Google had hoped that millions of gamers would have thrown out their PlayStations and Xboxes in favour of Stadia hardware and software 2021. That hasn’t happened. Stadia launched to limited fanfare in November 2019 and has been struggling to gain a foothold in the marketplace ever since. That’s despite the fact that severe stock shortages have made it hard for players to get their hands on the latest PlayStation and Xbox consoles. Both Sony and Microsoft have warned that the issues affecting production and supply at the moment might continue throughout next year into 2023. If Google’s platform is to be a success, it’s vital that it finds a way to make waves in the next twelve months while its opposition is weakened.

Stadia has struggled for a variety of reasons since it went live. A lack of games was cited as an issue at first, but compatibility was a problem during the vital early months. Stadia was advertised as a platform through which anybody with an internet connection, a screen, and a controller could play AAA video games any time they liked. The reality was different. Very few devices could stream Stadia in 4K on launch day, and phone compatibility was limited to a handful of Google Pixel handsets. Buffering and lagging in some parts of the world made Stadia almost unusable. There was a feeling among players and critics that Stadia was a good idea, but one that had arrived too early.

 

Nevertheless, there are signs that people are catching on to the idea of streaming games rather than buying hard copies of them. PlayStation Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming both offer streaming access to hundreds of games, and both have become significantly more popular in the past twelve months. Online slots websites are also enjoying a popularity boom. In many ways, the idea of streaming video games through the internet came from the enormous success of online slots websites. Manufacturers and developers noted that players were happy to forego visiting real casinos or sitting at real card tables or cabinets in favour of playing online slots and virtual table games at their own convenience. If that old and traditional habit could be broken, the much younger habit of playing video games through a console could surely be broken, too. It’s highly likely that there will never be a PlayStation 6 or another Xbox, but that doesn’t mean that streaming will become the most common way of engaging with games within the next 2-3 years. If it takes any longer than that, though, it’s probably bad news for Stadia.

Because of Stadia’s lack of visibility, several journalists have written it off as a platform already. Search for “Stadia is dead” on (ironically) Google, and you’ll find hundreds of articles with similar headers. The most recent spate came in February 2021 when Google shut down its game development studio. This, coupled with a total lack of television or magazine advertising for the platform in 2021, was the final nail in the coffin as far as many industry insiders were concerned. It turned out not to be the case. Google’s position is that it shut down its native development studio in favour of helping third parties to make games available for Stadia faster, believing that this was a more efficient way of getting new content to members. Shutting the studio down wasn’t throwing the towel in – it was a change of direction. Rather than dwindling since then, the Stadia player base has grown. Google claims to have two million regular Stadia users, and that the number goes up all the time.

Two million users is good, but not great. By contrast, Sony has sold ten million units of the PlayStation 5 console since last year’s launch, and that’s not taking into account the number of players who still regularly use their PlayStation 5 consoles. At the end of the second quarter of 2021, Sony reported that the PlayStation Network is used by an average of 104 million people every month. Compared to that, Stadia is nowhere. It still urgently needs more players, so perhaps you’d like to become one of them at a very low price – say, for example, free? If you’d like to find out what Stadia is all about, Google is currently giving hardware away. To get a Stadia Premiere Edition kit including a controller and Chromecast Ultra free of charge, all you need to do is buy a full-price game for the platform before October 20th.

Sony’s generous offer is valid in the United States of America and the United Kingdom as well as most European nations (but not Canada) and is equivalent to a saving of eighty dollars compared to buying the Premiere Kit and a game to go with it. However, it isn’t the first time we’ve seen Google try to give Stadia hardware away like this. Last November, the company started offering free hardware packages to all YouTube Premium subscribers. The offer lasted until the end of 2020, but take-up isn’t thought to have been strong. If so, that would have been significantly disappointing for Google, so this new offer might represent a final roll of the dice in terms of Stadia existing as a Google-branded company. There has been speculation that opening up to third-party developers is the first step toward turning Stadia into a white-label game streaming service. Google has not yet denied or otherwise commented on those rumours.

There are other signs that Google has future plans for Stadia, whether it intends to hold on to the platform or not. The revenue share offer for developers has recently been drastically increased, Stadia for Chromecast via Google TV has finally arrived, and touchscreen control for phones has finally become a reality. It would have been better for Stadia if these options had existed upon launch, but “late” is better than “never.” If you’d like to take the company up on its offer, visit Google’s official Stadia website to make your purchase. You’ll receive a redemption code no later than October 20th and must then redeem it before November 20th to get your free hardware. If you’ve been on the fence about giving Stadia a try, this might be the best way forward!

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