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Why Consumers Should be Cautiously Optimistic Toward Google’s Stadia

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Google Stadia

In the past few months, global technology giant Google has teased its entry into the gaming industry, leaving many questioning the viability of a fourth gaming platform. For some time now, cloud gaming rumors have been floating around, thus pointing to the future of home entertainment. However, current technology has always remained a roadblock to this reality. This is not to say the technology does not exist, rather, its barrier to entry and survival lies within the home of the average consumer. Google aims to resolve all of these issues with its newly announced Stadia: a streaming service set to surpass the competition by allowing for a new and more efficient way to play.

Although Microsoft believes cloud gaming will be the future of the industry, Google seeks to make that future a modern reality. By using its proprietary groundbreaking technology, Google believes it has resolved most issues plaguing the ideology by carrying the burden on themselves. The specifications that Stadia is marketing will easily surpass current console hardware and seriously rival the top of the line, luxury PC graphics cards. Perhaps what is most impressive, however, is that Google aims to have the consumer experience all of this tech with minimal barriers to entry.

According to Google, Stadia will usher in a new age of gaming; one that requires less from the consumer, while rewarding them with more. During its reveal, Stadia was advertised as being able to stream games in 4K at 60 frames per second all with HDR enabled. These claims provide some of the highest fidelity within the industry to most consumers, and all that Google requires to do this is a stable internet connection of no more than 30 Mbps.

Right out of the gate, Google seeks to solve the main issue plaguing cloud gaming by carrying the primary work load on its end, and simply feeding the results to consumer hardware. Due to this design, Google guarantees the experience will be of high quality thanks to the 10.7 teraflops the server-end hardware equates to. To provide a better understanding of how powerful Google is proclaiming this service is, the PS4 Pro possesses around four teraflops and the Xbox One X around six.

Computing power aside, another issue residing within the ideology surrounding cloud gaming is controller and input latency. Once again, Google believes that it has found a solution in the Stadia controller. To avoid input latency, Google’s controller is connected directly to the data center, which establishes a stronger link than if it were connected to hardware first. Additionally, the gamepad will also possess a Google Assistant button, which can provide aid for gaming related questions, such as tips and walkthroughs.

Although Stadia’s technology is an impressive feat, Google desires to reshape the industry in more ways than just specifications. Beyond dispute is the fact that the gaming industry has evolved over recent years to be as much of a spectacle as it is a hobby. YouTube has provided a platform for individuals to showcase their talents and create a name for themselves within the industry as influencers or game changers. Through Stadia, Google aims to bring content creators, and those who consume it closer together. By providing a link under a video on YouTube, content creators can encourage viewers to join their game.

As previously stated, cloud gaming is the future of the industry, and technology is rapidly approaching that goal. Furthermore, if one company is to successfully implement cloud gaming, it is Google. The company’s financial security blanket and technological prowess will allow it to take a leap of faith on the subject of cloud gaming and survive whether it is successful or not.

On paper, Google’s streaming service sounds truly groundbreaking and capable of creating a greater next generation gaming experience than anticipated from Sony and Microsoft. By having gaming tech overlaid on YouTube, consumers will be able to seamlessly jump into an experience that they were only watching moments prior. This effect is achieved by feeding the visual aspect of the experience directly to the consumer web browser without having to run any hardware and deal with the drawbacks of aging technology.

The problem stemming from this dream-to-reality experience resides in consistency and usability. The success of Stadia does not rely on Google’s ability to deliver on its promises of powerful specifications and performance; rather, its success relies on factors that cannot necessarily be controlled by Google once the technology is out in the wild.

Even though Google’s barrier to entry for this service is reasonably low, it does not account for ISP practices that seek to disrupt the flow of connection and service to consumers. An argument can be made that if a consumer purchases a slow internet package, then they are doing so out of choice or necessity. This argument, along with Google’s success story becomes weak when held against instances where stable connection is out of consumer control.

Therefore, promising a groundbreaking experience such as Stadia falters when another factor is added into the equation: it is no longer consumer and product, but now consumer, overseer, and product. On typical gaming hardware, once the product is purchased the consumer has free reign as to how much they can consume at a single time. By converting to streaming, the consumer can only appreciate the product so long as the stability of their internet remains in their favour.

Given the tech outlined during the Stadia reveal, consumers throughout the gaming industry should feel excited and optimistic towards the future that is swiftly approaching. Google has provided an alternative to conventional gaming by using its own hardware instead of requiring the consumer to continuously purchase a new one. This shift will likely shake up the industry and encourage platform holders to innovate and adapt going forward, at the risk of falling behind in the race.

