With Google Stadia re-introducing the idea of cloud streaming to the gaming public, Microsoft and Sony have been flexing the muscles of their xCloud and PSNow services respectively. Google has been doing some interesting things with scaling compute models for their instances, but they face some major challenges as well.
Microsoft announced today that 1,900 games are currently in development for the xCloud service with 3,500 games already ready to be streamed. Phil Spencer has even mentioned that he is partaking in a very early Alpha version of xCloud enabling him to play Xbox games on the go from mobile, laptop, or other platforms. Preparation for the eventual roll-out of xCloud is well underway with servers already in Azure data-centers in 13 regions.
Sony launched their own Nintendo-Direct style broadcasting last month and although the first episode was underwhelming for many due to its indie / VR focus, the second entry has done well to make up for that. The pre-recorded show essentially compiled brand new trailers from a handful of PlayStation 4 games into a 10 minute presentation. Overall, they’ve done a good job at showing what’s coming up for PS4 owners in wake of all the PlayStation 5 headlines we’ve seen Sony engineer Mark Cerny generating lately.
A title announced at Bethesda E3 2018 which took many by surprise and showed promise was The Elder Scrolls: Blades. Pitched as a “pure Elder Scrolls game” by Todd Howard on stage, this is the latest major iPhone / Android game production which scales up in quality on consoles as well as PC Gaming platforms like Epic Games Store, GOG, and Steam. There was also some amount of cross-platform interaction being attempted. At the core of this game there are also town building, elements, item acquiring, and collecting junk / chests full of random loot which must be upgraded by tier through in-game currency.
Wait times are leveraged against gamers as well, with players able to skip through huge grinds built into the game through buying chests of higher value than the game is willing to give out just for playing.
Bethesda has released repair kits and improved repair kits for semi-persistent online game Fallout 76 which restore the condition of weapons and armor to 100 and 150 percent durable for in-game currency called Atoms which can be purchased or earned in-game for free. Pete Hines has described the practice as essentially no big deal, claiming it’s not pay to win by some technicality we have yet to be explained, and pointing at “loot crates” as the real enemy. However, fans of Fallout 76 find the addition of this item has affected the balance of the game’s PvP elements and gameplay integrity overall.
Information from Beta testers of “Project Yeti” which is Stadia’s internal code-name at Google has allegedly been leaked through broadcast personality TheQuartering regarding some of the unanswered questions Google left hanging for the service regarding pricing and more. We’ve even got some very surprising inklings of what the games lineup may look like.
At GDC 2019 the world saw its first reveal of Stadia, a new cloud compute / video game streaming platform being launched by Google some time this year featuring low latency gameplay with 1080p 60 frames per second for 15 – 25mbps internet connections and up to 4K HDR at 60 frames per second for higher bandwidth users. While many have been skeptical of this service, Google has produced the science behind how it’s worked hard to make the previously impossible a soon-to-come reality. However, there are still a lot of questions left unanswered – particularly pricing.
Furthermore there is some speculation surrounding the games lineup for the new service as partnerships have been vaguely teased between the Unreal Engine, Unity Engine, and third party developers with little info on who exactly is working on Stadia projects and what titles gamers should expect at launch. Beyond the Project Stream testing which was done last winter with Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey we are mainly given id Software’s presentation of Doom Eternal for Stadia as a reference point for their incoming lineup.
That being said, an alleged leak has surfaced from the aftermath of GDC 2019 naming the next Call of Duty as a potential launch title for the service. Jade Raymond and Amy Hennig are also said to be hard at work on exciting new projects for Google which will hopefully become Stadia games we can be thankful for after the tumultuous events the two visionaries have been seen going through in recent history under the mismanagement of EA Games.
In an upcoming teaser for GDC 2019, the Game Developers Conference trade show / expo which annually consists of a 5 day gathering for the game industry’s best and brightest, it has been revealed that Microsoft will bring Xbox Live to the Nintendo Switch as well as mobile platforms. This was confirmed by Microsoft who has also recently brought their voice assistant AI Cortana to Amazon’s smart speaker and smart home line of products as a downloadable Alexa skill. These two moves are significant on their own but also signal a greater long-term strategy which could change the face of Xbox gaming forever.
A sequel to Super Mario Maker is coming to the Nintendo Switch! Just like in the original, players make their own Super Mario levels using a wide variety of user-friendly tools featuring segments and objects from across the Mario series.
Slope tools, vertical levels, custom level scrolling, a Super Mario 3D World graphics layer, and many more fan-requested features have been added to this sequel which may also increase the discoverability of levels.
Bioware’s future is indeed in jeopardy as many have feared. While the gameplay engine and graphics of Anthem should sell for an instant success the title has struggled to ship units since its release on Xbox One, PS4, and PC February 22, 2019. Sales of this title could be very important for the studio’s survival as subsidiaries of EA Games have historically been closed down after just one flop at times.
According to the NPD via EA, Anthem has sold 50% of Mass Effect Andromeda’s physical launch sales and around 25% of Destiny’s digital sales. The numbers also indicate that Kingdom Hearts 3 and Resident Evil 2 sold much higher in their opening weekends. The next Dragon Age title which was teased recently will need to rise to meet the demand from shareholders to keep Bioware’s relationship with EA Games alive.