I don't think Google could have ended 2020 in a stronger position than it did with Stadia. After several months of uncertainty and launch woes following its debut in November 2019, Stadia has now come into its own as of late. After the surprising success of Cyberpunk 2077, which now tops our list of the best Stadia games, Google's cloud gaming service is in a better position than ever going forward, even if the start to 2021 has been a bit slower.
However, now that Stadia has shut down its first-party studio to focus on platform development and third-party support, the future is looking even more open.
Stadia Status is our monthly recap of what's new and what's next for the Stadia platform. Let's dive in!
Stadia Status: January 2021 Recap
The first few weeks of the month began with almost complete silence. Other than shuffling around a few Stadia Pro games like Hotline Miami and F1 2020, there wasn't really much to get excited about so far this year until last week. However, in the second half of the month we got Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game - Complete Edition, followed by Hitman 3, and it was a really solid one-two punch.
Scott Pilgrim isn't a perfect beat 'em up, but it does a lot right and features some of the best pixel art and chiptune music I've witnessed this side of the 16-bit era. Switching gears for Hitman 3 was a shock to the system, but it's a great reminder of how magical Stadia can be when utilized to its fullest.
With the launch of Hitman 3, Google also completed its rollout of State Share, a feature that allows you to simply take a screenshot and save a "state" of your game to share with others. For Hitman, this means your mission, difficulty, objectives, and loadout can all be saved in the cloud for someone else to pick up and play. I'm really excited to see how this feature is utilized in future games.
Beyond that, Hitman 3 was exciting for Stadia because it's a well-known and high-caliber title that launched on the exact same date as every other platform, just like Cyberpunk 2077. In order for Stadia to keep growing, it needs to do this with every new release. When faced with whether or not to buy a game on Stadia or any other non-cloud platform, sometimes Stadia will win out with gamers due to the allure of no downloads, no updates, and no patches. Speaking from experience, it's really nice not having to wait for a 100GB game to install or twiddling my thumbs while Elder Scrolls Online downloads its latest patch.
This past week, we got a handful of other really solid games, like the XCOM-like turn-based strategy title Phoenix Point and the long-awaited Madden NFL 21 from EA. I've been a Madden player ever since the Sega Genesis days, and I am most excited for what Madden's release means for the future. If we're on the verge of getting more EA titles, such as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, on Stadia, then that's huge news. Hopefully, Apex Legends isn't far off, or Star Wars Battlefront 2.
I get the feeling that January was a slower month intentionally due to how big November and December were with the deluge of Ubisoft titles and big new releases like Cyberpunk. Back at launch, Google said Pro would usually include one game included with its subscription per month, but over the last few months, it's gotten as high as six Pro games in a single month. That's a great value.
Stadia Status: February 2021 and beyond
Since Journey to the Savage Planet is finally releasing in February from Typhoon Studios, a company that Stadia Games & Entertainment acquired way back in December of 2019, I originally wanted to believe that means it would open up the door to more first-party Stadia titles, but that's no longer a possibility. As of today, Google is shutting down all of its internal Stadia studios, according to a recent statement.
This is troubling news because, more than anything, Stadia needed big exclusives to attract users to the platform. We have no idea what Jade Raymond, who was in charge of the project, was working on over these last few years and now she's gone.
Cyberpunk 2077 sort of became the game to get for Stadia for a brief period of time, but that was basically an accident. In place of actual first-party titles, what we need now is long-term planning, clear and transparent communication, and alluring releases that get the Stadia community excited for reasons other than getting just another old port.
In the near term, February could be another slow month for Stadia compared to the end of 2020. Journey to the Savage Planet should be a good, quirky adventure with its exclusive Stadia content, but other than that, we don't know much about what's coming next. The previously-announced FIFA 21 is a safe bet on the heels of Madden, though, so we'll probably see that in February. I'm expecting Ubisoft+ to continue expanding as well and for more THQ Nordic titles to make their way onto Stadia.
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