Credit: Mark Dumbleton/Shutterstock
There's nothing like watching a bunch of companies descend on a potential market like a pack of hyenas. That's exactly what's happening with game streaming right now, as seemingly every company that can feasibly build such a service is planning to do so. Today, Electronic Arts confirmed that it still could be among those ravenous scavengers. Maybe. It's thinking about it, at least.
That noncommittal reassurance came from The Hollywood Reporter's (THR's) interview with Mike Blank, vice president and general manager of Origin and EA Access, the publisher's existing game platforms. EA had previously expressed interest in building a game streaming service, but THR wanted to know if the publisher would pursue those ambitions despite competition from the likes of Google and Microsoft.
Blank responded by saying that "we can, and we may still, offer our own" game streaming service. But the report made it seem like he was aware of the need to keep working with other companies even if EA were to introduce such a service. "We need to be where the players are and not every player is going to be on every service or device," he told THR, "just like not every viewer is on Netflix."
The difference is that many companies let Netflix prove its market's viability before introducing competitive services. Now that they have, streaming is starting to lose some of its appeal. People used to be able to subscribe to Netflix and Hulu to cover the majority of their needs. But now accessing the same amount of content is growing more expensive as Disney, Apple and other companies introduce their own platforms.
Game streaming won't really have the chance to prove itself before the hyenas start fighting over whatever they can bite down on. So far we've seen announcements from Google with Stadia, Microsoft with Project xCloud and Nvidia with GeForce Now. There have also been reports that Amazon, Walmart and Sony are at least exploring the idea of their own cloud-based game streaming platforms.
Each of those platforms will likely feature its own pricing structure, game library and extra features. It's not hard to imagine someone excited by the prospect of game streaming--which only requires a decent internet connection rather than a bunch of high-end hardware--struggling to choose between those platforms as they're introduced. (Or spending a lot of money each month to subscribe to all of them.)
But it's also not hard to imagine someone being overwhelmed by all the options, annoyed that they can't pay a single monthly fee to access every game that interests them and unwilling to pay for multiple services. That would mirror what's happening in the video streaming market. At least that market was able to sustain a few companies for a while before the scavengers were left to fight over scraps.
So will EA introduce its own game streaming service despite Google, Microsoft and other's efforts? Blank's cautious "maybe" seems like the best answer. The company's in the unenviable position of having to either make a platform that would be one of many, or miss out on a potentially profitable market.