What initially seemed like a really promising idea, to give you gaming on any device and wherever you are has turned into something of a let-down overall.
This will no doubt get me some flak from Stadia stans, but let's keep in mind I was originally totally sold on the idea of Stadia. I have a Founders pack and I used it almost daily for quite some time. That time quickly lessened, and eventually became none at all. I can't imagine I am alone in that either.
At the two year point, what did Google do to celebrate Stadia? Close to nothing. On Reddit the Stadia team went over some numbers we already knew like the amount of games available and a few that added special Stadia features. There was also a sale on their store, along with a reasonable discount on the Stadia Premiere Edition (£19.99, down from £69.99), which you can easily put down to them wanting to get rid of stock since it comes with their older Chromecast Ultra. On the subject of the future, they only gave some vagueness:
- Continuing feature experiments with the goal of making it easier for players to get into games and try Stadia for themselves. We’re still learning from input provided by our community and appreciate all the constructive feedback we receive from you!
- Expanding all categories of games content - not just more games overall, but new types of games that we’ve heard players ask for, including genres like online action games, open world titles, plus free games, trials and demos.
- Bringing Stadia to more devices and making it easier to access, purchase, and play games by yourself or with friends.
No player numbers, no sales numbers, absolutely no show of strength.
Barely any effort to mark two years, unless you count talking very briefly to six (yes, a whole six) customers who picked up the Founders pack. Really pushing the boat out there!
It's hard to be excited or even just a bit interested in a service that Google don't seem to know what to do with. It reportedly missed all their user goals by hundreds of thousands, and they shut down Stadia Games & Entertainment before even giving it any time in the spotlight at all. We were supposed to get first-party games that took advantage of the cloud, to do things you couldn't really do locally and we're likely to never see anything like that on Stadia.
The huge problem is that NVIDIA GeForce NOW and Microsoft's Xbox Cloud Gaming both completely destroy it when it comes to price vs value. Even though GeForce NOW still feels a bit too disconnected, since it relies on whatever launchers games use and all the logins that come with it and Microsoft need to improve the latency / input quality of their offering, Stadia will basically never match up to either on overall value. You've also got Netflix expanding into cloud gaming, and Amazon with Luna. The sharks are circling and Stadia is bleeding in the middle.
When thinking on how Stadia operates, it just really doesn't make sense, especially now with the hot competition. Full price per-game to basically rent your games from Google, with an additional extra monthly sub on top to get 4K and access to a few games per month if you keep that subscription up, to completely disappear if they do shut down the consumer store side of things. When elsewhere you can either pay monthly to access your existing games (GeForce NOW), or pay monthly to access a big library (Xbox / Luna). At least with the other options, you either still have local access or you know you're paying for a more Netflix-like model.
Even Stadia as a service for bigger games has been left in the dust often, with some games leaving patches out for weeks and multiple games released locked to 30FPS. Even developers that are on it don't seem to care enough. Google don't even put Stadia at the front of anything they do, like how their newer Chromecast with Google TV took nearly a year to support Stadia.
Specifically when thinking about the Linux desktop, some original thoughts were that since Stadia was using Debian Linux and the Vulkan API, that we might see some cross-over of ports but that never really materialised either. The majority ended up just sticking to the Stadia ecosystem.
Where does Stadia go from here? Well, we already know they're marketing their tech as a white-label solution to studios outside of the Stadia Store, so that will likely pull in some companies but eventually I do expect the consumer side of Stadia itself to die-off.