing that with their various free week/weekends for select games. And Epic with their regular free copies of stuff (GOG also does that but much less agressively). But for free, to foster sales in the digital store front.

The whole cloud gaming thing in aggregate looks a lot like a bunch of tech companies trying to thread the needle. They want something that won’t technically compete with existing stores or consoles. Won’t require them to give much money to game companies. But will let them step in to replace consoles when that’s a thing.

So basically standard disruption. A solution that doesn’t work, to a problem that doesn’t exist. In service of fucking some one else out of money.

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I’ve been watching the Nvidia trainwreck, as publisher after publisher pulled games from their service. Publishers get itchy if someone starts running unlicensed copies of their games on servers, regardless of the situation, and Nvidia should have known that.

Humble with their Humble Monthly service, etc. too. Though they aren’t exactly like Netflix (nor are the game giveaways, which outside Epic’s store, are usually about promoting the latest game in a series).

Which is the bit that makes it not-like-Netflix. The significant thing, to me, is that the Netflix model represents a different kind of revenue model. Not a sale (which, anything with a download really is), but something more like a rental. The game industry has only had one revenue model until recently - selling games - compared to the movie industry that similarly started out with only ticket sales, but now has home video sales, video-on-demand, tv and now streaming broadcast revenue, which are the vast majority of their revenue.

Games (and the studios that make them) have entirely lived or died based on early sales, and although the tail for sales has gotten a lot longer (in the early days, if a game didn’t sell, it was gone within a few weeks), only real-money-transactions and subscriptions to online games have added to revenue streams. And those aren’t so much additional revenue streams as alternative ones, since games have to be designed around them.

Publishers would like to have an additional revenue stream from streaming games, but they don’t want it to cut into sales, so it can’t be games that are too new, too popular or too attractively priced. (Ideally they’d love to entirely replace game sales with zero-piracy streaming alternatives with similar revenue, but it’s not yet viable for numerous reasons.)

Netflix allows downloads for offline viewing. It’s not a persistent portable copy. Just local files for replay through the Netflix app when you don’t have a reliable connection, or to mitigate data caps. This is how things like Xbox game pass work. Some shit is always on the service, some of it is limited time. When it’s no longer part of the package the files go away, and you can no longer play/watch just as you can no longer stream it.

There have been multiple past attempts at a literal “Netflix for games” that all used that approach. With the consoles seems like it’s mostly back catalog and first party stuff that’s persistent, with new releases rotating in and out. Downloads have been a necessary approach given broadband penetration and home internet speeds. And there are very good reason to use it even as connections improve. The major reason to stream games is to offload the rendering/processing work to a different piece of equipment.

Which is only necessary if you don’t have equipment.

Netflix is kinda an old revenue model. Specifically syndication and cable TV. Netflix either produces it’s own material, or licenses existing material. Then distributes it via it’s publication venue. I this case a web site. Traditionally a cable network. Netflix makes it’s nut collecting subscription fees (just like HBO), and pays a fixed fee schedule to licensees.

It’s a new distribution vector, an additional one through the internet. The console’s subscription systems work the same way. You pay a fixed monthly fee, and get access to play any game currently on the service. You aren’t purchasing single games, or getting ownership of set of games forever. For your money you get to play what is on the service, when it is on the service, however long it’s on the service.

In terms of new distribution, and how that might work for the games business. Doing that outside of an extant console system gives you access to all those people without equipment. Those who can’t afford or don’t want to bother with it.

Unfortunately those people also tend to be the people who don’t have unmetered, reliable, high speed internet. Because they can’t afford it, or because it doesn’t exist near them.

Yes and no. There’s some validity there. But you also have things like merch, licensed spin offs. Even movie and TV companies seldom make their money just off the piece of media. Or even off that media at all, for stuff like kid’s TV shows (especially in the 80’s). Blizzard/Activision has probably made more off World of Warcraft novels than most reality TV shows make in their entire distribution cycle.

Additionally the tail for sales back in the day wasn’t neccisarily that short. Console games in particular often stayed on shelves for years, and sold persistently. PC games there was a pretty rigid system of price drops and reprintings. Followed by a “gold” or “game of the year” re-release about 2 years out for anything remotely successful. There was also the expansion pack thing for PC, which could keep things going for a number of years.

But if you look at the 90’s, just as an example, the best selling game in a given year would move something like a million copies. It was a much, much smaller market at the time.

One thing that I think get’s over looked is costs and price. Standard price for a newly released game has always been about $60. If you average out across platforms and generations.

$60 in 1995 dollars is $101.85 now. The cost of a game has nearly halved, even as costs and scale have gone up astronomically. It routinely costs a quarter of a billion dollars or more to launch a AAA title. As much as a tent pole blockbuster. But there are lot more of them.

And as you hit on there’s a lack of ancillary distribution. Unlike a movie where you can sell people multiple tickets, then rent them a copy, then sell them physical copies, then get it up on streaming services and premium channels. Then run it on syndication for years through a devolving series of basic cable, broadcast, and finally local affiliate stations and international markets in the developing world.

With games you sell some one one copy. Then you need to produce another one if you want to get more dollars out of them.

Digital distribution has already added some legs to this. Since you don’t need to produce physical runs and try to sell them through you can exploit old IP persistently just by listing it. Sales, free play periods, relatively cheap compatibility updates are especially good for this.

