The Google Stadia has quickly become a bad deal for consumers that is only going to get worse and it hasn’t even released yet.
Industry insiders and consumers are all skeptical about the future of cloud gaming and for good reason. There have been numerous attempts over the years to bring it into the mainstream with service like Playstation Now, but none of them have proven to be the success everyone was hoping they would be. Google has offered a proposition that could change all of that with their own Stadia cloud gaming service. On its face, it certainly does sound like a great idea, but once you get into the meat and potatoes it really isn’t the best deal. There are far more cons than there are pros.
With Google’s poor and vague marketing it is really difficult to say how much confidence the tech giant really has in the service. They constantly tilt back and forth between something groundbreaking and then something that is broken on a fundamental level. Whenever we do get new information though I can’t help but argue that this deal that Google is trying to make with consumers with Stadia is one that I can’t see being really beneficial for anyone other than Google. Likewise, consumers such as myself may have already begun to develop a lack of confidence in Google’s ability to deliver with Stadia, if we haven’t already completely lost the confidence, that is.
Following a Reddit AMA with Stadia product director Andrey Doronichev, it is exceptionally hard for me to state a case that differs from the one I plan to make here in this op-ed. To make this case, we have to break down all of the major takeaways from Doronichev’s clarification into how Stadia will work.
“To be clear, Stadia Pro is not “Netflix for Games” like some people have mentioned, a closer comparison would be like Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus,” he says. “The Pro subscribers get 4K/HDR streaming, 5.1 sound, exclusive discounts and access to some free games. Roughly one free game per month give or take. Starting with Destiny 2 (yay!).”
From a consumer perspective, this is just not attractive. Primarily because most of us had been lead to believe that Stadia would be a Netflix-equivalent for gaming. This would have been put it in more in-line with Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass and Ubisoft’s previously announced Uplay+, which offer far more than Stadia promises. Both of these services give subscribers access to a comprehensive library of over 100+ games for just $10-15 as well as access to new releases as they launch.
Stadia is absolutely a far cry from what its competitors will end up being. Instead of giving consumers access to a wide-array of titles at launch, they’ll be gradually accumulating a small roster of titles, one at a time. There’s no guarantee that all of them will be attractive aside from the odd Ubisoft title since Google has formed a deal with the French game maker. Its affordability is in all honesty, non-existent. One of the big draws for Stadia was that it wouldn’t require a game console, which was seemingly going to save everyone a ton of money. Unfortunately, you will still need a controller which Google will sell for 25% of what your average Playstation or Xbox will cost. The flaws do not stop there. More of them just keep on coming.
One of the requirements of Stadia is that you have to purchase every game separately, on top of having to pay a $10 monthly subscription. This distinguishes it even further from those Netflix comparisons, which is something that they frankly shouldn’t want. It just makes it nonsensical to call it a streaming service at that point because it doesn’t fit that traditional definition aside from its focus on streaming. If it was a legitimate streaming service, I would be able to pay $10 a month and access as many games as I want because I’ve paid the toll for all of them. Based upon this, Stadia is more of an e-store that sells games that you can stream instead of as digital downloads like Playstation Store or the Xbox Marketplace. At best, this sounds more like a greedier version of Amazon’s video store, but without the access to free movies via a prime membership which is what makes that such an attractive marketplace. You have all of these free movies that give you a feel of how the service works and if you want more from it then you can. Stadia doesn’t create that option.
Stadia wants to boast and brag that it is a genuine competitor to Xbox Live Gold or PlayStation Plus, but it has nothing that makes it really competitive. After paying $120 a year for the 4K streaming tier, you will have paid the price for both of those at once on top of the controller, which is again 25% of what your average console costs. At that point, you will have wasted more money on trying to pursue genuine entertainment than you will have actually had. You will have essentially paid for a console anyways.
This goes back to how I have said that the deal Google is trying to make with consumers with Stadia is a bad one because it is difficult to peg who they are hoping will gladly sign on for it. Is this for those hardcore gamers who can clock in 100+ hours into The Division 2 and want to keep adding to that? Sure. The prospect of Stadia when it was first announced certainly did have my attention as I am sure it did the rest of my fellow hardcore gamers. I would have enjoyed being able to pay $10 a month and access a wide-range of titles whenever I want and wherever I want. A minuscule list of free games with the rest having to be purchased through what is essentially a storefront is not what I would want from this. As someone who has a serious addiction to big titles like DC Universe Online, I would have to re-buy over $100 dollars or more worth of episodes to stay where I am at. That’s a no-go for me. In comparison, UPlay+ would actually be more attractive to me as a hardcore gamer because I play a lot of Ubisoft titles and have over 100 or more hours in them individually. Same for the Xbox Game Pass, if I were an Xbox player.
With hardcore gamers officially subtracting themselves from the equation, we’re left with the more casual/mobile gamers. These are people who may not necessarily have access to all of the disposable income in the world to purchase a gaming console, right? Therefore, this could be a gateway into making gaming a more accessible and affordable experience. That’s a viewpoint that Google themselves have seemingly made, but I think they are absolutely misunderstanding how this barrier works and why the casual market may not buy into this.
On average, your casual/mobile gamer is someone who already loathes paying for a typical $60 game and wouldn’t want to add that to Stadia’s $120 higher tier subscription. Do the math and they’d be paying $180 plus tax. In what dimension would this entice any of you if you were a casual or a mobile gamer? None of you would want to pay for a service where you are putting more money into it than you are getting entertainment or escapism out of it. The other thing is that the cost of hardware is often overplayed an not the biggest thing fencing casual or mobile gamers off from the regular market. The hardware itself has posed more of a problem because of how everyone is used to playing a game differs. For example, it is easy to tap on your screen as you play DomiNations and invade some random person’s kingdom. Any of us can do that. Now if you were to put a Dualshock 4 controller into a mobile gamer’s hands and they’d be far more challenged. They wouldn’t easily remember what button is for melee and what button or bumper lets them jump up.
Therefore, the casuals and mobile gaming market is blocked off too. There is no feasible market for it to work in at that point since as stated earlier it isn’t for hardcore gamers. It has no way to please them or build that bridge for casuals so then what does that leave Google with to do? Competitors like Ubisoft and Microsoft have all pitched something that is actually well, competitive and enticing and more in line with the Netflix model. It is a proven formula and one that the majority of the games industry is happy to move towards. Of course, this long-winded argument against Stadia does not fully explain some of the other technically problems that could hurt the supposedly ambitious service even more. Some of the biggest hurdles Stadia could face in the future is whether it will perform with zero lag and that it won’t be impeded by data caps by Internet Service Providers in America. Something that we know will already happen because it is something Comcast is most known for and has drawn the ire of just about everyone.
It is really difficult as a consumer to see why subscribing to this service is a great idea, let alone how it can be a success. In my most brutally honest opinion, it isn’t likely to change the industry for the better like Google has boasted about. At best, it’ll perform below sales expectations and they will hopefully pull the plug on it. If not that then they will have to do a complete 180 on this model, which again may not be possible because the Stadia’s release is five months away. There’s no conceivable way they can completely alter this service without pushing it back, which could be an expensive decision.
In conclusion, the Stadia is a bad deal that is only going to get worse. It is going to get worse for consumers and even worse for Google themselves.
What do you think of the Stadia? Are you going to buy it? Let us know in the comments below!