On 19 March, Google announced its brand-new gaming streaming platform which they see as an industry-changing service which realigns the way that people game. The Google Stadia isn’t a console, but it will battle in the console space by offering streaming access to games traditionally played on console through its service, which can also include a specialised Google Stadia controller.
In the following week, Apple made a big announcement of its own. Apple will launch its own game streaming platform, Apple Arcade, which will give users of Apple devices – from handsets to Macs – access to a wide range of what would be seen as premium games in comparison to the mostly ‘freemium’ offering currently in the Apple App Store.
Details about both streaming services are somewhat fleeting at this stage, but we do know that both are expected to land in the second half of 2019. But which service will be better?
Stadia VS Arcade
Apple Arcade will have 100+ new and exclusive games ($$$$) and your subscription lets you get all of them. No ads, no in-app purchases.— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) March 25, 2019
No price yet, but I mobile gamers will definitely be into this.
Also is Google Stadia already taking notes? 😅 pic.twitter.com/gPvDjm6s5o
Apple revealed their Apple Arcade in a similarly grandiose way to Google a mere week after the Stadia was announced, leading to many seeing this as a war within the new sector of game streaming.
With two gargantuan companies like Google and Apple going toe to toe in a new space of gaming, the understandable question is which will be better: hinting to a potential platform streaming war akin to that of the ever-waged console war between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, as well as the new PC launcher war between Valve and Epic.
However, as far as the limited information has led us to believe, Apple and Google will be competing for very different areas of the gaming market. Apple Arcade will be a subscription service for Apple users to download and play a wide range of Apple-exclusive games. This leads us to believe that the glut of the offering will be built with mobile and tablet devices in mind, as well as some more advanced creations for Mac users. Google, on the other hand, hail their creation as a “play anywhere” platform which is compatible with computers, mobile phones, smart televisions, tablets, and via the controller, displayed through the use of a Chromecast on any applicable television.
This puts Apple into the slightly larger $70.2 billion portion of the global games market, compared to what Google will most likely be aiming for, which is the 49%, $67.5 billion portion of PC and console gamers. There will be some crossover with computer gamers, some of which will be Mac users, and some mobile games, but equally, Google may be creating its very own new space of “any platform streaming” to take a chunk of the market from the mobile half and the traditional computer/console half. Despite their different offerings and approaches, this will still be seen as a war between the two first game streaming platforms.
The idea behind the Apple Arcade is that the Apple App Store has inadvertently become the biggest gaming platform in the world, but due to the ocean of free-to-play titles with a freemium model, developers who create truly entertaining and exciting games on mobile who charge a fee often get overlooked. Many still see mobile gaming as an inferior medium and are very hesitant to pay cash up front to play a mobile game – but are more than willing to buy into freemium tactics. So, Apple Arcade will offer a platform for these developers who are trying to push the boundaries of mobile gaming, covering their upfront costs in the form of a subscription service model. Games confirmed for the Apple Arcade so far include Frogger in Toy Town, Sonic Racing – not to be confused with the upcoming console release, Team Sonic Racing – Spidersaurus, and LEGO Brawls. The Google Stadia seeks to remove the current state of friction in the gaming – primarily the console gaming – space, but offering near-instant access to games after purchase or as a part of the subscription. The case with many triple-A console games now – bar the majority of Nintendo first-party games – players must endure a lengthy download and update process before they can get stuck into their new game. As the Google Stadia is streaming the games, all that’s required is a strong internet connection to get started. The games confirmed for the service so far include Doom Eternal and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. But Google also sees the world of gaming as trending far more towards an even split of gaming being both for players and viewers, so they’ve created the Google Stadia to be a convergence of viewership and gaming, giving the ability to watch a game and then quickly switch to playing the game while also integrating elements such as posing challenges to those viewing your gaming to beat you.
Do Gamers Even Want A Subscription Service?
At the Google Stadia reveal, it was announced that triple-A game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey will be one of the games available through the service, likely to demonstrate that the service is powerful enough to stream massive games.
The almighty success of subscription streaming services in other mediums, such as Netflix in video and Spotify in music, is undeniable, so the natural progression for gaming, in the eyes of an onlooker, would be to commit to a similar form of subscription streaming service. In theory, this would deliver convenient gaming whenever needed and at a monthly or weekly price which gives access to many games at a price which is likely lower than the cost of one game to purchase and own outright.
