Becoming a success in the world of video gaming is a lot more complicated than it used to be for the people who make hardware. Back in the 1990s, it used to be as simple as making a great console or platform to play games on and convincing people to buy it. Developers would then make games for your new platform, everybody would make money, and you’d be very happy. In the 2020s, there are far more things to consider. It’s not enough for a platform to be good – it also has to be cool. To become ‘cool’ in a video gaming context, you have to be popular with streamers. Google knows this, and it’s now looking to harness the marketing power of streamers to supports its Google Stadia gaming platform as it moves into its second year of operations.
For those who haven’t tried the new format yet, Stadia is an attempt to cut console manufacturers out of the deal when it comes to playing new games. Rather than needing end users to have gaming hardware in their homes (a console, for example), games are played on hardware owned by Google and streamed across the internet in real-time to players wherever they might be in the world. It’s an idea that’s worked well for online slots websites. Gone are the days where you needed to put on your best tuxedo or dress to hit the town and play casino games. Slots UK website allows you to play them from home wearing anything you like – or nothing at all, if that’s how the mood takes you! Because online slots websites are constrained only by bandwidth, they can pack several hundred online slots into the same place for players to interact with as they please. Physical casinos can’t compete, and so they’ve fallen a step behind. Google hopes that Stadia will one day do the same to Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and everyone else who makes consoles.
Streaming is how players engage with Google Stadia, but the company hopes that streaming will also be the way that more people hear about the platform and decide to give it a try. Google, which is in the fortunate position of owning the world’s largest streaming platform in the shape of YouTube, has finally decided to put two and two together and allow players to live-stream their games to YouTube for the entertainment of gaming enthusiasts. This new piece of functionality was announced on December 7th and went live on December 8th, and so by the time you read this, you should already be able to do it if you have a Stadia account. If the idea proves to be popular, there could be millions of viewers watching people play the latest Stadia games in a few days’ time – but there’s more to this change in approach than just allowing people to watch. Google wants people to join in.
Because both YouTube and Stadia belong to Google, the company has been able to mesh both products together and allow streamers greater interactivity than they’d have if they were playing through Twitch or any of the other platforms. The stream’s host can invite players to come and play games with them through YouTube, and if viewers accept the invitation, they’ll be brought straight into Stadia without leaving the YouTube stream. Pop-up adverts on YouTube for Stadia games will allow viewers to start playing games instantly with one click so long as they’ve registered for a Stadia account or have the app already. With the press of one button on the Stadia controller, streamers can start, stop, or pause a stream without having to do anything complicated with their computers. It’s hard to imagine anything more convenient. It’s also hard to imagine that Twitch, which has come to pride itself on being the home of video game streamers, sees any of this as good news. A little competition is always healthy, but a competition in which your biggest opponent appears to hold all of the aces is less so.
The popularity of streamers might be surprising to anybody who doesn’t watch other people playing video games online. While not everyone who attempts to set themself up as a professional gamer is a success – far from it, in fact – those who do manage to succeed attract astonishing numbers of followers. During a time when television viewing figures are dropping across the board, there are sometimes more people watching gaming streams than there are watching prime time television. Twitch, as we said earlier, is the most popular streaming platform and the place where most people currently go to see people play the latest games. A user named Tfue until recently had the most popular channel on there, with just over seven million viewers. Shroud is in second place with just over six and a half million. The most popular game streamer of all time is Richard Tyler Blevins, better known as “Ninja,” who famously left Twitch to sign an exclusive deal with Mixer at the end of 2019 but returned to Twitch in September 2020 when Mixer folded. He turned down an offer of over twenty million dollars from Facebook in the process of doing so. At last count, he had more than fifteen million subscribers.
This feels like it could be a pivotal moment in Stadia’s history. The platform has already had an unexpected boost in late 2020 because both Sony and Microsoft are struggling to fulfill orders for their next-generation consoles, meaning that an increasing number of players are turning to Stadia to get their hands on the latest games. If Google can take the maximum advantage from its new popularity and also build on that popularity by expanding across YouTube and finding new players there, too, it might be on its way to capturing a significant share of the market as we head into 2021. The idea of streaming video games without hardware seemed a little too far ahead of its time to catch on when Google went live with the service in 2019, but could 2021 be the year that idea comes of age? It just might, and ideas like this could be the reason why.
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