In contrast to this, however, consumers need to educate themselves on the reasons why cloud gaming has not found success despite numerous attempts. Google’s advances toward alleviating the issues of latency and streaming quality found in every attempt prior will no doubt find them success. Even so, the modern age has yet to adopt the consistent internet connections the Stadia needs. If YouTube needs to buffer for one minute to play a 30 second advertisement, then how long will the buffer be for a two-hour gaming session?

It should be stated that these discrepancies are only based off the reveal of Stadia and could change by the time a full release comes around. Regardless of Google’s advancements toward making cloud gaming a viable option, the cautious optimism presented here is warranted by the variability surrounding user experiences. Google assures Stadia will launch some time during 2019, and consumers can expect more news surrounding its tech and studio support going forward.

If one thing is to ne taken away from Google’s presentation, it is that the company has done everything in its power to ensure that Stadia, and cloud gaming for that matter, are successful on its end – and any negativity that awaits a cloud gaming future is solely that of the consumers.

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E3 2019

Gender and Race Representation at E3 2019

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E3 2019 Diversity (Deathloop, Wolfenstein Youngblood, Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order)

Despite making up around half of the gaming population, women remain underrepresented in video games. More Hispanic and Black people refer to themselves as “gamers” than white people, yet minorities remain a rarity in modern titles. E3, which recently came to a close for another year, is gaming’s largest annual event, demonstrating the interests of the industry. Therefore, the statistics from E3 are a fairly accurate representation of the industry as a whole. OnlySP has broken down five of the main conferences from E3 2019 to see how each publisher represents women and people of colour in the games showcased, as well as their presenters.

Some of the shows from the event—the PC Gaming Show, Kinda Funny Games Showcase, EA Play, and the Devolver Digital Big Fancy Press Conference—have been excluded. Previously released games receiving updates or trailers at the event, such as Fallout 76 or Final Fantasy XIV Online, were also excluded from the statistics.

Each conference is broken down into seven categories for gender:

  • Male: where the game features only a male protagonist (Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order)
  • Female: where the game features only a female protagonist (Wolfenstein: Youngblood)
  • Player Choice: where the game allows a fully customisable character (The Outer Worlds)
  • Both: where the game allows the player to control both a male and female character, but not customise their preference (Marvel’s Avengers)
  • Ambiguous: where the protagonist’s gender is unclear (Ori and the Will of the Wisps)
  • None: where the game does not feature a gendered character, including racing games (Microsoft Flight Simulator)
  • Unknown: where the game’s protagonist is yet to be revealed (Elden Ring)

The last five categories are repeated for race within games; protagonists whose race is evident are identified as such.

Microsoft

E3 Chart - Microsoft 2

Microsoft kicked off the main press conferences this year with far more games than the conferences to follow. Out of a total of 29 applicable games, almost a third featured only male protagonists. Thankfully, female representation is not totally out of the question—with 24% of Microsoft’s games allowing full character customisation and 10% featuring both male and female protagonists—but only three games with a sole female protagonist is a disappointing statistic.

Unfortunately, representation among the presenters at Microsoft’s conference does not inspire much hope either, with two of nine being women (one of whom appeared alongside a man). This is sadly representative of the company as a whole, with women making up only 26.6 percent of Microsoft’s employees.

In terms of race representation within its games, Microsoft is not achieving great results. While nine of the games showcased featured Caucasian protagonists, only one had an African-American lead. Thankfully, at least, Microsoft is still allowing the player to decide the race of their character in 21% of its games. Microsoft’s presenters were also mostly white—mostly American, with two Brits, one Canadian, and an Australian—with only one African-American presenter.

While Microsoft’s representation at E3 is better than most of the conferences that followed, it still has a long way to go.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Microsoft

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Microsoft’s conference.

Bethesda

E3 Chart - Bethesda 2

Bethesda’s conference was short on new titles this year, with only six upcoming games showcased, but it had the strongest showing in terms of character representation. Only one of the six titles—Doom Eternal—featured a single male protagonist, and, that aside, the game is shaping up to be something special.

Both of the upcoming Wolfenstein games—Youngblood and Cyberpilot—feature female protagonists, and while two female-centric games is not a hugely impressive statistic, as an overall indicator it is quite impressive when compared to Bethesda’s other games. Two of the six games—Commander Keen and Deathloop—allow the player to select between a pre-determined male or female character; and in the case of Deathloop, both characters are African-American, so Bethesda’s representation expands beyond gender. However, only one title with a confirmed non-white character is not a very impressive statistic.

