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Opinion - Ten (or twelve) things that Google could do to bolster Stadia

Opinion - Ten (or twelve) things that Google could do to bolster Stadia

Written by Eric Hauter on 12/30/2019 for STA  
More On: Stadia

Google Stadia has been out a month now, and while not all of the promised features of the platform have been activated, more functionality is steadily coming online. In addition to seemingly stabilizing overall performance, Google has activated a bare-bones achievement system – even going so far as to retroactively give players credit for their achievements all the way back to when the platform launched. Google also launched their multi-screen system for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint – allowing players to see what is happening on the screens of their in-game team members.

These features are fantastic steps in the right direction, but much of the gaming public is unconvinced about the viability of Stadia. Every time I mention to a friend that I’ve been playing Stadia, their responses range from “I’ve heard Stadia’s not that great” to “What is Stadia?”. What I have not received are derisive snickers or self-satisfied mockery. Gamers seem to be genuinely interested in Stadia, often asking about my experience with the system – so I do my best to share as fair of a review as I can muster.

It is clear that I am a Stadia supporter, and I have been cheering each step that Google takes towards making Stadia into the instrument of video game revolution that it could be. It is my belief that video games will eventually fully move to streaming platforms, and Google is the first company to try to kick down that door. They deserve the support of the industry, and in that spirit, I’ve put together a list of things that Google could do to help push the needle on the system. Google needs more than quality functionality for Stadia; it needs the hearts and minds of gamers. In making my list, I tried to consider what actions Google could take – big and small – to show the world that it is serious about videogames.

I thought when sitting down to write this that I might have trouble coming up with ten suggestions. Instead, I had a hard time stopping. Some of these items are very specific, having to do with individual products or games. Others are much more general. And still others are pie-in-the-sky lunacy. But hey, we’re brainstorming here. There are no wrong answers.

Make Grand Theft Auto V a Stadia Pro game.

Grand Theft Auto V is the world’s most successful entertainment property. That’s it. No qualifier there. No other franchise - be it film, television, or videogame - has ever generated more revenue than GTA V. It is the Energizer Bunny of the video game world in that it just keeps going and going, living in a permanent spot in the videogame top ten in the same way that Bob Marley’s Legends album took up residence on the pop charts in the nineties.

Google was smart to grab Destiny 2 as its premiere Pro game (the games that Pro members get to play for free for as long as they maintain their $10-a-month subscription). Destiny 2 started out a bit wobbly at launch, but has since stabilized into a solid and beloved online multiplayer game. But by the time that Stadia made it to market, a lot had changed in Destiny-world. The game had gone pretty much free-to-play across a number of systems, making a much less enticing carrot for Stadia.

But what would work as a motivator to get people on board? How about the most popular game ever? Give Stadia users full access to GTA V’s online world (and its excellent story), and no one will be mumbling about abandoned servers. Every damn Stadia owner on Earthnwould be dipping their toes into a fresh, new iteration of GTA V’s beautiful world – starting all at once, on even ground. Due to Stadia’s current lack of cross-play, no player’s would be over-powered; everyone would have an even shot at living large. You want the gaming world’s attention? GTA V is the on of the keys.

Lock down a deal with EA and pull their library onto Stadia

I know that a lot of people have some sort of grievance with Stadia’s launch lineup. But even the most jaded gamer must admit that the list of games that were available for Stadia’s launch reads like a Greatest Hits of 2018/2019 package. Sure, there could be more on the list, but 25 very high-quality games is nothing to sneeze at. And the inclusion of Ubisoft titles in the lineup ensures that eventually Far Cry, Watch Dogs, and other open world masterpieces will eventually arrive.

But there is one glaring omission on that game list – and that is the inclusion of any games by Electronic Arts. Electronic Arts is the videogame company that many gamers love to hate, but I would say that the scales tip a little more towards the “love” side of the equation. Hell, even the much-derided Star Wars Battlefront II has made a turn-around in the gaming community’s eyes, morphing from “despised micro-transaction money-grab” into a seminal and beloved online shooter.