The primary concern with a subscription streaming service is that players will be paying a fee each month to gain access to a library of games, many of which they’ll never play. On top of this, when they stop paying the subscription fee, they’ll lose access to all the games they would have been able to continue playing through a regular sign-up, anytime access service or regular purchase model. For as long as players want to play a game, they’ll have to continue to pay the subscription fee, which will hurt the more casual gamers who can maybe only spare a few hours a week to play a massive open-world game, but end up paying far more than the standard RRP if they wish to complete the game.
An established form of game streaming service which has proven to be popular with gamers online is that of the online casino. Similar to the upcoming game streaming services, an online casino like 888casino will offer a huge range of games, with slot machines titles like Starburst, Aztec Realm, Rumble Rhino as well as the new Game of Thrones and Wild Worlds, but instead of charging a monthly, weekly, or sign-up subscription fee, these gaming platforms operate on a pay-as-you-play format, meaning that gamers only pay to play the games they want. The choice of slot games is gargantuan on the platform, as the section is ever popular and is updated regularly with new titles, meaning that players still have a huge choice of games, but they don’t need to pay for the games that they aren’t interested in or end up overpaying due to a lack of gaming activity in a set week or month.
There are, of course, other restrictions to the subscription streaming services. With the Apple Arcade, you can download the games so that they can be played offline, which may impact those with limited capacity on their device as these exclusive games are expected to be of a higher quality than your run-of-the-mill App Store game. Equally, it is unknown if you will still be able to play the downloaded Apple Arcade games after ending your subscription – one would assume not. With the Google Stadia, internet connectivity demands are a particularly pressing issue, particularly in the UK. It was found that the average internet speed in the UK is 18.57 Mbps, ranked 35th in the world, but the average optimal speed for the Stadia service will be somewhere between 25 and 30 Mbps.
To latch on, not only will these game subscription services need libraries akin to other streaming services that gamers are used to on platforms like the online casino, but they’ll also need to make their offering desirable to all if they wish to take the industry by storm.
The Art Of Exclusivity
In the console wars, the PlayStation 4’s impeccable range of console exclusive games, such as God of War, Spider-Man, and The Last of Us, has allowed the console to blast beyond the Xbox One, which has had very few exciting exclusives to its name in the years since its launch. But upgrades to the Xbox console and the introduction of the Nintendo Switch and its unique gaming range have kept the level of competition high in the sector. In computer gaming, Valve’s free-to-use PC launcher finally has a competitor, the Epic Game Store. Epic, also deploying a free-to-use PC launcher, have decided to take the tyrant Steam head on by paying developers a better split of sales and landing big-name third-party games as exclusives.
An image taken from the Google Stadia reveal that shows how the tech is already competing with the recognised names of console gaming.
The Apple Arcade will most likely be focusing on creating games specifically designed for mostly mobile Apple devices, which will, for the most part, keep them in battle with just Android users as opposed to competing with console and most computer platforms. The Google Stadia, as shown by their reveal presenting the Stadia as boasting 4.7 more teraflops than the Xbox One X and 6.5 more teraflops than the PS4 Pro, is taking on consoles. They have stated that Google is working on creating its own specialised games for the service to enhance its appeal – as all platforms do – but if Google Stadia goes down the route of the Epic Game Store by making exclusive deals with third-party games, there will be an uproar from the gaming community. There’s already dispute in the PC launcher war, and that’s with free-to-use software. If gamers are forced to go with Stadia to play highly anticipated games traditionally set for consoles and computer launchers but made exclusive by Google, the revolution may come to a grinding halt.
Apple Arcade represents an evolution of Apple as a gaming service after the unplanned success of gaming across Apple devices that may help to validate the platform of mobile and Apple gaming in the eyes of the gaming community. It’s a natural progression that should benefit developers of better mobile and Mac games as well as draw avid mobile gamers away from Android and to Apple. The Google Stadia, however, may be looking to disrupt the current console and computer gaming scene. As it stands the demands of the service may be too great for many to use it, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from gaming, it’s that competition only makes the industry a better place for developers and gamers.