The annual Game Developers Conference is nearing its end in San Francisco and it was a week defined by the emergence of new platforms and services. Google's Stadia certainly cast the biggest shadow, but Epic and Steam continued their battle with news about redesigns and exclusives.
Google Stadia's Grand, Mysterious, Entrance
Starting with Google, all eyes were on the search engine company to see what big news they'd be coming out with during one of the biggest weeks for video game development. Google previously tested a streaming service that allowed users to play Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Odyssey through the Google Chrome browser.
While some leaks about a controller stirred rumors that Google could be working on a physical console as well, it turns out the news was largely what everyone predicted it would be. Google Stadia is a new streaming service that let users play games directly through their browsers and even through YouTube videos. And hey, there was even a physical Google controller.
Reactions to the Google Stadia announcement were largely mixed from both players and developers. Potential customers had questions mostly related to usability. How much data would Stadia require to stream a game? What kind of internet speeds would be required to get games to work properly on peoples' browsers? And how would Google deal with the United States' lacking internet infrastructure?
Google largely sidestepped these questions and kept quiet about other details including possible titles coming to Stadia. Google told USG that the requirements and restrictions on games through Stadia will be similar to existing ones on YouTube videos, but that's hardly specifics. And while Google announced Jade Raymond as head of its new entertainment and games division, not a lot of actual video game titles were revealed for Stadia.
Developers we spoke to this week had many of the same questions as players. But it's clear that streaming is a new arena for companies, publishers, and developers. We know Google and Microsoft are exploring the video game streaming space, and we reported that Walmart is also exploring video game streaming technology. Even if Google's Stadia doesn't revolutionize the industry, this is clearly a market the biggest tech companies are looking into.
Epic vs. Steam at GDC 2019
Meanwhile, Epic and Steam continued their tête-à-tête. Epic announced a new broadside of exclusives coming to the Epic Games Store including Remedy's Control and Obsidian's highly-anticipated The Outer Worlds. These titles join previously released exclusives like Metro Exodus and The Division 2.
Steam announced an upcoming redesign with a heavier emphasis on events coming to a specific title in your Steam Library. Steam also announced access to its private servers for game developers, protecting their online game data from DDOS attacks and prying eyes. This is a similar service offered to developers on the Epic Games Store.
Both Epic and Steam are working to promote their respective digital storefronts. As the newer platform, Epic still has ground to cover in order to catch up to Steam, but according to Epic's own roadmap features like user reviews will eventually be coming to the Epic Games Store. After all, Epic says it can't rely on exclusives forever.
The March to Unionization Continues
Another narrative at this year’s GDC is the subject of unions for professionals working in the video game industry. The conversation around unionization began at last year’s GDC and continued into 2019. During the GDC Choice Awards, host Tim Schaffer made several jokes centered around the importance of unions and made a call for further unionization by game developers.
Furthermore, there were four panels centered around unionization including panels hosted by local union representatives and roundtables for developers and professionals to further discuss unionization among peers. A week at GDC may not be enough to fully unionize a field as large as the video game industry, but it’s clear that the topic remains a priority for developers both currently working and wishing to join the game industry.
Vampire the Masquerade Rides Again
GDC is mainly a convention for game developers, filled with panels and talks about tools and technological advancements to help with the art of making games. As a result, there aren't too many big, public game reveals. But this year Paradox finally ended months of speculation and rumors by announcing Vampire the Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, the long-awaited sequel to the cult gothic RPG.
Bloodlines 2 was teased through a fictional dating app called "Tender" as far back as a month ago. While there were rumors that Paradox and Hardsuit were working on something Vampire the Masquerade related, not a lot of people saw a full-blown sequel coming. We got a chance to get an early look at Vampire the Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 which you can read on the site.
New Technologies, but No New Answers
This year's GDC began with plenty of excitement over Google's Stadia announcement. But without a lot of concrete answers following the reveal, developers, players, and the media were left still wanting. We know Google will be revealing more details before the official Stadia launch sometime in 2019.
In the meantime, GDC was largely a stage for ongoing narratives within the video game industry in 2019. Epic and Steam are centerstage as both Sony and Microsoft set the stage for their still largely mysterious next-generation plans. We expect to see these narratives continue as we move past GDC 2019 and into E3 2019, which we will be covering in June.