How I would make Google Stadia even better for the future
Contrary to those who shout loudly on the Internet, Google Stadia is not dead. And as I wrote before, it’s really quite good. In fact, the last article I posted on Stadia sparked a lot of interesting discussions on the platform. There’s a lot to like and appreciate, but there are legitimate concerns and areas that could be improved.
The Stadia team knows this and again, contrary to opinion in some corners of the internet, are working very hard to improve the platform. Of the comments and discussions that came out of that last post, however, one point stuck and got me thinking.
It depends on the business model. Very few deny the quality of Stadia’s technology, but Google’s business model just doesn’t fit. For some, the idea of buying games that only live in the cloud doesn’t appeal to them. That, coupled with Google’s penchant for canceling products over the years, doesn’t particularly inspire trust in consumers. I can’t say I’m not worried about it, because I am a little. No one really knows what would happen. But thinking about it more deeply, maybe this model was the wrong way to start and I think for Stadia to have a better future, selling games would potentially have to be out of the question.
Google Stadia is modeled like a traditional console
Nowadays, Google Stadia and its catalog of games operate like any other game console or PC store. You switch with your wallet, hand over some money and buy a game.
You can also pay a monthly fee for Stadia Pro, which places new titles in your library every month. Or as long as you remain subscribed, that is. Stadia Pro is fantastic, with around 50 games players can claim at the time of writing. You don’t have this on PlayStation Plus or Xbox Games With Gold. Even the Epic Games Store and its weekly giveaways lag behind in quantity.
The way Stadia, accounts, and Pro have been managed since launch hasn’t been the smoothest operation, but it’s now well placed. You no longer need a Stadia account for some basic features or even to play some demos. But I think the best thing Google can do is double down on Stadia Pro and stop selling games altogether.
Stadia is expected to move to an entirely subscription-based platform like its cloud competitors. If people don’t need to shell out money to “own” the games they want to play, that might alleviate some of the negativity and worry that Google will one day unplug.
Amazon, Microsoft and NVIDIA all have a better model
When looking at the respective business models, you can argue that Stadia’s model is the worst. Indeed, today’s major competitors Amazon, Microsoft and NVIDIA all operate on a subscription model. Just like you subscribe to Netflix and binge on your favorite shows, you can subscribe to their services and binge on your favorite games.
NVIDIA GeForce Now is a bit different, in that you can only play games you’ve purchased from other stores, including Steam, Epic, and Ubisoft. In this case, there is almost no risk like any subscription service, because you simply rent a powerful PC in the cloud to get your own business. But Microsoft has a subscription for the cloud with Game Pass and Amazon operates a subscription model with Luna.
Luna is particularly interesting because the price is split more like a TV package than anything else. Once registered, you can choose different “channels” to subscribe to, as well as free rotation for Amazon Premier the subscribers. If you only want games for children, for example, you can subscribe to the family channel.
Microsoft is bundling its cloud gaming offering into Game Pass Ultimate for now, though that’s starting to loosen up with the arrival of Fortnite for all to play. It’s not all game in Game Pass, but there is a large catalog and of course you don’t need to buy games to play them through the cloud.
Each of these relies on the subscription model, whereas on Stadia it feels like a bonus. A necessary bonus.
Google should consider moving Stadia to subscription-only
Some work has already been done. Pro Stadium has a huge library, and with over 100 games in my personal Stadia account, most can be attributed to them being available through Pro. If you play on Stadia, you need to have Stadia Pro for fear of never really getting the most out of the platform. Ubisoft+ is also available through Stadia, providing access to all of the publisher’s available titles for a monthly fee.
It sucks that everything in life is going to a subscription, but that’s apparently what corporations and the masses want. Considering the apprehension many have about buying games from Google with that nagging feeling in the back of their minds that one day the plug will be unplugged, it seems like this might be a good idea.
Overhauling the business model could also make it easier to sell to publishers. Microsoft seems to be doing fine with Game Pass after all. When you have a pool of subscribers, there is already a captive audience for new added games. The current Stadia Pro subscription is really good value for money, unlocking regular “free” titles as well as 4K and HDR games. A small increase in the monthly fee or the addition of additional tiers I think would appeal to existing players and would certainly attract those who are on the fence because they don’t want to spend $60 on a game on Stadia.
Will this ever happen? Who knows. Google remains committed to Stadia for the foreseeable future, but how long will that last if player numbers don’t meet expectations? The Stadia community is a lot bigger than many realize, but something probably has to fundamentally change with how the platform is operated if it is to have a bright future. Whether it’s an idea like this, offering a subscription plan alongside purchases like Game Pass deals or cheaper but ad-serving access. There are a lot of things Google could do with Stadia. how would you modify it?