2020 has been a wild and wonky year – no doubt about it. We’ve had the entertainment sector – mostly movie theater chains – turned completely upsidedown. In a few days, Warner Bros. will be directly releasing Wonder Woman 1984 onto their HBO Max platform without waiting the years-long standard of approximately 100 days after a movie is released in the theaters and then brought to DVD or streaming platforms. Warner Bros. held out during 2020 with its brilliant spy-thriller “Tenet” directed by Christopher Nolan – but Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman 1984 is taking a different path under the distribution guidance of streaming veteran Jason Kilar who was just recently made the CEO of Warner Media, AT&T’s merged media monolith that oversees television, movies, digital, and more.
Warner Media, which once stood for the purity and pristine nature of theatrical releases, is now helping to take huge productions from cinema screens to television screens immediately upon release. This is a massive change that will, probably, change the entertainment industry forever. But let’s not overlook another massive 2020 switcheroo that Warner Bros. also had its hand in. Originally, WB Games was the traditional “distributor” for Cyberpunk 2077 which benefits from the avatar of Keanu Reeves and more mega hype than just about any other video game in recent history. A press release from October 3rd, 2018 announces enthusiastically that WB Games will be the distributor for CyberPunk on “PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.” And here is where we all need to take a closer look.
The original release date for Cyberpunk 2077 was April 16th, 2020 – months before PS5 or Xbox Series X was set to release. Then it was pushed to September 17th and appropriately November 19th to be able to capitalize off of the new console releases and have Cyberpunk 2077 be featured on both new consoles as well as the old. Normal business jukes and flexible response, right? What few people were taking into consideration is the hefty and overwhelming distribution load that was really behind these announcements resting squarely on Warner Bros. shoulders.
They are the chief distribution partners, they are the ones solely responsible for – distributing – the game across platforms. And where are we today? Unfortunately, we have headlines such as “Cyberpunk game maker faces hostile staff after failed launch” (Bloomberg), “CD Projekt Founders Lost $1 Billion Due to Cyberpunk 2077” (epic stream), and “Cyberpunk 2077’s Train Wreck Launch is a Sign of What’s Wrong with the Video Game Industry” (not hardware). In real life, the fallout was 40% of the value of the game publisher’s stock plummeting in a matter of days.
What is Stadia? Here’s what you need to know about Google’s game-streaming platform
This is a lead-up to the real breaking news and what we should all be paying a major amount of attention to – Google Stadia’s release of Cyberpunk 2077. Google Stadia’s platform is a cloud-based, browser-based game system that runs through Google Chrome on any and every computer the same. This means that no matter what the specs of your computer – fast, slow, clunky, sleek, laptop, desktop, the gameplay and graphics are based on, essentially, your internet speed. Move over Warner Bros. taking theater movies to home-streaming – this is the biggest game-changer of the year!
When a game like Cyberpunk 2077 fails to properly load and process on a Playstation 4, Xbox, and even most PC’s, yet there is a near-flawless and even admired user experience through Google Stadia, one must take serious pause and ask themselves, “What does this say about the future of video game playing?”
The answer is that the future of graphics-heavy and memory chugging games will be moving to the Cloud – and Cyberpunk 2077’s “failure” simply defines the moment that this happened.
Imagine large school districts that don’t have budgets to purchase Alienware hardware and other customizable PC’s. They have been limited to the ability to grow ESports teams because of the financial weight involved in scaling an army of computers to play the games in the first place. But what if you took every school district with Google Chromebooks and told them that those Chromebooks could now load and play the same games that an Aurora R11 could. That would change everything, wouldn’t it?
Yes, it would. And the writing is now on the wall that the biggest game releases to watch will no longer be through Sony or Microsoft but they will be, in fact, through Google. Rather than have to set up new gaming accounts with credit cards and monthly subscriptions, all that is needed to play Cyberpunk 2077 is a Gmail account. Where many people trying to play the games on consoles built specifically for games have encountered numerous problems and glitches, those who paid the same amount of money to buy the game on Stadia (this author included) are reporting negligible problems.
In fact, if we bought it in a certain time window before Mid-December, we’re also going to receive a free stadia controller to be able to turn our laptop, desktop, or even mobile devices, into Stadia consoles to play our beautifully rendered and processed Cyberpunk 2077. What the headlines are focused on is that that the launch of Cyberpunk 2077 from a traditional lens was a failure, they tried to release it on too many platforms and didn’t do the intensive work necessary to customize the launch for every single platform (which, by the way, should have been checked by Warner Bros. as their primary distribution partner before releasing in North America, right?).
But what the news should have been about was that Cyberpunk 2077’s release on Stadia just paved the way for the future of video game playing all the way through to the year 2077 using Google’s cloud-based and browser-based console revolution that, after several years of existence, finally proved its value and power. Warner Bros. may not fully understand that the release of Cyberpunk 2077 onto Google’s Stadia may be the most important media partnership for the future of entertainment of the year – but that doesn’t change the fact that it was. Out of the ashes of a 2020 disaster comes a beautiful new revelation around how video games will be distributed and played. Thanks to Warner Bros. and Google, gaming will literally never be the same.