Capcom has released a free, browser-based, streaming demo of its 2021 hit, Resident Evil Village (opens in new tab) based on licensed Stadia technology (opens in new tab) from Google. Google has made a big retreat from its game streaming service, rebranding to the more anodyne “Google Immersive Stream” and licensing the technology out to other developers and publishers instead of making big moves in-house.
I gave the demo a try and was largely impressed—it’s fairly generous, offering long portions of the game’s village and mansion portions. The limits of streaming technology and my dookie Comcast internet were quickly apparent, however: The visuals were very muddy and low-res, looking like the Switch port of the Witcher 3 (opens in new tab) but blown up on my 27′ monitor, and I had fairly substantial performance hiccups culminating in a hard crash necessitating a full reboot at the group prayer scene in the village. I certainly wouldn’t want to play the whole game this way.
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That’s why a demo is such a great use of streaming technology though—I had a suboptimal Resident Evil experience, sure, but getting it running was as easy as certifying my age in the browser, without the hassle of installing or uninstalling a demo. This could be a great way to test out games before buying them in the future.
To be clear, I never want game streaming to become a replacement for having a local copy of a game: Performance concerns aside, I think it would cause a preservation nightmare for a medium that already struggles with keeping its history accessible and available, and modding would be a thing of the past if players didn’t have access to local copies of their games.
This Resident Evil Village demo and the recent launch of Eve Anywhere (opens in new tab) give me hope for a different future, one where game streaming supplements ownership rather than supplanting it. These examples are so appealing because they exist in addition to owning full copies of their respective games, instead of as a replacement for that option. They also come at no cost, with Village offering a free demo and EVE Anywhere being included with a subscription to the MMO. With this sort of integration, I’m cautiously optimistic that streaming could be a positive part of PC gaming’s future instead of the “Netflix of games” or whatever other awful thing the C-suites of the industry have got cooked up next.