Image Source: Google
For all of their big conferences and demonstrations inciting visions of a future without expensive PCs or consoles, Google Stadia struck the headlines for all of the wrong reasons in the running to its launch.
While not detrimental, but very understandable, the word that the new video gaming platform would be ‘the Netflix of gaming’ was quashed early on, with Stadia revealing itself to be much more like an online game store from which you streamed your purchases instead of own them in some regard.
Close to its launch, it was revealed that Stadia would only have 12 games available to players from opening night. This revelation was followed by further announcements noting that many of the key, much-lauded features would not be present at launch, such as Stream Connect, State Share, Crowd Play, and Family Sharing.
Google Stadia featuring in Google Trends for mostly negative reasons must have flagged with the higher-ups, ushering a late announcement from the team that they’d be adding another ten titles for the platform’s launch.
Our launch lineup has just expanded! We now have 22 titles available to play starting November 19, with even more games arriving by the end of 2019. pic.twitter.com/mN8WbLjuBW
— Stadia (@GoogleStadia) November 18, 2019
While adding a top game like Metro Exodus and one from an ever-popular franchise like Football Manager 2020 certainly helps the platform’s launch appeal, is it too little too late?
Exclusives make the platform
PlayStation 4 obliterated the Xbox One in this generation’s console war due to its incredible line-up of exclusive games. While the Microsoft console kept releasing new, more powerful, hardware, Sony’s black box continued to draw in gamers with what really matters: great games.
It’s the same reason why the Nintendo Switch, despite launching over three years later, was a mere 6.8 million units sold behind the Xbox One as of July 2019, per VG Chartz. Since then, Xbox’s only real major exclusive release has been Gears 5, with the Switch reeling out the likes of Astral Chain, Daemon X Machina, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Luigi’s Mansion 3, and Pokémon Sword and Shield. So, there’s a good chance that the Switch will surpass the One in unit sales very soon – if it hasn’t done so already.
The best way to sell a platform is with exciting exclusive games that convince gamers that your platform is the one that they need. On the face of it, Google Stadia appears to be trying to beat the consoles with the opposite game: only including one exclusive title at launch. While the indie game Gylt looks fun enough, it’s not quite the platform-seller that Stadia needs.
The launch line-up is filled with big-name games, but their release dates span as far back as 2013, with only the likes of Just Dance 2020, the indie game Kine, and perhaps the Samurai Shodown reboot being classed as new titles. However, while Google Stadia is looking to muscle-in on the gaming industry with its streaming technology, it may not be the current gaming audience that the company is targeting as its audience.
Stadia aims to be a gaming platform for everyone
As detailed by The Verge, Google pitched Stadia as the “platform for everyone,” showcasing its cloud streaming technology as a way to eliminate the hefty upfront costs of purchasing hardware as well as removing lengthy download and installation times. Google Stadia’s aim looked to be to make gaming much more accessible, which is what would have partially led to people getting carried away with the idea of them being the ‘Netflix of gaming.’
While games may cost full-price through the Google Stadia library, when the Stadia Base package releases next year – which doesn’t give access to the full-spec streaming of the Stadia Pro subscription plan – players will be able to stream, for free, the games that they buy.
With all of this in mind, perhaps Google Stadia’s meagre selection of launch titles is more forgivable as they aren’t targeting gamers: they’re looking at everyone else. Anyone who has looked at a game, wanted to play, but couldn’t or didn’t want to fork out the cost of a console can get much cheaper access to those games provided they have fast enough internet speeds and a compatible device. This will be the major issue at launch, with many of the planned compatibility updates expected to come next year.
If Google Stadia survives this rocky start, rolls out its features, makes the platform compatible with a wide selection of devices quickly, and brings out the Base plan, it should start to reach its target audience.
Anyone who is interested but hasn’t played many video games will see the likes of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Metro Exodus, Red Dead Redemption 2, the Tomb Raider trilogy, and Football Manager 2020 as strong reasons to join the platform as they are great games.
Google Stadia shan’t be launching in a competitive state, even when looking to those who aren’t currently gamers but want a cost-effective way to get into the entertainment medium. If Stadia staves off a drop into the ‘Google Graveyard,’ and quickly develops all of the areas that it has boasted about, all that may stand in its way is download speeds. To help with this element of the service, Google has established a connection speed test tool on Project Stream.
It’s certainly worth treating Google Stadia with caution, regardless of if you already have a console or not. Concerning the launch line-up, as long as it features high-quality games – which it does – it doesn’t need to tote brand new or exclusive titles right away as the plan may not be to lure gamers away from their consoles.
If the aim truly is to make top-class video gaming cheaper for everyone else to enjoy, then this library should suffice for now – it’s just the other aspects of the platform which may halt its progress.