I'm the most awesome guy ever!!!!!!
To be honest, it's not even that undeniable fact about me being awesome, but more that I've generally had - across 26 years of writing about games - a pretty good sense of things. My tastes in gaming lean towards the more mainstream end of things, see. I've learned that if I like or dislike the idea of something... the majority tend to be feeling the same. I'm fundamentally quite lazy in terms of how I consume my entertainment, and I suspect most people are the same.
Inevitably, when I predicted the imminent mainstream arrival of cloud-based gaming, I was told I was wrong, that the world isn't ready, that consoles were going to be around forever, and... blah blah.
Well, Google appears to disagree with you.
Its new Stadia platform - which you surely don't need me to recap here, but it's a cloud-based gaming system that will work on essentially any screen, and the only hardware Google will sell is a joypad - was announced yesterday at a Game Designers Conference Keynote.
The timing of this is really quite pertinent, because I had an update earlier this week about the new Atari VCS console - which I backed mostly because I thought it'd be funny - and as I was reading how it has been delayed because they're making the hardware EVEN BETTER... I couldn't escape the sense that what they're trying to achieve is ultimately futile.
I don't think anybody is expecting this VCS thing to be able to compete with Sony and Microsoft, but the succession of bigger and better hardware feels old fashioned now. With the leap between the previous generation of consoles and the current one being virtually imperceptible to most people, it feels like that part of gaming history belongs in the past.
Get this: the last time I got this excited about a new generation of gaming technology was the Switch, duh, and the time before that was... I dunno. The 32-bit era, probably. Hardware no longer interests me; at some point my focus went from the machines to the games.
Admittedly, I've wanted a high-end gaming PC for years, but what has put me off was a) The price, b) The faff of getting games to work on said PC, and kee) That PC being out-of-date almost as soon as I've set it up, and spent an hour crying about what else I could've spent the money on.
The Xbox and PlayStation brands have become increasingly boring with every iteration, and doing their best to pretend they're not sat there under your telly... so why not just do away with them? Isn't that the way hardware is evolving, in the same way our simian ancestors ceased to have any need for a tail? It's the logical evolutionary end point of console gaming. We're finally down from the trees and fannying around with "bronze".
Even Sony seems to accept that it's the future, with PlayStation Now still going after five years, and Microsoft working on its Project xCloud service. Plus, there are numerous games streaming services already available. Some are better than others, naturally, but - generally - the consensus is that they're mostly pretty good. Yes, lag is an issue, but for the majority of people it's an issue that they can live with.
Of course, Google's Stadia has activated the alarms, primarily over the concern that most users' internet connections aren't going to be able to handle it, and because Google is perceived as one of those big, evil, megacorporations whose every action has to be part of some insidious conspiracy.
Well, I've got some strong things to say about that.
The thing is, what sets Google's Stadia apart from all similar services is this: Google. There's no bigger company in the world, in terms of resources, manpower, or influence. If cloud-based gaming is going to take off, you need a company of that size to make it happen.
When the Americans decided to land on the moon, it threw every federal dollar it had at it, and employed the best people. It didn't knock on the door of some local fireworks manufacturer and asked them if they had any good ideas and left-over rockets they weren't using.
Admittedly, you could say the same about Facebook, whose own efforts to move into gaming haven't exactly been a runaway success, but Oculus Rift et al are held back by the fundamental issues baked into Virtual Reality as a concept.
The difference with Stadia is that console-free gaming is the best idea in gaming since, well... gaming. Forget the potential flaws for a minute, and bask in the possibilities:
You'll never have to buy another console.
Your hardware will never be out of date.
Every game you play will be running on the best available hardware.
There'll be no installation, no updates, no patches.
Games won't need to be optimised for different platforms.
If it works as well as Google is telling us it'll work, it does away with most of the biggest barriers to enjoying video games.
