It probably doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me when I say that I’m excited about cloud gaming in a way I’ve not been excited about any consumer technology since the early days of iOS and Android.
Back then, I and (much more so) many other community members poured a lot of passion, time and energy into exploring, improving, supporting and helping shape the Android ecosystem – we picked a side and tried our best to help shape it. I strongly believe that both Android and iOS are better off for the energy people poured into these platforms.
The gaming community has, of course, been afflicted with toxic tribalism for decades. If you are disowning friends and family members based on their consumer choices, you’ve reached an unhealthy level. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let yourself be inspired and become passionate about technology.
Most of us are here in the cloud gaming community because platforms do, in fact, make a difference. They control where and how you can play, whether you can afford to play in the first place, the look and feel (and sound) of your living room, how you make, communicate and share experiences with friends, how you save your gaming memories and achievements, and what gaming experiences are possible in the first place.
I believe that cloud gaming has the potential to be more accessible to more people than ever before and to bring new engaging experiences to players that can’t be achieved without the power and utility of the cloud. Whether we reach that vision, I believe is up to the efforts of engineers and managers at major corporations, but also up to the community to help grow and shape those efforts.
After exploring multiple cloud gaming services out there, Stadia is the one that inspires me. Before release, the Stadia team presented a compelling vision of a cloud gaming platform that enables experiences simply not possible on local consoles – well beyond a simple remote-desktop experience for PC games. Stadia had a basic gaming platform SDK in place that was integrated into games at launch, with cloud centric features (stream-connect, crowd-play, crowd-choice, youtube integration, state share) rolling out regularly during the first year. My friends and family and I are having a blast on Friday nights in parties using all the integrated basic niceties and cloud APIs that Stadia has put in place.
It is also important to note that Stadia is helping solidify an open-source foundational software stack (based on Linux+Vulkan) for cloud gaming; something that has proved critical for scalability in other computing areas. There is a reason Linux is used in just about every one of the Top500 computer systems for example (https://www.top500.org/statistics/details/osfam/1/).
I want to contrast this picture with Amazon’s Luna, which, from what I’ve seen (which I admit may not be everything Amazon has in the pipeline), represents the very minimum amount of effort that can be put into a cloud gaming service from a platform perspective. As of now Luna is essentially a place in the cloud to dump completely un-platformed versions of Windows desktop games so the output can be streamed. There doesn’t appear to me to be even a basic Luna SDK in place to support things like achievements, friends, leaderboards, chat, global privacy and other settings. This definitely makes it easy to get games out (developers literally don’t have to do anything), but at a high cost! I didn’t end up wanting to invest any time in games on Luna if I couldn’t track my progress/achievements for example.
Can Luna add a platform later? Sure (and hopefully the cloud gaming community forces their hand), but with every game/channel released in this state, the precedent Luna is setting for their service gets worse, and, for now at least, I don’t see any clear platform vision.
So, I don’t mind saying, “I’m a Stadian.” I believe in the vision for Stadia. I don’t think it is perfect, but I believe cloud gaming (no matter who ends up winning) will be better 5-10 years from now under the influence of Stadia’s vision than something like Luna’s low-effort approach.
This isn’t a “war.” I’m happily friends with folks who like other platforms and, in fact, use other platforms myself (I used NVIDIA’s GeForce Now for many years and recently picked up a Nintendo Switch). But, I’m not platform agnostic either. I want to see Stadia’s vision take hold.