Getting that material up on some sort of subscription service, to get them syndication dollars would fit very nicely with that. And that’s mostly what the console subscription services are about.

But the publishers/devs aren’t going to get involved if they can’t get some money for that old IP. And such a service is not going to have much luck attracting people off having a deep catalog of outdated material. They’ll need the latest and greatest releases for that. The producers will be willing to trade some of that sales revenue on the new shit, if the money is there on the back catalog.

And that’s likely where Nvidia’s problem lies, and at least some of the issue with Stadia and the others. You tell everyone who will listen that you’re going to replace the primary revenue stream with something that pays less. Rather than add a new one. And then the back end of it doesn’t pay enough on the older stuff where any exploitation is good. Content producers are better off selling a million copies at a dollar during a Steam sale than they are getting half a cent a user from millions of users.

It doesn’t actually solve their problem. And the base idea isn’t compelling or practical enough to attract enough user so companies have to play ball.

The working examples are from Xbox and Sony. Who both produce and publish material themselves. So they have their own compelling, desirable content to attract people. And a walled garden machine to tie it into. So they have that leverage on user base.

Netflix ran into that same issue. Without any of their own content, when the money from streaming became good enough. Content producers began to pull their material, because they wanted a bigger piece of the pie and could get a better deal elsewhere. Netflix had to respond by producing it’s own content.

Now that content is the primary reason to have Netflix. Not their selection of last year’s movies and 20 year old TV.

(Sorry that’s so long. Short on sleep and I kinda got lost).

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I bought into Stadia before it even came out. $135 for the device, if I recall. Come the release date, and there were connectivity issues That made it unplayable. That, and there were only a half dozen games to play (or not play, as it were). I think it was in February that they told me that I was going to have to pay $9.95 a month for the Pro account that I decided not to. There were only 20 games available to play last time I checked, and none of them held any interest.

The thing about Netflix is you can download, but the usual user experience is just turning on the TV and there it is. For games, that represents a significantly different experience when games, even those distributed on disk, have to have downloads and AAA games are getting in excess of 100 gigs. You can’t turn on a game, try it a bit, then switch to another new game.

(Also: not having anything to download makes games impossible to pirate without hacking a server, and if the games are built to run on highly idiosyncratic, highly specific server set-up, it could be very difficult to run them locally…)

Well yeah, but I meant that kind of revenue model is new for games. The all-you-can-eat for a monthly price thing. Of course, what we’re seeing with show streaming is content disappearing from Netflix and migrating to a million different competing services run by the various studios. I expect something similar for games, once this takes off - X dollars a month, but to play Ubisoft games only (with another subscription required for EA, another for Activision…).

Most games don’t have mechandise or spin-offs (whereas all theatrically released movies have various secondary revenue streams). I’m not sure how many games make significant amounts of money on merch and spin-offs that do have them - I suspect it’s largely the biggest selling games only that see significant revenue. Film and television are a lot more mass-market than all but a handful of games are, still. They can effectively exist as ads for merchandise, but for games it often works the other way around. I worked on a game that had a series of novels, high-end figurines (made by Weta workshop), etc. I’m pretty sure they were all money losers; certainly their intended function was for marketing, rather than revenue.

If they sold well, they did. Games that didn’t sell well were off the shelves. This created huge disparities in how well games did. A game that was successful would be a big hit, able to fund the development of a number of games. Games might only sell a million copies a year - but a game like Doom or Diablo could last long enough to sell 2 or 3 million copies. (Or six to nine million copies for the more extreme outliers.) Things aren’t that different now, for the most part (leaving aside the biggest games that get all the attention). It’s a bigger market but much more fragmented. The sales tail now works at all levels, though - one-person developers can release niche games that continue to provide a stream of revenue that might significantly increase years after release. (And yeah, a handful of monster hits like Minecraft or GTA V continue to sell copies such that sales increase exponentially over the years.)

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Most games seem to. It’s just that most games don’t get a lot of play out of it. As most TV, Movies and books don’t. There’s a dollar store some where with a bin full of Terra Firma figures. And I’m pretty sure you can get a sexy anime maquette featuring Candy Crush. And there are whole, complex continuities of licensed books and pen and paper games for some unexpected shit. Practically everything but indy games these days gets a licensed comic.

Games are a bit behind on this though. For blockbuster movies and certain types of TV there’s often more money in merch and ancillary stuff than the movie itself.

For all the money something like the Avengers makes there’s billions more in t-shirts, toys, officially licensed toasters.

Games outside of some exceptions it seems to be a little bonus. But some of the exceptions are unexpected. Dishonored has a huge ancillary presence that seems fairly invisible till you run across a fan wiki.

The operating word is “seem,” but that’s only because you’re not seeing most games, which are small and don’t have much visibility. Indie developers are doing more merch these days, but a lot of small and medium-sized developers still aren’t doing anything except maybe a print-your-own t-shirt on some service. Although a friend of mine is part of a small team working on a game that’s sold a million copies (plus a couple million expansions) and they don’t even have t-shirts. It’s not big enough for spin-offs, but it’s also more than successful enough that they don’t need the marketing, and they don’t want to waste the money spending time on other merch.

Again, it’s about scale of audience. Most games don’t have it. Candy Crush has hundreds of millions of players.