You don’t need me to run down a list of EA’s greatest hits. You already know. EA’s stable of games and franchises is absolutely ludicrous. No other company could instantly pad out Stadia’s game library the way that EA could. Just the announcement of a partnership would likely cause both company’s stock to bump up a little bit. Google is a powerhouse, and during this start-up period while they don’t have many exclusive games, they need more than one powerhouse to push the needle. Ubisoft is awesome, but it isn’t quite enough. Google needs to lock in EA.

Admittedly, EA has its own streaming solution in the works right now. The mysterious "Project Atlas" hasn't made much noise since its announcement, but it is likely that EA is continuing to work on its development. However, after watching Google's struggles at launch, EA may be rethinking its streaming strategy. EA, for as large as it is, simply does not have the infrastructure in place that Google does - and even that was clearly not enough for a smooth launch. EA would probably be better off folding Project Atlas in with Stadia, and combining resources. While everyone enjoys a good console war, the tech just isn't there yet for one to start, and every day that EA delays, Google pushes further ahead.

Mass Effect Trilogy Remaster Exclusive

You know what gamers want? They want a next-gen remaster of the Mass Effect Trilogy. Can you even imagine the butt-hurt cries of console owners across the universe if Google announced an exclusive remaster of the Mass Effect trilogy on Stadia? Oh my God, I’m getting excited just thinking about it. Message boards across the internet would light up with delicious righteous outrage – while incensed Mass Effect fans ate each other’s souls while flinging internet invectives at anything that moved. Glorious carnage.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of more reasonable players would chomp some popcorn, watch the show, and plunk down the hundred bucks for Stadia.

Buy more independent studios to produce Stadia games

It is clear that Stadia needs more exclusive games. And judging by Google’s recent purchase of Typhoon Studios – Google knows it. Whether Google realized this or not when jumping into the platform game, systems and platforms are judged by the quantity and quality of their exclusives.

Microsoft learned this the hard way moving into the current generation, while Sony spent five years absolutely hammering them with incredible exclusive titles. And now Microsoft is coming back hard, buying up every indie studio that pokes its head out of the water. As a result, swing voters like me – who don’t have a strong brand allegiance – are casting lustful glances at the next-gen Xbox. I don’t want to have every next-gen system sitting on my living room shelf, but I’ll do it if it means access to the best games.

My point? Google can really push the public’s perception of Stadia by jumping in whole hog and snapping up some of these smaller companies to produce Stadia exclusives. Keep them coming, fast and regular, and make a fair number of these exclusives into StadianPro games. Seduction of gamers is the name of the game, and exclusives are the quickest way into gamers’ metaphorical pants.

Bolster the achievement system

Consumers love to moan about the things that are missing from products. But for one moment, lets consider the infrastructure that Stadia did launch with. Friends lists. Online play. Family and safety settings. Mobile, PC, and Chromecast capabilities. It’s actually fairly incredible. And less than a month after release, achievements were patched in.

But now that credit has been given, let’s consider ways that Google could bolster this achievement system to bring it more inline with what is currently available on consoles. Achievements are currently only visible via the PC version of Stadia. Sure, they pop up when you are playing on the other devices, but you can only go check your progress when you are running Stadia through Chrome, and the process to see your achievement list is convoluted and difficult.

Achievements should eventually be made visible in every version of Stadia, easily found and examined. Further, players should be able to compare achievements with those of their friends – bragging rights are 75% of the point. Assigning point values to achievements and letting players work their way up a meaningless advancement ladder is a good trick too. But tying actual meaning to achievements – like in-game goodies, discounts in the Stadia store, or the occasional earned game would do a lot to advance Stadia past its competitors.

I’m certain that Google has this on their roadmap, but it wouldn’t hurt to, you know, tell everybody.

