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The Death of the Console: Videogame Streaming Services Taking Over

cloud based game streaming services

It's much like Bill Paxton said in Twister: "It's already here."

I've been geeking out lately over cloud-based game streaming services such as Google Stadia, GeForce Now, and Microsoft's XCloud. I actually prefer them over having consoles for numerous reasons, even though consoles do have their advantages.

Here, I'll take a look at advantages and disadvantages over cloud-based game streaming services--a more overall approach instead of an individual look, mostly because I haven't had time to look at all of them in-depth. However, a lot of what's touched on here is biased towards Google Stadia.

In the age of livestreaming videogames, it's only a matter of time before consoles disappear. Here's my reasoning why:

Why Cloud-Based Game Streaming Services Will Win

In the mid-90s, people often lined up outside of storefronts on release day to get consoles. I mean, why not? Each of them boasted incredibly powerful hardware contained in a compact enclosure for a fraction of the original price of the hardware.

There's a bittersweet aspect to consoles, however, which is that they're horribly expensive for companies. Yep, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo lose money on consoles.

It's only reasonable that the corporations shuffle towards cloud-based game streaming services since the long-term investments are favorable to corporations. No big-box merchandise to sell, no games to ship or package. It's a matter of setting up the servers and letting players in.

Phil Spencer even admitted that Amazon and Google are Microsoft's competition. It's just that the technology is still in infancy and not trusted heavily.

But...all this sounds familiar. Where have we heard this before?

cloud based game streaming services

Oh yeah.

My Argument for Stadia, GeForce Now, and XCloud

I like a lot of simplicity. You might be fooled with the setup I have at home with wires everywhere and a complicated streaming configuration, but ultimately it's very easy to play a game on any console via any screen on my computer.

However, what I absolutely abhor is to have a massive physical library of games sitting in my living room. Rather than fumbling with discs in their respective cases, I'd prefer having one single digital interface where I can swap between games with a few button hits.

Stadia provides that. GeForce now uses a bit of a clunkier interface and is more geared towards people who want to play their PC-based games elsewhere. I personally haven't tried XCloud, but no doubt it performs in a similar fashion.

Plus, there's the possibility of loss/theft, damaged discs, and other factors I'd prefer not to live with. And that doesn't even approach consoles themselves.

Some people are absolute die-hard fans of certain franchises, and so exclusives can be a bit of a pain. Who wants to drop several hundred dollars on a console when you could just pay a small monthly fee?

So consider this: if you're not able to choose between a console and a cloud-based game streaming service, here's a breakdown.

Google Stadia Pro is 10 dollars a month. That gets you free games and discounts on others. That's a console you can take anywhere.

In the span of 3 years and 4 months, you basically paid the same price as a full console. And that doesn't include the free games and discounts received over time.

Now will Stadia Pro cost the same over that span of time? Admittedly, no. But the caveat to that is the service will improve over time. Google's launch event specified that the service will eventually see 8K resolution. When that will launch we aren't certain, but an 8K console will probably be incredibly expensive.

Consoles are Hardware and Can Fail

It's rare that I've ever had a console die on me--I sold my working NES in 2009--but it's happened before. Even now, my PS4's fan is struggling to keep the system cool with years of dust and dirt buildup (I may crack it open soon, it's obviously out of warranty). 

But the simple truth is that consoles won't last forever. Cloud-based game streaming services will eventually outlast them. Even though technology will develop to be more reliable--we've seen that lately with solid-state hard drives outlasting a lot of platter hard drives--it doesn't hold a candle towards an entire soft-console. 

Arguments Against Cloud-Based Gaming

I get it. I understand the arguments behind consoles, discs, physical merchandise, etc.
With streaming services, we aren't actually owning anything. We can't simply let a friend borrow a game if we want, and the nostalgia of gaming conventions with old merchandise packaged in pristine condition will eventually wither away.

And there's the physical aspect of consoles in general--opening one up on Christmas morning, unpacking it (that was ALWAYS the first thing I did), peeling off the plastic, and plugging in the massive power adapter--that nice feeling won't be around much longer.

These are feelings left behind due to the advances in technology that adhere more to convenience than nostalgia and technology over tactile feedback.

In addition to that, there's also a concern if the games you "purchase" will still be available if you decide not to opt in to the service. This differs among the cloud gaming services, but if a gamer decides to drop his 10-dollar Pro sub with Stadia, do the games disappear too?

Input Lag

Plenty of videos online demonstrate the input lag for services like Stadia. That's a definite concern, especially among time-sensitive games where winning or losing is often a matter of milliseconds. 

I'm sure that won't fly well with esports professionals who rely on those small increments of time. However, I feel input lag is possibly the weakest argument against cloud-based gaming services because, like anything, it'll get better over time.

In a Nutshell

So yeah, I get it. I understand the arguments against Stadia, GeForce Now, XCloud, others. But personally I'd rather not meddle with discs or expensive hardware that has a shelf life. 

I'm going to stick to what I consider to be the future of gaming. It's online. See you there.

If you're interested in reading more, check out my post on an extensive guide to streaming video games. Or check out the twitch stream live at Noon PST on weekends.

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