Stadia’s disastrous launch harmed a game-changing product
Google’s foray into gaming has arrived, not with a bang, but a series of clear screw-ups. This is unexpected from the international company many consider to be the standard-bearer for industry disruption.
From pre-launch to launch, just about everything that could go wrong did.
2019 was a landmark year for controversial decisions by Google, YouTube (owned by Google), and Facebook, where their power to snuff out political free expression became more publicly known. More and more evidence is surfacing that suggests efforts from the Big Three to minimize, or stifle, conservative voices.
And with the 2020 presidential election not so far away, the question remains: what effect will these Internet behemoths have on voters?
One of the biggest reveals came from whistleblower Zachary Vorhies. The former Google programmer blew the lid off of Google’s political bias, revealing the manipulation of search placements to tilt toward certain democratic candidates, and an autocorrect to favour them. Armed with his 950 pages of leaked documents, Vorhies asserted that Google programmed its algorithms to scale down the search engine’s results for right-leaning media, Republicans and Christian media.
Vorhies warned, “that they were intending to sculpt the information landscape… I saw something dark and nefarious going on with the company, and I realized that they were going to not only tamper with the elections, but use that tampering with the elections to essentially overthrow the United States.”
“If people don’t fall in line with their editorial agenda, their news articles get de-ranked. And if people do fall in line with their editorial agenda, it gets boosted and pushed to the top.”
Then there’s Project Veritas’ expose. Google executives were caught on undercover camera saying how they were going to influence the 2016 presidential election, and actively undermine Donald Trump. The video caught executives calling right-leaning personalities Jordan Peterson, Dennis Prager and Ben Shapiro “Nazis”.
The ramifications of data manipulation are just beginning to come to the surface. Confirming these theories, Dr. Robert Epstein spoke in 2019 to a Senate hearing to discuss his investigation into Google’s data intervention that he believes gave “at a minimum” 2.6 million more votes to Hillary Clinton.
The former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today is a visiting scholar at the University of California, San Diego, and the founder and director emeritus of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies in Concord, Massachusetts.
The “very liberal” Clinton supporter dropped this bomb, too: the number one donator to the Clinton campaign of 2016 was Alphabet, a corporation formerly known as Google.
“You can bet all these companies will go all out… (The Big Three are) more powerful than anything I’ve seen in behavioural sciences,” he said in a 2019 government deposition.
He warned that 15 million votes could be shifted to the Democratic Party in the 2020 election due to data manipulation, and search engine tweaking.
But the Big Three’s crosshairs aren’t limited to votes or parties. Scores of “undesirable” media have been placed under the guillotine.
PragerU–a weekly online video series running since 2010 run by the charitable organization of the same name–has seen some 25 per cent of its 400-plus videos placed on YouTube’s “restricted” list. That means schools and libraries cannot view them. One of those is a lesson on “Thou Shalt Not Murder” from the Biblical Ten Commandments.
According to Google, who owns YouTube, teaching youngsters that it’s wrong to murder is off limits. PragerU claims it is censorship, and that Google’s rationale is really noble-sounding cover for squelching right-leaning voices.
PragerU isn’t the only casualty. According to Vorhies’ documents, Google further blacklisted hundreds of media that include Christian Post, Megyn Kelly’s website, Newsbusters, Rebel Media, Daily Caller, and Glenn Beck.
Facebook appears to be gunning down the same road. Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer validated this, saying the media giant is “quick to attack–often in mobs–anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.”
So it’s the perfect storm: the amount of power that the Big Three wields, married to the political agenda of those who run them, could mean a 2020 presidential campaign marred by technological tampering.
A right-leaning publication, Epoch Times, is the latest victim in what appears to be the cyber-gagging of those with differing political viewpoints.
Spurred by a Snopes investigation in December 2019, Facebook barred Epoch Times from advertising on the platform, owing to what they believe was a breach of terms of service. They claim this was mostly because Epoch Times has a connection to another outlet, Beauty of Life (BL), accused of inauthentic behavior, spam and misrepresentation, by advertising and posting using fake accounts.
The BL, now banned from Facebook, at one point oversaw 610 Facebook accounts, 89 pages, and 156 groups, says Facebook.
The Post Millennial previously reported on the Epoch Times controversy in reference to a different matter, noting similar results to Capital Research, which found zero connection between Epoch Times and the BL’s online activities. Another rebuttal is unpacked by Epoch’s editor, Steven Gregory, who has stated that there is no link whatsoever to BL.
To whatever extent there was a remotely tenuous connection, happened to be that the two organizations had hired each other’s employees at separate times.
Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, explained the issue (from their point of view) to NBC News: “What’s new here is that this is purportedly a U.S.-based media company leveraging foreign actors posing as Americans to push political content.”
Here’s the upper cut: Gleicher was also director of National Security Council, at the Obama White House, from 2013 to 2015. In 2007, he clerked with Democrat Senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy.
