Google Stadia hasn’t really been in the mainstream spotlight since the high-profile launch in 2019. And aside from bad news and bad reviews, it mostly disappeared from most gaming sites and YouTube channels. But the players who have invested hundreds or even thousands of hours in Google’s video game streaming service don’t seem to care what others think. For them, Google Stadia is the perfect solution for a hobby that they believe has become too expensive, complicated and restrictive.
For most of you reading this, Google Stadia is the cloud-based streaming video game service Google launched a few years ago that may or may not be around. It’s probably not something you’re into, other than reading occasional stories about Kotaku and other sites about how bad is the streaming service?. From rescuing high-ranking execs to reports from Google is completely dumping the platformStadia hasn’t had a great few years in the press, and some gamers seem to downright hate it.
But after that three tough years, lawsuitsand studio closures, Stadia is still very much alive and still getting new features and updates. You would assume that means some people will still be paying for and using Google Stadia in 2022. And maybe your first question is…why?
The Stadia Super Fans
Marco, a married father of a 16 month old boy who lives in Europe, told me that every spare minute he has is precious and that modern consoles just don’t work for his everyday life.
“Now when I boot up my PS4, I always have updates,” said Marco. “Although I use rest mode, sometimes I have to wait 15 minutes to play.” While that may not seem like much, for Marco it could be nearly half of his free time that evening. “Updating is hell,” he said.
But with Google Stadia, there are no updates to games, as that is all handled on Google’s servers. There are also no installations or large downloads. You just press play and after a while the game goes on and that’s that. And this speed and lack of downtime is a major factor why so many of the players I spoke to continue to play Stadia.
“The technique is so goodsaid Deaddog52, a Stadia player with 1,800 hours invested in the service Kotaku. “[Stadia] boots up fast and plays great. I often forget that I am not playing on local hardware.”
But for Deaddog52, it’s not just Stadia’s speed that keeps him coming back to play every day. Another big factor is how much cheaper and flexible Stadia is for him and his family compared to consoles. After years of owning and playing multiple consoles, he got tired of it all.
“When consoles come out, they’ll be expensive and hard to get,” says Deaddog52. “Then there are the disappointing consoles. Even a successful console only has about five years before it starts to collect dust. Then the storage space issues and frequent downloads started to annoy me, but what really bothered me was the loud noise my console fan was making.”
Deaddog52 stopped gaming for a few years until a friend showed him Stadia shortly after its launch. Impressed, he got excited to play again. And while he knows that Stadia’s quality isn’t as good as a powerful PC or new “next-gen” console, his low price and ease of use more than makes up for it.
“On top of no cost and no maintenance, I can play on any screen,” says Deaddog52. “I will literally have three streams at the same time (my two kids and I) and have no problems. To have that same luxury [without Stadia] I should spend $1500 on hardware with consoles.”
Deaddog52, like others I spoke to, has basically not touched a console like the Nintendo Switch or PS4 since joining Stadia. And for some, the idea of going back to traditional gaming worries them. Should Stadia close, some suggested they could try other streaming options, such as Game Pass or Amazon Luna, while others said they would be reluctant to return to consoles or PC. But some players feel too connected to the Stadia ecosystem and the freedom it offers, allowing them to play anywhere via the web and their phone or tablet.
“To be honest, there is nothing better for me at the moment than Stadia,” said Marco.
Ravenlock, another user who has been a Stadia customer since day one, also told me that while the library isn’t the best, the flexibility streaming offers is hard to beat.
“I can and get my Elder Scrolls Online or Lot 2 daily tasks on any screen, at any time, without having to worry about having huge games installed in a lot of places,” Ravenlock said. “My entire Stadia library is as portable as my phone, my tablet , my Chromecast, whatever I want to throw in my bag”
Google’s destruction history
The elephant in the room when it comes to all things Google is, of course, that of the tech giant long history of closing or otherwise terminating apps and services, only to replace them with other apps that it will eventually shut down as well. But when I asked these Stadia superfans if they were worried about Google pulling the plug on the streaming service, none of them seemed concerned. Many clung to the idea that Google rarely shuts down paid services.
“They’ve rarely killed projects that people were actively paying for,” Ravenlock said, “And they’ve got plenty of announced partnerships and plans for at least the next year or so that would make shutting down even more awkward and unpleasant for them than it would be.” already would be.”
This was a feeling that almost every Stadia player I spoke to shared: Google won’t shut down Stadia because people are paying for it and it’s popular. To be clear, Google has discontinued popular paid services and apps, like Google Play Music, in the past. Still, I spoke to more than half a dozen people and they were all convinced that Stadia wasn’t going anywhere, even if Google seems to downplay the future of the service. I got the impression that some of them had invested too much in Stadia to even dream of a future without it.
If you’ve ever delved into the comments to a negative Stadia story or tweet, you’ve probably come across some Stadia superfans aggressively defending the service and its games against anything they see as attacks. And in my conversations with Stadia users, I came across something like this. A few feared I’d twist their words to fit my “calendar,” and others argued that gaming sites and most gamers are “biased” against Stadia.
“I think a lot of [the press] was always biased and negative about Stadia from the start,” said Marco. “No one has ever really tried to explain what Stadia is. Instead of, [they] only focused on the things that went wrong. But when things go well, there’s no one there. PlayStation launches two games in PS Plus and they write about it. Stadia launches seven games in Pro and not even [outlet] writes about it.”
Others pointed out that sites like IGN and popular YouTubers never mention Stadia when mentioning which platforms games are released on, or take the time to review Stadia versions of games as soon as they come out. They claim this is an example of how the press and influencers have tried to put Stadia in a bad light. (The reality is that most sites, including Kotakulack the staff and resources necessary to create ongoing, dedicated coverage of a relatively niche platform like Stadia.)
Perfect for them
However, the biggest benefit of my time speaking to all these different Google Stadia users was not that they were angry or bitter. It wasn’t that they felt ignored or mistreated. I saw little doom and gloom about the future of the service, or what the streaming model might mean for the future of digital ownership. Instead, most were just happy that the service still existed and even existed because it seemed like the perfect way for them to play games in 2022.
They didn’t want to get into any discussions about the viability of streaming or which platform was better. No, they just wanted to talk about all the games they played. It’s easy to assume that the only people still playing Stadia are crazies or people who don’t play much, but it’s not hard for normal players who have clocked thousands of hours into the service.
Right now, they know that Google’s video game streaming platform isn’t going to change the world. But they don’t care. As long as they can continue to play all their favorite games on any internet-connected device without downloads or other downtime, they’ll be happy to invest in Stadia.
“I still play because I like the serve,” Ravenlock said. “Not because I expect it to conquer the world.”