And, let's face it, following the cartridge era and the early years of CD-ROM, it has stopped being possible to simply put in a game disc and start playing. I even put off playing new games, because I know I've often got a 30-minute to two-hour wait for a load of updates to happen. I'm done with it, and I miss just picking up a joypad and playing. Stadia promises to bring that back.
The strikes against Stadia are that players will no longer own a physical copy of their games - fair enough, but some people said the same thing about Netflix, Spotify and Apple Music... and those services have demonstrated pretty conclusively that the majority of people generally favour convenience over having shelves full of DVDs and CDs.
Yes, there are a lot of collectors out there, but... the unfortunate reality for you, if you're one of "those", is that you're in the minority. The good thing for you is this, however: I certainly don't think hardware is ever going to go away entirely. Even if consoles all drown in a tar pit, I suspect you'll still be able to buy a high-end PC, and boxed games.
Although, lest we forget the aforementioned dreaded day one patch - when you buy a game now, are you always buying the completed game anyway? What's on your disc? Really, it's just the best version of the game they could achieve by launch day.
Do you really still own the games you buy? What happens when you run out of storage space and need to delete them?
We don't yet know if Stadia users will still be required to buy the games at full price, or have pay a subscription, but I suspect it might be a combination of what Apple and Netflix offer. I reckon you'll be able to pay full-price for games on the day of release... and there'll also be a subscription element, offering older games. There may even be the option to rent games for a limited amount of time.
For now, the biggest brown cloud hanging over Stadia is the whole internet connection issue. Ironically, while I was watching Google's live stream last night, the picture kept freezing, which wasn't the best advert for Stadia.
And yet... just doing a quick speed test this morning, and even my crappy BT Broadband connection appears to be well within the comfort zone of what Google is saying Stadia users will need (a streaming rate of 15bps, a latency under 40ms, and a streaming loss below 5% - whatever any of that means).
Will there be issues? Probably. But I remember being sceptical about Netflix when I first got it - I couldn't understand how a full-HD movie could appear instantly on my telly without downloading it first - and while I do occasionally have issues... they're so infrequent as to not be an issue.
Gaming is different, of course, because it's interactive - and your inputs will be sent back to Google's processing farm before the results are streamed back to you. The lag between what you do and what appears on your screen needs to be instantaneous. With the added complication of the Stadia controller connecting to wifi, and not hardware, that adds additional potential for lag.
Clearly, a lot of people feel that this is an insurmountable issue.
It isn't of course. I don't think anybody is suggesting that Stadia will launch and consoles just choke to death on their updates overnight.
However, technology will improve... as I've said, there have been streaming services available for games for years already, which demonstrate that technology is getting closer to this ideal all the time... and as mentioned, none of the existing companies have the influence and reach of a Google.
That's the key here: Google will, I'm certain, be putting pressure on ISPs to make their service accessible to everyone. You mark my words: ISPs will get on board, and want to be known as the ones who will give you the best Stadia experience, while punters are going to want to upgrade their own internet set-ups to ensure they can get on board with this.
I read a fair bit of Stadia criticism on Twitter from employees of existing streaming services, but it's akin to a "Mom and pop" hardware store owner complaining about the new Wal-Mart that's opened up over the road.
Is it fair that Stadia threatens their business? No, of course not... but that's life, sadly. Competitive online players who thrive on split-second reactions will doubtless find plenty to complain about... While the rest of us, who can barely tell the difference between 60fps and 30fps, won't notice a thing. We'll just be happy that we can open our laptops and jump straight into Assassin's Creed Oblong.
Like it or not, cloud-based gaming is going to be massive, simply because it's a great idea, and it's a great idea that is appealing to a mass market. And that's because it fixes, if it works, so many of the problems with modern gaming.
Is it too good to be true? Maybe. But so was the Internet, so were smartphones, so was Netflix, so were e-readers, so was television... and right now the potential for Stadia is so significant, so game-changing - literally - I'm willing to invest in that potential.