PR Assistant and keen gamer, Damien Horwood, discusses the recent Google Stadia news and speculates on how the new platform will affect the world of Influencer Marketing in the gaming industry.

Google. What springs to mind when you read that name? Search engines? Virtual Assistants? Google Maps, Drive, Ads, Analytics and practically every other internet-based service in the world? And now apparently video games. Google Stadia has dominated headlines recently with everyone dissecting what little information we have available. However, one area I’ve yet to see anyone consider is how Stadia will collide with the world of marketing. Will we see marketers using this new platform to promote their clients or different brands? But, mostly I’m surprised no one has discussed how Stadia will impact on the latest marketing craze; Influencer Marketing.

But first, a little background information.

What Is Google Stadia?

Google recently announced their latest venture would be to try and conquer the multi-billion pound industry. Although probably not in the way you’d expect. Because, after all, Google are innovators before anything else. So, when every other competitor in the industry is gearing up to the next generation of consoles, Google have gone console-less.

Announced at the 2019 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Google Stadia will instead be a cloud-based streaming service allowing gamers to play on any screen that supports Google Chrome. Streaming is a familiar concept, companies like Netflix and Spotify dominate the video and music streaming industries – and Sony the company behind PlayStation already offer a game streaming service with their PlayStation Now. The only reason game streaming has never really taken off is because of lag, a delay between when the player presses the controller and the game actually responding, a problem that Google believes it can tackle using its existing infrastructure of data centres and by connecting it’s controller directly to Wi-Fi.

What makes Stadia truly innovative however is the way Google are planning to integrate it with their other services, specifically YouTube. Every day more than 200-Million people watch game-related content on YouTube and, according to Google, Stadia will make those games playable with the press of a button.

This function will only allow users to make the transition from passive viewer to active player, and this is where things get interesting from a marketing perspective.


The Decline Of Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing has always played a role in the video game industry, with developers regularly sending out free copies of their games to YouTubers to promote or even inviting them into the studio to provide updates on their games and potentially allowing the YouTuber some hands on time with it, all of which eventually ends up on YouTube. It’s a formula that has worked for both influencer and game developers for years but now with the introduction of Stadia, it looks as if that balance is about to be disrupted.

Why? Because influencer marketing is all about mutual benefits. Influencers get products for free or get paid to promote them, while brands, or in this case game developers, get their product promoted. The problem with Stadia is that according to Google, every video on YouTube that relates to a game within Stadia’s library will feature a built in ‘Play Now’ button. This effectively turns every game-related video on YouTube into sponsored content for Stadia, and considering that in 2018 50 billion hours of gaming content was watched on YouTube, that’s a lot of free advertising for Stadia.

And how will the gaming influencers respond to their content effectively being hijacked? Perhaps the better question is will it matter how they respond? YouTube is Google’s service so they’re free to do whatever they want and whenever content is uploaded to YouTube, influencers are agreeing to Google’s terms. There is always the possibility that Google will offer them some form of benefit, perhaps a free subscription to Stadia itself, but equally there is always the possibility that without anything in it for them, gaming influencers will begin hosting their content away from YouTube. Perhaps one company that will be watching all this unfold is the Amazon owned-Twitch, which is already fast making a name for itself in the video game industry.


Of course right now this is all speculative. Concrete details regarding Stadia are few and far between and we likely won’t learn anything more until E3, the world’s largest game conference, in the summer. Until then we can only go off the information at hand, and one thing we do know is that Google is at least aware of the power gaming influencers have, after all they invited Matthew ‘MatPat’ Patrick to speak during the Stadia keynote address. MatPak is well-known for his work on YouTube channel, The Game Theorists, which currently boasts over 11 million subscribers. Considering this was a conference for developers, not players, it seems an unusual choice for guest speaker. Unless of course Google is keenly aware of how Stadia will disrupt the current YouTuber influencer balance and is already making moves to bring the biggest influencers on side.


It’s not just influencer marketing that Stadia is likely to impact, could we eventually see beta’s of upcoming games released on Stadia as part of a larger marketing campaign by the developers to promote the game? Could we see marketers using Stadia for different events, perhaps streaming something like Mario Kart and hosting a mini tournament to celebrate the opening of a new gaming store? Only time will tell.

Stadia aims to be the breakout star in the world of game streaming but as the recent news of Apple Arcade and the persistent rumours of Microsoft Xcloud teach us, game streaming is about to become the new normal. If Stadia wants to stand out it’s going to have to really push the YouTube integration angle, meaning that if Google hasn’t already started thinking about how Stadia will affect sponsored content it better start soon.

Regardless of how it may affect current sponsored content on YouTube, Stadia is certainly worth keeping an eye on over the coming months. Any game streaming service that claims to have effectively solved the lag issue, comes with a built in virtual assistant and has promised 4K resolution at its launch is one to watch. Stadia is currently expected to launch later this year across the UK, US, Canada and Europe.

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