According to Google, eventually, streaming will replace consoles entirely.
Google thinks streaming is the future of gaming—that’s one reason why, when it revealed its new platform, it made sure to confirm and reiterate multiple times that it is streaming-only. There is no console, no local hardware—this is all gaming done in the cloud.
This future of gaming is, according to Google VP Phil Harrison, “inevitable”. It is also irreversible—speaking to GamesIndustry, Harrison said that the Stadia starts a transition away from consoles, and emphasizes that Google will never release a console, and stick to the cloud.
“We are absolutely firm that we are not, will not, and will never release a console,” he said.
“For the last 40 years of games, the industry has been device-centric. As a developer, I build for a device. It’s been package-centric — I either ship the game on a disc or a cassette tape or a cartridge or increasingly now I download that package. But it’s still that mental model of a package for a thing. As of 10am yesterday, we just broke through that glass ceiling and said to developers, ‘The internet is your store and the network and the data centre is your platform.’
“I think that’s a really exciting moment for the industry. The whole world isn’t going to shift to that new model overnight, and it will take time for us to realise every aspect of the promise. But it’s a fundamental and, I passionately believe, an inevitable and one-way direction that the industry is moving.”
My take on this is rather similar to Microsoft’s—streaming will be important in the future. For many, it will be their primary, if not only, way to consume major, high quality games. That’s how it is with TV, music, and movies, after all, and games aren’t different. But I don’t think there will ever be a point in time where streaming displaces and replaces consoles, PCs, and even mobiles and handhelds, completely and entirely. There are far too many limitations for that to happen.
So while I think Harrison is right that Stadia represents a next step, it’s not the only next step either.