Streaming, streaming, streaming

I’m an old man. I don’t watch a lot of streaming content. But that doesn’t mean that I’m unaware of streaming and its importance to the gaming community at large. I have two teenage sons that eat videogame streams for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The gaming community is incredibly curious about Stadia. If I had streaming at my disposal, I would be doing it at least a couple of hours a day, just to get the word out. Plus, I’m pretty funny, and streaming Stadia would give me an outlet for all of my sweet jokes.

But seriously, of all the functions that Google should have prioritized for day one release, this is the biggest miss. Streaming is absolutely vital in today’s gaming ecosphere, and is the quickest way to get the word out on anything new. Stadia’s performance is absolutely incredible, and watching other players engage in the gorgeous games available while marveling at the lack of lag in the controller – well, that would be more powerful than even the slickest, most expensive advertising campaign. Gamers love to spread the word about things that they love, but you have to provide them with the tools to do so.

Lower the cost of additional controllers

If you don’t have at least two controllers for your system, you aren’t committed. Everybody knows that you need one controller to play with, and one controller to sit on the charger for when the first runs out of juice. You also need at least one extra for local multiplayer (which I never really take part in, because I can’t stand sharing my toys).

The Stadia controller looks and feels fantastic, and is quickly becoming my favorite controller on the market, but sixty-nine dollars for an additional controller is a mighty steep price to pay. Now, I know that this is a super-advanced piece of tech, connecting directly to Wi-Fi and beaming my failure to properly aim in shooters directly to outer space. It has to be expensive to produce. But it is also important to remember that most consoles launch at a selling price that represents a loss to the manufacturer – in order to move units. At some point, gaming companies pass a threshold and systems tip over into profitability. So come on, Google. I want another controller. Put that shit on sale.

Encourage premium free-to-play titles

With so many great AAA releases in 2019, what game did I play more than any other? Why Dauntless, of course. This free-to-play monster hunter is my JAM. Ask a variety of gamers what their most played titles were in the last year, and I’ll bet (completely arbitrarily, with no evidence whatsoever) that about 40% of them would name a free-to-play title.

Fortnite and Apex Legends represented two of the biggest news stories in gaming in 2019, with Fortnite’s ballsy reveal of Season Two, and Apex’s out-of-nowhere challenge to Fortnite’s throne. To say that these titles are at the pinnacle of gaming in 2019 is an understatement.

But beyond these giants, there is an entire ecosystem of free-to-play MMORPGs, MOBAs, and smaller titles like puzzle games. While Google shouldn’t allow Stadia to become a dumping ground for free-to-play mobile ports, getting some of the higher-end titles on board could only help bolster the library.

Allow family sharing (but think it through first)

I’m fairly certain that this feature is coming, but how it is implemented will make all the difference. Right now, I have a Google Play family plan. Me, my wife, and my two sons (one at college, one in another state) can share our access to Google music and any additional video or music content that we purchase.

Google Stadia should follow this plan, but when we speak about gaming, we get into some gray areas. How will Google Stadia handle save states, for example? Or achievements? If my son out in California logs into my iteration of Borderlands 3 and messes up my save, I’m going to be hella mad. And my achievements are my own; I don’t want anyone else scoring them before I get the chance. But on the other hand, I want my kids to be able to access my Stadia stuff.

Finding a way to allow for these use cases, without completely ruining the financial viability of the platform will be a tightrope walk. But digging into this issue is something that Google should be doing – if they aren’t already.

Where are the PC games?

Hey everyone, remember Steam? Remember how Steam was a fairly open marketplace, and it got super cluttered with shovel-ware, but the good stuff still managed to rise to the top? Well, I’m not suggesting that Google throw open the gates and let the rabble storm the castle. But on the other side, I sure would like to engage in some PC gaming along with my console gaming.

As one of the Stadia’s primary functions is to allow playing on a PC via Google Chrome, it only makes sense that more PC titles be added to the fold. I don’t own a true gaming PC, and I’m pretty sure that Stadia’s performance could dwarf anything that I could afford. So why not add some RTS stuff to the mix? Or give us a couple of Civ titles to pick up? Isometric RPG? Yes please!

