Why Google Stadia is a Gamble

Official Logo for Google Stadia

The Google Stadia looks amazing. Its controllers look simple but sturdy, the launching lineup is packed full of phenomenal games, and last but not least, it has the weight of Google behind it. Stadia is not made by some low-key company loosely tied to gaming, it’s made by one of the largest tech companies loosely tied to gaming.

Since the Stadia hasn’t launched yet, it’s hard to know what to expect, but Google has recently started advertising “Negative Latency” which is really a buzzword for “feels like you’re playing locally.” That’s not a bad thing by any means. In fact, it’s wonderful if Stadia feels as good as a console does, but Google’s history beyond the Stadia makes me concerned for the future of this potential game-changer.

Google Has a Tendency to Kill off Projects

If you’ve read my article on the abundance of Google messaging apps, you’d know that Google has a tendency to develop of lot of projects that end up fizzling out. Although many of their messaging apps were merged with another app or simply already had an alternative, other projects such as Google+ simply disappeared since few people used it.

Google’s Inbox app, which was a sort of forward-thinking Gmail app that sought to test features, had many users that simply loved the platform. Eventually most of Inbox’s features were ported over to Gmail which left little reason to actually keep Inbox around.

To get a better idea of Google’s graveyard of projects, here’s a website dedicated to all of the projects that have already been killed off or have been announced as to-be-discontinued.

It’s impossible to tell if Stadia will see the same fate as these other projects since it isn’t even released at the time of writing this, but if the support isn’t there then chances are Stadia won’t be either.

What Happens Post-Stadia?

Just speaking hypothetically, if Stadia does get cancelled, what happens to a player’s library? When you buy Stadia, you’re buying the service that goes with it. There’s little information regarding what happens to games when you purchase access to them. If Stadia as a service goes down, does the ‘owner’ keep these games and have access to them?

It’s hard to feel safe purchasing a game when there’s very little regarding if these games will last long when Google has a tendency to kill off their services.

Google Has Yet to Prove Themselves

Although Google has tested their “Project Stream,” which was reportedly pretty stable, it was more of a beta-test and hasn’t tested that hundreds of thousands of players can remain stable simultaneously.

Google is Google though, one of the largest companies and with a budget like theirs, I’m sure that they can find a stable solution. However, they still have to show that their solution is competent and holds up to their competitors.

Youtube is a good indication that Google can handle streaming on a very large platform, but when it comes to streaming video games, the field is different. It’s far more interactive and requires far more resources to maintain.

It’s Google vs. The World

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Now that they’re entering the realm of streaming video games, they’re going up against Playstation Now and Xbox Game Streaming. There are other contenders such as Nvidia Shield, but they are much smaller competition than that of Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo may also bring streaming to the Switch at some point which would mean streaming Nintendo exclusives on the go and at home.

It’s not impossible that the Stadia could keep up if their streaming is solid and it truly does play smoothly for a large audience, but their list of titles aren’t exclusive, nor are they a dime a dozen.

Stadia Doesn’t Have Original Titles

Stadia’s official site shows all of the games currently announced once the platform launches, and they look great. There are a load of triple-A games that have been immensely popular in recent years. There are only two problems with this:

  • There are no Stadia original titles
  • There is a stark lack of indie games

Google has shown that they can provide the cream of the crop when it comes to game choice, but they have no exclusives for their platform. They don’t have a development studio and they don’t publish games(as far as I know). Keeping up with the competition when they have nothing new to offer is going to be a challenge, especially when the competition is extremely well-established.

If you purchase a PlayStation you get Marvel’s Spider Man, Uncharted, The Last of Us, and so on. With Xbox you’re getting access to Halo, Gears of War and so many more. Even Nintendo (which doesn’t have streaming yet) has Breath of the Wild, Mario, and Super Smash Bros. On the Stadia, you aren’t getting anything new. Its all games that exist elsewhere and aren’t exclusive to any one platform.

On top of no exclusives, Google’s Stadia isn’t catering to the growing number of players who enjoy indie games. Titles such as Undertale and Stardew Valley are nowhere to be seen.

Stadia Pro is Very Similar to Playstation Plus

Photo by Fabian Albert on Unsplash

This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Stadia Pro and PS Plus both cost $10/month (Stadia does have a free version) and offer discounts on games. They both have a rotating library of free games that can be purchased at a discount to be kept forever. This means that all games purchased on Stadia have to be bought separately. This is a huge disadvantage in some ways compared to PS Now.

PSNow offers a monthly subscription and access to hundreds of games that can be streamed at any time. Though these are mostly older games, it’s still a once a month fee that comes with a massive library and they can all be played as long as a user has the subscription. With Stadia, the monthly plan only offers discounts and a free rotation of a few games at a time.

Although with Stadia any games that are purchased are kept forever, as a streaming platform they don’t offer the library that PlayStation can offer.

No Backwards Compatibility

Finally, my last gripe about the Stadia is that it doesn’t have backwards compatibility and there is very little incentive for them to provide games from previous generations. With the PS5 and new Xbox both getting full backwards-compatibility, they offer not only the latest and greatest, but also the entire catalog of consoles that came before them. This means that one PS5 can play all games from PS1 to modern day. I could play the greats of each generation if I have the disc already without needing any sort of subscription or streaming.

I totally get that not many people are going to want to play the original Final Fantasy VII (especially after the remake drops), but some people like me do and that simply doesn’t seem like it would be a reality for Google’s Stadia.

I know it seems like I’m complaining a lot about a system that hasn’t even released yet, and I am, but I simply don’t see something that entices me more than the competition.

I think that Stadia has a lot going for it such as their budget, the low cost of entry to Stadia itself is great and is a far cheaper option to play games for someone who doesn’t have a console. This is something that will make gaming far more accessible than any other platform and that should be praised.

For me, it’s just that the reliability of playing games on a SaaS makes me concerned that what I pay for may not last forever. That and the lack of a library as large as that on other platforms. Regardless, I’m excited to see what Stadia can do for the future of streaming console-less gaming.

Aspiring software developer fascinated with creative technology.

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