Stadia Status, February 2021: One step forward and three steps back
Comparing how I feel about Stadia right now to how I felt at the end of 2020 / beginning of 2021 is giving me a serious case of whiplash. In my Stadia 2021 review to kick off this year I explained how the cloud gaming service was "finally worth it" and that it was "starting to prove itself as a legitimate gaming platform." I felt really good about those statements at the time I wrote them.
Stadia Status is our monthly recap of what's new and what's next for the Stadia platform. Let's dive in!
Stadia Status February 2021 Recap
If Stadia wasn't on life support yet, we've got to assume it's getting dangerously close. Despite major success stories such as many of the best Stadia games releasing recently like the comparatively excellent version of Cyberpunk 2077, great ports of games like Hitman 3 and Madden NFL 21, and upcoming big releases like Outriders slated to launch on the same day and date as other platforms, it's impossible to not look towards the future with major trepidation.
Unfortunately, the goodwill from those games isn't enough to overshadow the recent negativity. As you probably heard, Google shut down the entire Stadia Games & Entertainment division, canceled exclusive game projects, experienced horrendous leadership and poor budgeting, got hit with lawsuits, and generally saw everything go about as poorly as you could predict.
Even if you ignore all of those extremely negative things that have happened though, which would be very irresponsible to do, it hasn't been a great month for Stadia on the game release front, either. Just like January, February was a slow month for Stadia. Other than a few surprise Pro games and an assortment of new releases to tide people over, there hasn't been anything big enough to dominate the conversation beyond other headlines.
Stadia Status March 2021 and beyond
According to Google, over 100 games are on the way for the remainder of 2021. That's a lot of games and, based on the existing library of content, it stands to reason that the majority of these games will be quite good. But following that same line of reasoning, it also stands to reason that the majority of these games will release on other platforms as well and/or will be old by the time they hit Stadia.
Getting a high volume of quality content has never been the issue for Stadia. The issue is that most of it is old by the time it comes out on the cloud gaming service, so people have already played those games or they're old enough that asking new game prices feels unreasonable. Playing catch-up against the PC gaming ecosystem and the decades of lead time Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft all have is proving to be tougher than Google expected.
One of the best ways to combat these issues would have been investing in original, exclusive content that would sell the platform out of a desire to play what you can't get anywhere else. It works for Nintendo with Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, and it's working for Sony, too. Even Microsoft is realizing the power of funding its own exclusive properties, but the company is letting the studios spend years to incubate and create great new games. As a result, Google's most poignant failures have been a lack of patience and foresight.
It's a tough spot to be in, but all is not lost. PixelJunk Raiders is hitting as a Stadia exclusive and brings a popular, respected IP to the platform with a brand new entry you can't try anywhere else. Plus, it'll be a Stadia Pro game. And new releases like Little Nightmare 2 are legitimately amazing games that everyone should give a try, so having access to a game like that, via Stadia Pro, is great for gamers of all types. Roblox-style world-building game Crayta going free for everyone is great too, but Stadia needs big free games like Roblox or Call of Duty Warzone if it wants to actually be taken seriously.
I'm just not sure that's enough. History has proven time and time again that software sells hardware and if Google doesn't pad out its library with big, enticing exclusives that you can't play elsewhere, or at least secure more big third-party games at the same time they release elsewhere, I'm not sure Stadia makes it another year.
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