Weekend Roundup: Coronavirus Cancelations, ‘Half-Life: Alyx,’ and More

Show of hands: Who felt that it was a long week? Yep, I thought so. Let’s get into our weekend roundup: we have some quick items on Stadia, yet more coronavirus-related madness, and a cool new (and long-awaited) game…

Google’s Stadia Studio (Say That Five Times Fast)

Google is still trying to make its Stadia streaming-game platform a thing. Can Stadia become a thing? It’s hard to tell at this juncture, although players have grumbled about the lack of updates and games. In any case, Google is at least making a big show of devoting more resources to the platform: It has opened a game-creation studio in Playa Vista, California, and hired a gaming-industry veteran (Shannon Studstill, who ran the Sony studio that produced the mega-hit “God of War”) to run it.

This is actually Google’s second Stadia-related studio, after the one it opened in Montreal in 2019. “The new Playa Vista studio will focus on delivering exclusive games, using new gameplay mechanics, creative ways to play together and unique interaction models that we’re just starting to explore,” the company wrote in a blog posting. “While we’re not ready to share specific game plans yet, rest assured we are listening to what gamers want and adding our own Stadia twists to create new IP and experiences.”

The question at this juncture is whether Google’s gaming ambitions will end up looking more like Amazon’s (which saw its internal game-development arm flounder) or Microsoft’s (which succeeded big-time with the Xbox). At this point, many developers are worried that Google could kill Stadia just like it has murdered so many projects in the past.  

Speaking of Google…

Coronavirus Cancels I/O

As novel coronavirus sweeps across the globe, people are suddenly aware that gathering in large numbers in enclosed spaces might not be the best thing for the collective health. Driven by these concerns, Google is canceling this year’s I/O, the big conference where it usually shows off its latest products. This follows the cancelation of Mobile World Congress (MWC) and other events.

The big question on everyone’s mind: Will these cancelations lead Apple to scuttle this year’s WWDC, its big developer event where it usually unveils its latest software iterations (and sometimes a hardware item or two)? We shall see.

Half-Life: Alyx

Speaking of video games and the apocalypse, Valve is rolling out “Half-Life: Alyx,” the next game in its long-running “Half-Life” franchise. The joke here is that hardcore gamers have been waiting 15+ years for the release of “Half-Life 3,” only to have their hopes dashed again and again; and “Alyx,” while certainly a cool demonstration of virtual reality (as you can see in the above image), isn’t considered a true “sequel.”

Although virtual reality has yet to break into the mainstream (despite expensive efforts from Facebook/Oculus and HTC to put a VR headset in every home), “Alyx” shows just what this technology can do if it’s put into very capable hands. Check out this ten-minute video, which doubles as a handy lesson in how to build a relatable VR game:

Have a great weekend, everyone! Remember to cover your mouth when you cough!