Activision Blizzard, don’t screw up our cloud gaming future

As promising as cloud gaming seems with services like Stadia and GeForce Now, it was only a matter of time before a game studio came along and screwed it up. This week, Activision Blizzard, the makers of hit games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch, decided to restrict its entire catalog from being playable on GeForce Now, seemingly reminding cloud gamers that developers dislike them. Angry about it? Yeah, so am I…

Greed over gamers?

For small game studios, cloud gaming is a great asset. Developers get to leverage powerful platforms like Stadia and GeForce Now to design games that simply weren’t possible years ago, then use that same service to sell those games to players. Everyone from the studios to the cloud service providers gets their cut of the sales, and players get to enjoy their new game on any device/service they want. It’s a win-win-win.

Large game developers with huge catalogs of games, however, see this win-win-win and ask themselves how they can win even bigger. Unlike the little guys, publishing houses like Activision Blizzard have enough cash (and greed) that they could technically cut out cloud gaming providers in favor of their own hack-job services — subscription-based “solutions” that encourage players to pay monthly fees to access each studio’s full catalog of games on in-house cloud gaming servers.

Sounds fun, right? Not by a long shot.

A dystopian future for cloud gaming

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On the cusp of the cloud gaming revolution, the future of gaming looked to be in great hands with Stadia, GeForce Now, and Project xCloud. Yet, despite the fact that having games accessible on these cloud-based services takes virtually nothing away from game studios, it stands to reason that publishers could make a ton more money building their own streaming services, complete with a monthly subscription fee and all sorts of data-capturing analytics.

If you don’t think that could happen, ask Netflix and Hulu. There was once a time when Disney content could be found on these popular streaming platforms, and everyone was happy. Then Disney decided they could rake in more cash by making their content only available on their own service. So they pulled their catalog from other platforms, built Disney+, and watched the dough roll in.

Now imagine a fragmented world brimming with cloud gaming platforms operated by different publishing houses who are all asking for your money in exchange to rent their games — this could be where large game studios go next. Outside of consoles, PCs, and even existing cloud services like Stadia and GeForce Now, users would no longer have unlimited access to the content they purchase. Publishers would control game availability behind recurring paywalls with an iron fist.

This, of course, completely undermines the entire concept of cloud gaming and its ubiquitous playing proposition.

Some reprieve

Luckily, there is a bit of hope when it comes to studios branching out on their own.

Stadia and GeForce Now are built from years of research, development, and innovation. A successful cloud platform hinges on operating a large server infrastructure packed with custom hardware — something that game studios simply don’t have right now. There is a big possibility that any short-term attempts by a studio to replicate these services would be met with shoddy performance, making them unfeasible for some time.

Speculation

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All of this is not to say that Activision Blizzard is definitely building its own cloud gaming service. The company has yet to release a statement on why it pulled its catalog from GeForce Now, leading to plenty of speculation as to what the studio is actually up to. One theory is that the new deal penned between Activision and Google could make Stadia the exclusive cloud gaming platform of its games.

As a Stadia supporter, I can unequivocally say that game exclusivity isn’t the answer either. I wouldn’t want to be forced to choose Stadia over GeForce Now, just like GeForce Now players don’t want to be forced to choose Stadia. An ideal network of cloud gaming platforms should offer all the games that players want so that gamers can choose the platform that best suits them.

Write to Activision Blizzard

Developers may build the games we love, but it’s up to gamers to tell them which platforms we want to play on. Write to Activision Blizzard or send them a tweet and demand they return their games to GeForce Now — and while they’re at it, bring them to Stadia, too! The cloud gaming community will thank you.

Source: PC Gamer