Stadia. The cloud gaming platform from tech giant Google has been in the market for nearly 11 months now. It has received praise, criticism, and indifference from the overall gaming market. There’s been misleading information about. Half truths, and other things that have led to a lot of confusion when it comes to what Stadia is, what it does, and how it works. This is equally due to people making assumptions on what it is based on misinformation floating about, as well as Google’s own sometimes confusing messaging.
We can go back and forth on this until the cows come home, and we’ll just talk ourselves in circles. However, I would like to offer my own take on this, and see if I can offer a different perspective to consider.
For the record, I must say that I am completely happy with Stadia. I enjoy playing games on it, and it works for me. I have no complaints. Most users can agree on that point. The tech works. The marketing of the tech is an albatross within the community. That is what I want to talk about in this article.
By now, we’ve seen the iconic image of Majd Bakar, (Vice President and head of Engineering for Stadia) on the GDC stage in March of 2019 with the background image showing how Stadia has more TFLOPS than the PS4 Pro, and XBOX One X combined. It sparked a lot of conversation, and the reaction was swift, and immediate, and not in a good way. Console enthusiasts both from inside the media, and in the general gaming market took that as a call to action, and the articles were published condemning the platform that was still eight months away from being released.
This is what I am getting at. Google initially wanted to market it’s platform in the traditional marketing sense. Go big, be loud, and take shots at the competition. This backfired in spectacular fashion, and Google learned from that, and never went that route again. It didn’t backfire because it was a bad strategy. No. It backfired because for one, it was something new being introduced into the market that it wasn’t exactly ready to receive at that moment. And secondly, it backfired because even then, the release of the next generation of the Big Two consoles loomed over everything gaming related.
With this looming, Stadia was already in an uphill battle for the mindshare of the gaming audience. So going head to head with the big two turned more people off to Stadia than it brought in. Instead of packing it in, Google changed course in the way that they market the platform. They’ve cleaned up their messaging for the most part. Also, they have begun to be engaged with their audience socially.
They have gone the non-traditional marketing route, and seem to be relying on a Guerrilla Marketing strategy. It seems like they are finally getting out of the way of the product, and letting the product speak for itself. Not only that, they are relying heavily on word-of-mouth marketing from the user base. This seems to be working a bit, and time will tell how well this strategy pays off.
The most consistent thing with Stadia is change. I always use the phase ‘The current version of Stadia is the worst version of it that we will ever play.’ I don’t say this as a knock on the platform. It’s quite the opposite. Stadia is and will be a consistently changing platform. The best example is the changes made to Stadia Pro. The Pro subscription had a few set benefits: monthly free games, 5.1 surround sound, HDR, 4K 60fps on your TV via the Chromecast Ultra.
On launch, this was fine because essentially everyone had a CCU on launch as you could not get Stadia without ordering one of two bundles that came with one. This changed when the initial rounds of Buddy Passes went live, and were being redeemed. Stadia also rolled out an update for existing CCU’s, so people didn’t need to buy the Premier Edition anymore, and they could just buy a Stadia controller, and link it to their screen. This was also the only way to play wirelessly for a while, until Stadia added wireless support first for computers, tablets, and laptops. Phone support added as well. As more people used their computers to play Stadia, they added 4K 60, HDR support for any 4K computer monitor.
Now Stadia Pro includes Free To Play games, Free Play Days which allows you to play a game you may not own yet for four days for free. The first being Borderlands 3, and the last being Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. They’ve also consistently added more and more games to the free games lineup. They’ve managed to mix in existing games, and new games to the platform. For the months of September and October 2020, they added 6 games each to claim for free. This brings the total to 46 games (29 claimable as of this writing) that have been available to claim, and play for free as long as you have an active Pro sub. Speaking of which, they have added all of this to the Pro subscription while not adding to the price of it. It is still the same $9.99 we’ve been paying since February.
I think they are going to keep adding to the pro sub, but we will see how that goes.
Currently, Stadia’s going a route of marketing that the gaming community isn’t used to. The community wants them to do more of the traditional marketing, get commercials on TV, and be more visible. I agree with it to an extent. I also see how the way they are going could benefit them. They are pre-installing it on the new Chromebooks, and making deals where Stadia will be pre-installed on certain phones. And since the platform is essentially free to anyone with a Gmail account. They can potentially have a user base of tens of millions. Will they get there? That’s the big question.
They are going for mindshare, and that is the long game.