The same praise cannot be applied to the presenters of Bethesda’s conference, either; only two of the 17 presenters were female—one of whom has become a bit of an icon following the show. Of the 17 presenters, more than half were American, with only two Japanese presenters, two French, one Swedish, and one Puerto Rican–American. Considering Bethesda’s support of women and minorities in the past, seeing such little representation among its staff is a disappointing statistic.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Bethesda

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Bethesda’s conference.

Ubisoft

E3 Chart - Ubisoft 2

In regard to giving the player choice, Ubisoft easily beats the competition, with three of its eight new titles featuring full character customisation and two allowing the player to select between a male and female character. Diversity of representation, however, ends there; Ubisoft did not showcase a single female-led video game during its E3 showcase this year. Of the three games allowing character customisation, two—Rainbow Six Quarantine and Roller Champions—are multiplayer games; and of the two allowing both male and female, one is Watch Dogs Legion, which lets players choose between dozens of characters in their operation. Whether or not such a concept will lead to positive representation is yet to be seen. While no games from Ubisoft star an African-American in the leading role, hopefully the developer can achieve positive diversity by taking notes from its 2017 title Watch Dogs 2.

For its presenters, Ubisoft is better than its competition, with females making up four of the conference’s 14 on-stage personalities, but that statistic is still disappointing. If 29% is the best that the industry can do, it still has a long way to go in the years to come.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Ubisoft

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Ubisoft’s conference.

Square Enix

E3 Chart - Square Enix 2

Square Enix may have had the most disappointing press conference this year in regard to gender representation. Of its 14 games, not a single had only a female protagonist, while over half centred around males. To the publisher’s credit, several of these games feature, in some segments, playable female characters, but to have so many male-centric games without a single sole female protagonist is incredibly disappointing.

Thankfully, five games shown at Square Enix’s conference allow the player to select between a male or female. However, even in some of these games, representation is not entirely clear—only one of the five main playable characters in Marvel’s Avengers, for example, is female, as is only one of the three in Outriders.

Unfortunately, the disappointment of diversity is only exemplified with the conference’s presenters. Only one of the show’s nine presenters was female, with her appearance taking place at the very end of the show alongside a male presenter. Square Enix has a long way to go with its female representation.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Square Enix

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Square Enix’s conference.

Nintendo

E3 Chart - Nintendo 2

Historically, Nintendo is not known for strong female characters—Princess Peach is the figurehead for the damsel-in-distress trope—but it has made strides in this area with strong characters such as Zelda in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Unfortunately, none of these characters have been allowed to represent their own video game, constantly being shadowed by the male protagonist.

While six of the 17 new Nintendo games shown during its Direct this year featured male protagonists, not a single game featured a female protagonist. With three games allowing full customisation and six giving the choice between male and female, not all hope is lost with Nintendo, but diverse representation is better than customised representation. Being forced to take on different perspectives—as females must do when playing 35% of Nintendo’s games—is more beneficial to the player than choosing to play as an undefined character.

Nintendo only had three presenters during its presentation—deputy general manager Yoshiaki Koizumi, president of Nintendo of America Doug Bowser, and general manager Shinya Takahashi—but seeing some more representation of its female staff (as it does rather well during its Nintendo Treehouse live stream later in the show) would be encouraging.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Nintendo

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Nintendo’s conference.


Overall

As a whole, E3 2019 was rather disappointing. While a third of the games showcased at the five conferences above featured only male protagonists, only 7% featured female protagonists. While developers are improving in regard to player choice—allowing either full customisation or the selection of a male or female character—diverse representation is a necessity moving forward, and the industry needs to look at improving.

Presenters Demographic

Demographics of presenters at the five conferences during E3 2019.

In terms of race representation, the statistics are even more abysmal. While an Americanised show is expected due to the location of E3, some diversity would be appreciated; with over half of the presenters being American, the companies are failing to demonstrate their diverse talent. The same can be said about the games; as seen below, 27% of protagonists in games are Caucasian, while 3% (only two games) feature African-Americans as lead characters. As aforementioned, developers are seeing improvement in allowing players to customise or select their characters, but specified diversity is a change that the industry requires.

E3 Chart - Games Demographics

Demographics of protagonists in the games showcased at the five conferences during E3 2019.

The industry has a long way to go.

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