Another Friday and there are some bits of news wandering around the net that I want to mention, but really don’t want to get into a whole post about. So off we go.
- Google Stadia
Google’s game streaming subscription service, Google Stadia, got a November launch date. Just in time for Christmas, as they say.
The Founder’s Edition will run you $129 to get in and $9.99 a month thereafter. For that you get a controller, a dongle that hooks up to your TV, some “free” games thrown your way regularly, and support for up to 4K video. A Standard Edition is listed, but won’t be available until next year. The Standard Edition won’t have a monthly fee, but will only support up video up to 1080p.
There is a list of games that will be available at launch, though some items on the list are TBD. You, of course, have to buy the games and those purchases are locked to Google’s platform. But you can play them on your Google Pixel phone as well.
I have zero interest in this, so this might be the only time I mention it unless something goes horribly wrong or Google shuts it down. But what are the odds of that?
- Google Play Tightens Up
Meanwhile, in another department at Google, those in charge of the Google Play store have decided that maybe the whole “anything goes” strategy there isn’t working out. (Steam, are you listening?) The Google Play Store policies are being revised and targets include hate speech and sexual content. They are also requiring that titles with loot boxes disclose the odds of obtaining any particular item and they are instituting a minimum functionality metric for apps. While sexuality and hate speech are squishy topics, not easily defined, posting odds and requiring that stuff works sound good to me.
- Esports is a Money Pit
Kotaku has an article up reviewing esports and the companies that drive them. For all the talk of audience numbers (which turn out to be wildly inflated, that headline about League of Legends out performing the SuperBowl was largely because Twitch had the stream on the front page and counted everybody who landed there for any amount of time as a viewer), it seems that esports, even for the biggest names like Riot and League of Legends, is a money losing proposition. Expect more leagues to close down.
- Millennials Buy More Games
SuperData Research released a free report which you can download at their site about consumer spending patterns on video games. Or you can read a summary of it over at Venture Beat. The big headline carrying the report is that millennials, who are now young adults with jobs and careers and such, spend more money on them than older generations. Who would have guessed? Millennials spend more and prefer mobile as a platform.
- Baldur’s Gate III
There was some excitement as it was announced that a Baldur’s Gate III was in development. That got people a lot more worked up than I expect they ought to be. The original Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II were classics developed by BioWare, but that was back at the turn of the century. Remasters of both titles have been released on Steam, and somebody even did an additional expansion for the Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition remaster.
But all of that is more than a few steps away from some new team taking a crack at the franchise 20 years later. This new game is likely to be very different… it might not have the isometric point of view… and maybe it should be. But part of the reason it is getting announced now is because it will be on Google Stadia, which means it will have to support console controls, and I have not had a lot of good experiences with PC games that have their UI constrained by the need to be used solely with a controller. I have the remasters. If I want to relive the late 90s, I can do that just fine already.
- Whatever That Blizzard Game Was
It slipped out that Blizzard cancelled an in-development FPS based on the StarCraft franchise in order to focus more on Diablo IV and Overwatch 2.
But rather than headlines about Overwatch 2 or Diablo IV confirmed, there was a bunch of wailing and gnashing of teeth about Blizzard and mindless pining for a game that never was. Cancelling development on something in progress before it launches is a pretty normal thing in mature companies with multiple product lines. Hell, it should be seen as a normal thing for Blizzard. Remember Titan? How far back was StarCraft: Ghost?
I think that this stems from companies in the gaming industry, small studio start-ups that have everything invested in a single title, being our mental image of how video games are made. There are plenty of “ship or die” stories out there. But that doesn’t apply to companies like Blizzard. Meanwhile, if Blizzard doesn’t think the game is worth pursuing, pinning all your game play fantasies on it just because you like the idea of it sounds like a futile effort. So if you’re doing that you should probably start a blog.