Right out of the gate, Google gave players some true console visual masterpieces to choose from. But plenty of PC titles don’t focus so much on the visuals but are just as deep and engaging. And some PC exclusives outshine those available on console. Stadia has the horsepower to pretty much run, well…anything. Adding PC gaming to the mix would help blow the doors off the platform.

Organize coordinated sales events

Speaking of Steam, taking a look at Steam’s legendary sales and following suit could only help Stadia gain traction in the market.

My day job is at a tech company, and you can usually hear a quiet rumble go through the place when one of Steam’s sales goes live. Work grinds to a halt while ¾ of the staff divert their attention to the sale for a few minutes.

That same model of turning sales into events could work for Stadia, once its library gets a bit bigger. I don’t want to admit how many games I’ve purchased on Steam that I’ve never played (all I’ll say is that its less than one thousand). The lowest price point right now on Stadia is $20. If there were some $5 or $10 games available, you can bet that I would snap them up, and I mean right now.

Admit to the system’s shortcomings – and put forward a clear roadmap for fans

Transparency is huge with gamers. The importance of keeping your audience informed cannot be overstated. Right now, the community on Stadia’s message boards are super cool, ultra-helpful, and welcoming in ways that many communities would envy.

But they also spend a lot of time chatting about how they simply don’t know when things are coming. Indeed, as a member of the gaming press, the only way that I knew that Google’s achievement functionality had rolled out was when one popped up on my screen.

I’m not saying that Google isn’t communicating. They are regularly posting stuff on Stadia’s Twitter, and making announcements on the game’s webpage. But they are chatting with the community when they could be using a bullhorn.

As a Stadia fan, I get excited about everything that is coming down the pike. A lot of gaming culture is based on secrets and surprises, but a platform/console launch is no time to be playing those games. The community wants to know when this stuff is coming, and Google should tell them. It is perfectly fine to tell fans that some of the promised functionality is tougher to hash out than expected. Fans can be reasonable when they don’t feel like they are getting jerked around. Saying something like “We’re so sorry, we expected streaming to be up and running, but we encountered problems A, B, and C” would likely win far more loyalty then it would lose.

As a huge tech company, Google is used to offering vague dates and foggy assurances. But in this case, more is required. Laying out a roadmap of when features are expected, and then updating that roadmap with explanations when things go awry, would be an enormous step in the right direction.

I’ve been having a great time with Google’s new platform, and I want to share my experiences with anyone that wants to listen. But there is obviously a lot of room for improvement. Nothing is perfect right out of the gate, but there are clear moves that Google could make with the Stadia to ensure that my favorite new gaming device doesn’t disappear. Hell, if they even implemented 1/3 of the stuff I came up with, it will strengthen the offering far beyond what it is currently.

Whatever your opinions on Stadia, you have to admit that it is fascinating to watch how things will play out. Time will tell how far Google is willing to stretch into the gaming world. Keep an eye on Gaming Nexus for more news and opinions as we move forward.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

Opinion - Ten (or twelve) things that Google could do to bolster Stadia Opinion - Ten (or twelve) things that Google could do to bolster Stadia Opinion - Ten (or twelve) things that Google could do to bolster Stadia Opinion - Ten (or twelve) things that Google could do to bolster Stadia Opinion - Ten (or twelve) things that Google could do to bolster Stadia Opinion - Ten (or twelve) things that Google could do to bolster Stadia Opinion - Ten (or twelve) things that Google could do to bolster Stadia Opinion - Ten (or twelve) things that Google could do to bolster Stadia Opinion - Ten (or twelve) things that Google could do to bolster Stadia Opinion - Ten (or twelve) things that Google could do to bolster Stadia

About Author

Howdy.  My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids.  During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories.  I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 to my headset collection.  I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.

My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then.  I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep.  Currently, I play on Stadia, PS5, PS4, PSVR, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, and a super sweet gaming PC built by Joh Yan.  While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.

When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect.

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