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Google Stadia will lose the game streaming war if it remains valueless

Stadia Community Forum Android
Stadia Community Forum Android (Image credit: Jennifer Locke / Android Central)

I have admittedly been a Stadia skeptic ever since its announcement. Not because I believed the service would be bad or that it couldn't deliver its promises of instant game streaming, but because I didn't know who it was for. I certainly wasn't its target audience, and I didn't understand what it could offer that other services or consoles couldn't. I still don't, and that makes me feel like Google Stadia will ultimately lose the game streaming war unless it undergoes a major overhaul.

Stadia launched as a premium service back in November 2019. Still, it wasn't until recently in February that I got to play using a Buddy Pass — to which I can thank Android Central's own Daniel Bader. Being able to play Metro Exodus immediately, no loading screens or downloads required, felt like I was witnessing magic. It's hard to overstate or even describe that feeling until you try Stadia for yourself.

That sense of awe, though, was replaced by disappointment. I realized that nothing of what I experienced had changed my initial opinion. I'm still not going to continue my Stadia Pro subscription after it expires, and I won't be using the free version either. Why pay full price for games I'd much rather play on my Xbox One X or PS4 Pro? There's no reason to. This is what hurts Stadia most, in my opinion, but a lot of other factors add up to compound the problems.

Managing editor Russell Holly tries out Stadia

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

When it comes to setting itself apart from the competition, it will be all about what games and features are offered on your service. Frankly, Google is lacking. State Share is not yet available. Crowd Play is nowhere to be seen. And that awesome Google Assistant button that the company bragged about on Stadia's controller? Well, it's severely limited right now and isn't at all able to perform many of its initial promises of helping players while actually playing a game.

Google Stadia is a husk of what it should be right now.

But just because these features aren't supported now doesn't mean they aren't coming. Google is still working on adding them. My point is that in its current form, Stadia is essentially a beta product. Google is giving time for competitors to catch up, release full-fledged products, and do it better. There's no room for complacency here. Google does have the advantage of being Google — and that offers enormous benefits and infrastructure at its disposal — but that doesn't guarantee success if it does nothing with its resources.

I keep getting emails about new game streaming services every day. Many aren't worth anything, but some could pose a real threat to Stadia like GeForce Now and Project xCloud, two of which I am infinitely more interested in because they allow you to play games you already own.

Stadia Announcement

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

With the number of services growing, I'm just not going to subscribe to all of them. It's ridiculous enough that our television and movie streaming is being split between services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, DC Universe, HBO Now, CBS All Access, and Disney+, to name a handful. I don't need the same problem with game streaming. If this trend continues, I'll go to whichever offers a better value. And considering Stadia is a husk of what it should be and asks you to pay full price for games on top of your subscription, it's not winning me over. I'm not saying there isn't room for more than one, but there isn't room for more than a few.

You could argue the only way that Stadia could initially entice developers to its service was by selling games at full price. Publishers need to make a profit somehow. Whether the platform continues to do things like this remains unknown. I'd be much happier to pay $10 or even $20 a month to gain access to an entire catalog of games I can stream without buying outright, like what Xbox Game Pass offers.

I'll go to whichever service offers a better value.

I upgraded to an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership when Microsoft had the $1 deal going on, extending it throughout my remaining Xbox Live Gold membership. I've been so impressed with Xbox Game Pass that there's no doubt in my mind I'll be continuing my subscription once it's set to end. I realize comparing Xbox Game Pass to Stadia is a bit like comparing apples and oranges — I've already paid for my $500 Xbox One X to be able to use it, whereas I don't need specialized hardware to run Stadia — but the fact remains that they're both streaming services, and Xbox offers a lot more value.

Exclusive games could arguably bring me back to Stadia, but even then, I would only stream using the free version of it. As it stands, what few games are available on it right now are either games that I've already played, games I have no interest in, or games that I'd rather buy on my Xbox or PS4 instead. Stadia-exclusive Gylt is cool, but not enough to keep my attention. Stadia also has a dedicated game developer at Google now, but it could be years before we see anything worth mentioning come to fruition.

What is clear to me is that Google was not prepared to launch Stadia, and it's going to take a tremendous amount of effort to avoid becoming irrelevant unless the entire competition drops the ball spectacularly.

Jennifer Locke
Jennifer Locke

Jennifer Locke is Android Central's Games Editor and has been playing video games nearly her entire life. You can find her posting pictures of her dog and obsessing over PlayStation and Xbox, Star Wars, and other geeky things on Twitter @JenLocke95.

