Tequila Works' Google Stadia exclusive Gylt is somewhat of an anomaly on the list of games currently available via the streaming service.
Described as "delicate horror" by CEO and creative director Raul Rubio, it's inspired by Pan's Labyrinth director Geuillmo Del Toro, who is "in love with his monsters."
But nestled amid the blockbusters and arcade-style games, Gylt's haunting exploration of teenage bullying is Stadia's clear attempt at getting some indie credentials.
While speaking with GamesIndustry.biz at the Fun and Serious Game Festival in Bilbao, Spain, Rubio discusses working with Google in the run up to Stadia's launch, and what the future holds for game streaming.
Google approached Tequila Works around two years ago, and Rubio says he was immediately impressed by the Stadia tech. Riding high off the success of 2017's Rime, it's not hard to see why Tequila Works got the call. But Rubio sounds almost surprised when he says Google wanted a narrative-focused, indie exclusive without online or multiplayer.
Rubio says this began a "very open and honest dialogue" with Google, as the tech giant financed and produced the project. In fact, under Google he adds, Gylt had the "smoothest production for a Tequila Works game ever."
"When you are playing this game on a crappy laptop or a phone or a tablet, it works. That is basically the magic for us"
"They have been a very good partner, and I only have very good words for the Stadia team," he says. "Most of them are coming from PlayStation, so maybe because they were familiar with the process, but they have been very hands off. They haven't imposed anything... The whole thing about Google is that they have all this influx of data, all this analysis of user tests; most of the time it was facts, like where people were getting stuck in the game, rather than [artistic oversight]. So it has been very hands off."
For a studio like Tequila Works though, which has developed a small but dedicated following, the exclusivity deal is a double-edged sword: it denies all but the most diehard and committed fans access to the latest game, but does place it in front of a new audience looking for diverse experiences on Stadia.
"I guess this is more like a bet, in a sense that we believe in the technology, but at the same time, you must see it as the early days, in the sense that this is a platform or technology that is just starting," says Rubio.
"It's true that we believe that Tequila Works is a brand itself, and we have followers who are expecting the Tequila Works game, even if they can expect the unexpected... The thing that blew our minds [with Stadia], is that when you are playing this game on a crappy laptop or a phone or a tablet, it works. That is basically the magic for us."
The decision to go exclusive with Stadia was, Rubio explains, all about potential; using a mobile phone to play testbuilds of Gylt on the commute to work was a game changer.
"People are totally right to be wary. It's a new technology; traditionally streaming solutions didn't work"
"This is my personal opinion, but this is like the early days of Steam in a sense that this is when people were complaining that it took too long to download, and then the download would stop and people were [complaining] the price was exactly the same as a boxed game," says Rubio.
"It's going to get better. In fact, one day when we look back, people will wonder why people were questioning streaming at all. I'm not talking about Stadia specifically. I'm talking about streaming in general."
When Stadia launched in November last year, the resounding reception was likely not what Google had hoped for, though given the state of the tech at the time, almost certainly what was expected. Performance issues, lower than promised graphical fidelity, and a high entry price with little on offer once you get through the gates, left many critics and early adopters feeling cold. It was a beta launch in all but name.
For Tequila Works, joining Stadia at the ground level was a low risk endeavour, as Google financed the project, but creators still want people to play and enjoy their games. To this end, did Google Stadia meet Rubio's expectations?
"My view is subjective of course, it cannot be objective because I have been inside, and I know there are many features that are super cool that are not active yet," says Rubio. "So let's have this conversation in one year I guess.
"People are totally right to be wary. It's a new technology; historically streaming solutions didn't work. I think it's the time, in a sense, in that the technology is there and the audience is there, and to be honest the content wars are here... [Stadia] has a lot of potential, it hasn't reached its full potential yet. I think that was never the idea with this small soft launch. I know that they are working to make it better every day. I know it's going to get better, because there are a few features that are going to blow people's minds."
Disclosure: GamesIndustry.biz is a media partner of the Fun and Serious Game Festival.