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E3 2019: The cloud is gaming’s new frontier

The details of Google’s Stadia platform which were released ahead of this year’s E3, set the scene for another instalment of gaming’s biggest gathering. Here are some of the key things we took away from the conference.

Rob Dagwell, Blogger

July 2, 2019

5 Min Read

The details of Google’s Stadia platform which were released ahead of this year’s E3,  set the scene for another instalment of gaming’s biggest gathering. Alongside cameos from Hollywood A listers such as Keanu Reeves, Jack Black and entrepreneur Elon Musk, E3 2019 gave us all a brief glimpse into the future of the industry.

This year, we saw Fornite bring its Battle Royale to life – Battle Bus included – and cinematic trailers that had us salivating about the upcoming Avengers title, Halo Infinite, and the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 to name just a few. In addition to that there were the much vaunted announcements about new super-charged consoles and cross-platform cloud gaming.

The Bidstack team headed out to L.A. for this year’s event and here are some of the key things we took away from the conference:

1. Stadia will open up gaming to a new audience

Stadia’s early announcement at E3 ensured that Google dominated the buzz for a lot of this year’s event, and allowed them to beat Microsoft to the punch when it came to cloud-based innovation. The move towards cloud gaming is a huge leap forward that will enable players to instantly stream high-fidelity video games across devices, with the weight of processing handled by servers. Although Stadia is not slated for release until November, it is highly anticipated by a lot of the gaming community – including us – as they’ve already signed up two of the titles we work with for the initial launch (Codemasters’ GRID and Sports Interactive’s Football Manager)!

Google are attempting to position themselves as the ‘Netflix of gaming’ and their pricing seems to echo that thought process. It’s available as a subscription for £8.99 per month which will offer a selection of games and 4K storage and there will also be a free version that has fewer games and 1080p gaming quality.

Speculation about the potential effect on game sales and hardware revenue is growing, especially with Loot Boxes appearing to be under threat. However, Stadia’s vast scope should offer opportunity for innovative, alternative revenue streams such as in-game advertising. In addition to opening up high-quality gaming to a wider audience, the platform will support multiplayer sessions and give gamers the ability to instantly stream live play on YouTube. This could be game changing for advertisers who will be able to achieve much greater reach: amplifying their messages among players, their followers, and online gaming communities.

2. Hollywood comes calling

With the industry experiencing rapid expansion — now worth $152.1bn; more than film and music combined — it’s no surprise gaming is attracting high-profile attention. Multiple A-list stars were at E3 to announce ventures into the gaming world; notably Keanu Reeves unveiling his role in Cyberpunk 2077 and Jon Bernthal revealing his involvement in Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Big names are also playing a key role behind the scenes too, with Jack Black making an appearance to discuss his YouTube channel, Jablinski Games, and Elon Musk joining Todd Howard to discuss Telsa’s plans to feature in-car gaming. These Hollywood crossovers show the sector has moved firmly into the mainstream and won’t be moving over anytime soon. Looking ahead, we can expect rising celebrity interest to fuel more hype and sales for gaming, and an increasingly close bond between film, TV, and games. 

3. Microsoft is stepping it up

Microsoft took full advantage of Sony’s decision not to appear at E3 by claiming their share of the limelight. The teasers for Project Scarlett, the next-generation Xbox console had tongues wagging although the finer details were limited. Their new console is billed as being four times more powerful than its predecessor and will come with 8K resolution, ray-tracing capability and an SSD that will drastically reduce load times. The assumption is that the set up will be geared towards the upcoming xCloud streaming service which we’ll be watching with interest. 

Another upcoming project: Game Pass signalled an intriguing entry into PC gaming from Microsoft. This will also be available for a set monthly fee and will give pass holders the freedom to download and play an array of games through PC and mobile, as well as Xbox, for the first time. It’s a clear step towards increased cross-platform flexibility – and shows a determination to rival Stadia. Game Pass represents further advances for player choice, gaming scale, and advertising exposure. 

4. Netflix makes its debut

Last but not least was Netflix making a splash by showcasing their upcoming Stranger Things 3 game, which will accompany the new series when it launches in July. Excitingly there are indications greater gaming exploits are on the horizon. According to Chris Lee, Netflix’s director of interactive games, references to original content in established games – such as the Scoops Ahoy Parlour in Fornite  – are a taste of partnerships that will enable Netflix to extend the shelf life of their best-performing shows. 

The soaring number of new entrants and mounting celebrity involvement are testament to the gaming sphere's continually building strength. But the core takeaway from E3 is the sector's future direction of travel: the cloud. By removing barriers to play, cloud-centric services are removing barriers to play and making gaming accessible to all. For developers, the next task is to seize the opportunities this change will create. Far from restricting revenue, we believe it will drive higher income from larger subscription audiences – and by supplementing yield with compelling advertising they can make the most of the new, broader gaming frontier. 

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