The world of games streaming has grown exponentially throughout 2019, with Google, Microsoft, Sony and Nvidia all throwing their weight about the ring in preparation for a market that is only going to get bigger in the coming months and years.
With the release of Google Stadia on the horizon, Microsoft used its X019 event in London this week to cement the intentions of Project xCloud – arguably wiping the floor with its competitors in the process.
A lacking launch selection and a range of missing features have left fans fretting over Stadia, while xCloud has introduced a larger number of games alongside a range of platforms it will roll out to in 2020. The future could be bright for both, but right now, the waters are looking muddy.
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Winner: Microsoft blows fans away with X019 event in London
This week was huge for Xbox – with Microsoft descending on London to hold its annual celebration of fans and games while unleashing a flurry of announcements that arguably redefined how it will approach occasions like this going forward. Major figures from the company including Phil Spencer, Major Nelson and Matt Booty were present to showcase a variety of upcoming games – many of which we’d never seen before.
Grounded, a new survival game from Obsidian Entertainment was unveiled alongside Everwild – a brand new IP from Rare. Tell Me Why was our personal highlight. The new IP from the creators of Life is Strange and Remember Me is a narrative adventure starring a pair of twins who must confront a childhood of beloved yet painful memories. It also stars a transgender protagonist, which isn’t something you see in blockbusters very often.
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Other announcements including a bunch of titles coming to Xbox Game Pass, including the likes of Yakuza, The Witcher 3 and pretty much every Final Fantasy game on the planet. Microsoft is starting to take Japanese developers far more seriously, and we can’t wait to see where that relationship leads. Project xCloud was arguably the show’s highlight, especially in light of Stadia’s imminent launch. Final Fantasy 14 is also in the works for Xbox, which came as a huge surprise.
Yesterday, Microsoft announced that a staggering 50 games are now available on Project xCloud’s preview programme, upping the previous total of five by a pretty significant margin. Combine that with its arrival on PC and other devices and the ability to access your own library of games in 2020 and it already has a significant headstart. Microsoft is considering xCloud as a companion to consoles instead of replacing them entirely, which is working wonders for fan perception.
Losers: Google Stadia flounders ahead of next week’s launch
Google Stadia is finally set to launch on November 19, and the reaction across the gaming community has been undeniably muted. The technology itself has so much potential and could hold the medium’s future in its hands, but its rollout has been fraught with missing features, last minute changes and a selection of launch games that simply fail to impress – yes, even if you’re a huge fan of Just Dance 2020.
The platform is also missing a handful of features many were expecting to arrive at launch – leaving many worrying that it’s coming in hot, with Google desperately trying to scrape something together in just a matter of weeks. We could be panicking over nothing, but lacking the ability to share saved data between accounts, use Chromecast Ultra to stream to displays or use the controller via Bluetooth or WiFi are glaring omissions. They’re coming shortly after release, but it feels strange that they’re absent at all.
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Stream Connect, a proper achievement interface and support for 4K resolutions, HDR and 60fps outside of Chromecast Ultra are also lacking until a future update is implemented. When this will be is unclear, although Google has said they’re working as fast as possible to make them a reality. Oh, and pre-orders have also proven a slight kerfuffle. The Founders and Premiere Edition have both sold out, and those with processing orders aren’t guarenteed to receive them on release.
In the face of Project xCloud, which is now available in preview on a variety of mobile devices and shows no signs of slowing down its selection of games, Google Stadia just feels clumsy. We’re confident this will change once it’s out in the wild and over its teething problems, with the likes of Borderlands 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 in the works for the service, but what we’ve got right now isn’t a good look.