gaming-consoleGoogle was in the headlines last week after being fined $1.69 billion by European regulators. But a lot of people missed what might be a far bigger story:  Google’s innovative Stadia platform may disrupt the gaming industry.

What is Stadia? It’s a new platform that enables players to stream games on practically any device. Let’s say you’re watching a promo video for a new game on YouTube and you want to play the game. All you need to do is click on a link at the end of the video and you can start playing the game. You don’t need a high-end PC or lots of fancy hardware.

“It can be used on any platform, such as smartphones, tablets, PC, and televisions by logging into your Google account. You can then stream games to any of these devices with the Chrome browser, without the need to download or install the game. You will also be able to start playing on one platform and then pick up later on another device,” writes Stephany Nunneley of VG24/7.

Naturally, not everyone is equally enthusiastic about Stadia. Vlad Savov of The Verge wonders if Google’s real strategy is protecting its investment in YouTube. 

“YouTube has a practical monopoly on user-generated video online … Everything from replays of competitive e-sport matches to complete play-throughs of narrative-driven games, game reviews, and curated anthologies of funny moments in games make their way onto YouTube. That’s the status quo, Google is the king. Amazon’s Twitch rules the live-streaming arena, but YouTube is ultimately the place where the vast majority of gaming-related video ends up,” writes Savov.

From Savov’s perspective, Google’s developed Stadia largely for defensive purposes. That might be partly true, but Google’s move definitely has disruptive power.

Why is Stadia potentially disruptive? Here’s the reason: Stadia’s technology is cloud based, and gaming is heading into the cloud. So it makes sense that Google would introduce a product that drives players into the cloud. As Savov correctly notes, “Google already has the cloud infrastructure that few — maybe none outside of Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure — can match.”

Google is playing to its strength, which is usually a winning strategy. And Google is forcing rival tech titans to compete on its territory, which in this case is YouTube. 

I am fascinated by this turn of events. Whether it’s truly a game-changer is hard to predict, but it surely signals a fresh round of competition in the gaming industry.