16 Comments
  • Google "fans" can make excuses if they wish, but over promising and under delivering is a very stupid thing to do in the games industry. And let's face it, none of us who live in the real world trust Google to give a project like stadia the focus it needs to succeed, or trust that stadia will even exist in 2023.
  • That's the hardest part is knowing this is a work in progress but also knowing that with little traction it could be done in a year or two. I have enjoyed playing destiny 2 as for me it's better than playing on my PS4 pro. But that comes with the caveat that most of my playing is PvE I bought one game on sale so I'm about a month or so unless something dramatic changes I'll be heading to the free tier to finish off this one game and then who knows, I might be fully out.
  • Everyone predicted how this service would go. I do not think anyone is surprised.
  • Stream Connect is supported by Ghost Recon Breakpoint which came out on Stadia in December.
  • Fixed, thank you
  • From my perspective, Stadia isn't for current owners of consoles. It's for people like me who either don't own a console or own an obsolescent model but would like to be able to play recent and upcoming games without investing a large amount in hardware. Sure, I could go and buy a current generation console and get a ton of value from it, but even that will be a rapidly diminishing value when upcoming games like Baldur's Gate 3 have already been cited to not be released for the current Microsoft and Sony consoles. For it to remain valueless, it must first be shown to be valueless now - which it absolutely is not. There's a lot of legitimate issues with the service in terms of scope of catalog, speed with which Google is delivering promised services, etc, but it is already the best option for a lot of people who don't mind spending the price of a lunch every month to enjoy the service.
  • This. My last console was a Xbox 360 and I don't want to invest a lot of money into a system for me to play 3-4 hours per week max. Stadia makes sense, but it needs to provide a compelling case to the casual gamer. I've been playing GeForce Now recently (even got it to run on an old laptop from 2011). It allows me to play a bunch of free to play games that I would not have otherwise been able to play since I don't have a good gaming PC. Since I don't play a lot, the free tier is satisfactory. Game publishers should be supporting these services since it opens the door to more buyers.
  • If you use a console instead of Stadia, the savings in monthly fees and charges for fast internet speeds and data caps will pay for the console. The only value to me is to continue to use my Xbox one X for as long as possible. Who doesn't already have some sort of console. Shoot, even the Shield TV is a 'console' by itself. How many people do you know that like to game and only have a phone and a super fast internet connection? Stadia will die off unless the USA gets a better internet infrastructure.
  • What's the point of this article? Not enough games or subscribers? Those are the only "valid" but pointless gripes any brand new ecosystem may have. Please state a concrete reason why Stadia is bad and not just bad for you. Your argument asks for nothing specific and reveals even less; what was your "initial opinion," and why do you prefer console? I currently have 15 games on Stadia and it is by far my preferred method of playing all of those games! Whether it be the ability to resume a game on my phone, laptop or living room 4K TV, to load times close to <5 seconds, to its 4K60(ish) graphical experience; $10/month is pennies compared to purchasing an outright console and joining a mobile only $15/month xcloud beta. Stadia is not for most people yet because it is a reverse market for now; the specific content most people want to play is not yet available and we're subject to what developers have ported over. The games will come, the bells and whistles will too but the core gaming experience is top notch. Library aside, NO ONE IS TOUCHING STADIA! Stadia will succeed or fail entirely based on the number of quality games they have NOT Google holding back Google assistant until its ready.
  • The hubris is bad enough, but the stupidity is unforgivable. Stadia's market? It's actually people who play games but don't own a current console and thus don't own any games released in the current generation. There's more of those than there are console gamers! It's sad that you can only see the streaming market from your specific circumstances. What's the value proposition for *non-console/PC gamers.*
  • I can't begin to tell you how funny it is to see everything people said would happen to/with Stadia actually happen. Google are so bad at this.
  • What are they bad at? Bringing in every developer? Also, what is happening to/with Stadia? Its getting more games, and the fluff features are trickling in. Its a solid platform, succumbing to Xbox/PS fanboys/flamers, even on Android Central of all places. How much did Microsoft pay the author to post such drivel?!
  • "I certainly wasn't its target audience, and I didn't understand what it could offer that other services or consoles couldn't. I still don't, and that makes me feel like Google Stadia will ultimately lose the game streaming war unless it undergoes a major overhaul." Seriously, if you don't get it then maybe you shouldn't write articles about it. I have a gaming rig that I literally quit using because Geforce Now was more convenient and I could finally get off the PC upgrade cycle. Not having to worry about buying a new $300 video card every 2 years is freaking HEAVEN. And that is if you are lucky enough that the video card even lasted that long. You know how many times I was settling in for a nice evening of gaming and suddenly a $100+ component on my computer fried? Now days I have a job and a family and get extremely little time to game. The last thing I want is for that time to be ruined because my video card decided it had pushed one too many polygons for this lifetime.
    No one cares if "you don't get it". Go write an article about smartphone cameras then.
  • You're right, but only if you want to Play in Ultra always... A $300 graphic card only last 2 years for the lastest games? Someting is wrong here.
  • No, I mean if you game heavily as I used to the card would literally fail hardware wise after about 2-3 years. Then you would have to buy a new one. I rarely had a card last long enough to actually be underpowered for recent games. Well, at least until I quit using my gaming computer. And its not just video cards, harddrive failures, motherboards, cpus, memory sticks. Components under heavy gaming stress fail regularly.
  • This article was garbage and should be removed since its pure flame-bait! It says nothing other than, I like my Xbox...on android central?! GTFO! Compare something, explain your opinion, conduct an experiment...MOVE THE CONVERSATION ALONG!...instead of just saying it's not for me. You are doing more harm than good in a society where marketing rather than facts move the needle! Stadia needs games and honest press, not shills for MS and bandwagon "journalism"