Google Stadia Chief Reveals What Will Be Its Most Game-Changing Feature

It's all part of a larger plan.

Stadia, Google’s cloud gaming service, has already challenged many of PC and console gaming’s most established conventions. But in a recent interview, the head of Stadia, Phil Harrison, indicated that bypassing expensive consoles and in-browser gaming is only step one in a much larger plan.

“Crowd Play” is already one of Stadia’s defining features. It will allow users to join certain games that are being streamed live on YouTube so they can play with friends and even their favorite online personalities. But in an interview with Gamespot, Harrison revealed that Crowd Play will be much more than a perk, it will be the driving force behind the development of future titles.

“I’m already having these conversations with teammates in some studios,” he said. “Historically, you [had] a game producer [build] the game. But now, some studios are very thoughtfully thinking about, well I need to augment that with somebody who understands the viewership experience.”

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YouTube viewers could request to play against their favorite streamers while they're broadcasting live by clicking the blue button at the bottom right-hand corner.

Story, game mechanics, and multiplayer aspects are only a few of the crucial components that go into creating a memorable game that flies off the shelf. Harrison predicts that once Stadia gets off the ground, developers will have to begin paying much closer attention to how a game will look to an audience on YouTube. In some ways, this is the company playing catch-up: Live streaming alone is a multibillion dollar industry, though most of that’s not going to Google.

Twitch is still the industry leader with about 1.76 million active streamers, according to a latest quarterly report by streaming tool developer Streamlabs. YouTube Gaming is in a distant second, with 755,00 active streamers in the fourth quarter of 2018. But Google hopes to close the gap with Stadia’s Crow Play feature.

Twitch and YouTube viewers are already willing to pay anywhere from a couple of bucks to hundreds of dollars to have their messages read by their favorite streamer. Stadia could enable streamers to host showdowns with their viewers, where fans would pay top dollar to play against the likes of Tyler “Ninja” Blevins or Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek. Harrison said he is prioritizing giving developers that are partnered with Stadia access to tools to make this happen.

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Stadia could change how stream viewers interact with streamers online and how games are fundamentally made.

“This idea that the memorable moments that become the shareable stories on YouTube, which then become the click and play jumping off points for other people to enjoy or engage with that game, are super valuable,” he said

Introducing this unique feature streaming to YouTube could coax avid Twitch streamers to switch platforms in order to be connected with fans at a deeper level (and, naturally, have the chance to monetize those deeper connections). But as it stands, Google has big aspirations with no clear deadlines.

Harrison reiterated that he will reveal more about Stadia by the summer. Perhaps, this next public appearance will reveal some more specifics about the first games to be designed with streaming at front of mind and when Crowd Play will be available to try.

Media via Google, Twitch