So, if Facebook relies on “linkage”–tying two loosely-related organizations to the same thread–the same reasoning could be used for Gleicher. Might he have a vested interest in squelching conservative voices, given the liberal politics of his former employers?
Interestingly, Facebook, its investigators-for-hire Graphika, and the Digital Forensics Lab, appeared to overlook the tar-and-feathering by Snopes, laden with a political agenda.
In an NPR interview, Snopes VP of Operations Vinny Green highlighted positive coverage of President Trump as a problem. “What we saw was an extreme amount of pro-Trump content,” Green said. “Almost exclusively what we were looking at …was the amplification of pro-Trump media…” [emphasis mine]
This has the whiff of a politically-motivated hit job.
There’s reason the Big Three should be gnawing at their nails about Epoch Times. Its reach, resources, and readership are gaining a foothold.
At last year’s CPAC–the annual conservative megaconference–the media outlet scored major interviews with Republican politicians, conservative pundits, and Trump cabinet members. Overall, their videos have been viewed billions of times over social media, which analytics company Tubular says ranks eleventh “among all video creators across platforms, outranking every other traditional news publisher.”
And with ten million Facebook followers, “the Epoch Times now wields one of the biggest social media followings of any news outlet,” according to NBC.
All the more reason for any liberal organization to target it as persona non grata.
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz told me a sobering thought after he published his book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are.
“I think there are, definitely, ethical concerns that come with this powerful data source. Big Data isn’t good or bad, it’s just powerful… we don’t really have any way to regulate what information they are allowed to use, and what information they are not allowed to use.”
Perhaps this sums up the 1984-like Big Brother, in the year 2020. Except now it’s called Big Data.
Rejoice Stadia gamers, you’re getting another triple A-game.
According to the Google Stadia community blog, Darksiders Genesis will available for all Stadia players at 12 pm EST. The game will be available for $39.99, matching the price of the Microsoft Windows store.
“For the first time in the franchise, you can play in two-player co-op! So grab a buddy and tear through hordes of demons, angels and everything in between. Or play solo and switch between War and Strife, with guns blazing and swords swinging. Take part in an immersive story of intrigue and suspense set against a fantastic, post-apocalyptic backdrop of otherworldly powers. Darksiders Genesis will be available starting today for $39.99.”
This will be the first game to launch on Stadia on the same day as its official launch.
Get ready Stadia gamers, you now have access to two more free games as a part of your Stadia Pro membership.
Stadia Founder and Premiere users now have access to Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition and Farming Simulator 19 Platinum edition for free.
If you previously purchased either game before the claiming period, you can request a refund.
The December addition doubles Stadia’s current Pro benefits from just Destiny 2 and Samurai Showdown.
Google Stadia was launched at a price of $169(CAD) and an additional $10 per month charge through PRO subscription to play the games in 4K resolution.
All Stadia’s currently sold, including both the Premiere and Founders’ editions include three months of Stadia Pro as a part of the purchase.
Google’s foray into cloud gaming appears to have hit another snag as the tech company launches its newest platform with users largely unable to use the service.
Why? Well, the invitation code to get in simply has not arrived for many, including those who ordered on June 6th, the very first day you could order.
While users publically call the company out, the slow invitation code role out on top of the platitudes of missing features including screen capture achievements and the rather small number of game choices could further derail the launch of the product.
In response to the massive flood online, Stadia responded to some users that the code will be sent once the package is shipped.
Social media users rapidly responded that they still had not received their code even after the package was shipped.
Following further public outcries regarding codes not arriving on time, the company acknowledge the problem by posting the following on the Stadia Discord channel.
“Hi @everyone, We’re aware that some of you who pre-ordered Founder’s Edition may not have received your invite codes in the expected time-frame. The Stadia team is actively investigating this issue, and we’ll be back with an update as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.” -ChrisFromGoogle
UPDATE: While Google employees have said they are actively working on the problem, it appears on the second day of launch, many users who ordered and received a controller, have yet to receive an invite code.
UPDATE: A Google employee has stated that June pre-orders should have been sent.
The company is now moving through the July orders.
“Hey @everyone, We can confirm that if you pre-ordered Founder’s Edition in June, and your form of payment has now been charged, your Stadia access code has been sent to you via email. We are now moving in sequence through the orders placed on or after July 1st. We will post further updates here and on our social channels.” – GraceFromGoogle
UPDATE: Chris from Google has updated the Stadia Discord once more, this time noting that Premiere Edition orders would begin shipping on Monday.
“Hi Founders, Thanks for sticking with us. I can confirm (from talking to our Product leads today) that if you pre-ordered the Stadia Founder’s Edition, and your form of payment has been charged, your access code has been sent to you via email. Pre-orders for Premiere Edition will start shipping on Monday. I sincerely appreciate everyone’s patience. Grace and I will continue to do our best to keep the community posted with the latest details.” -ChrisFromGoogle & the Stadia Team
This is a developing story and will be updated.