For the second anniversary of Stadia, we published a review detailing all of the current features and whether or not we recommend the service. There’s a lot to love about Stadia, but there’s a lot that needs improving too. Here are some thoughts on how Stadia can improve, and even why these improvements may be necessary for Stadia to survive another year. These suggestions have a harsh tone, I’ll admit, but that’s only because I really do like Stadia and want it to succeed.
- Stadia’s library of games currently sits at 255. Google releases roughly 10 games for Stadia every month. Sometimes, it’s as few as 5. Sometimes, it’s as many as 15. It’s not enough. They do have complete support from Ubisoft, which is nice, but that’s probably because you can play most of Ubisoft+ on Stadia already.
- Google’s commitment to marketing Stadia is abysmal. They have almost no advertising, no outreach, and no streamer partnerships. Their social media presence is insufficient and, frankly, poor. Their tweets are neither engaging nor interesting, and they fail to excite potential customers. I don’t mean to imply that the social media team is bad at their job, but I do think that the deficiency is an indication of Google’s lack of investment into their product. It feels like Google is committing the bare minimum to Stadia, and that’s a strategy destined for failure.
- Here’s a recent example. The publisher Thunderful had a Direct-style presentation of upcoming releases. The leading announcement was Wavetale, a timed-exclusive for Stadia that both premiered and launched that very day. Stadia did tweet about the release, but it was late coming, had no hashtags whatsoever and was not pinned to their profile. The launch of an exclusive, especially an exclusive that’s as brilliant as Wavetale, should be all-hands-on-deck. Post an interview with the dev team. Hire streamers to advertise the game. Push the game for days. Nobody is going to join Stadia or play your exclusives if they don’t know your exclusives exist.
- For their second anniversary, Google made practically no effort to promote Stadia. Their only attempt was to run two (admittedly excellent) deals for the Stadia Premiere Edition bundle. But if you can’t sell people on why they should own something, they aren’t going to invest even the $22.22 you’re selling it for. And to be honest, the sale promotion comes off as a desperate attempt to dump inventory. The only means of buying a Chromecast Ultra is via the Stadia Premiere Edition bundle, which means Google is no longer manufacturing them. Their Chromecast Ultras are sitting in a warehouse when they should have sold out two years ago.
- For their second anniversary, Google should have laid out a roadmap of upcoming features and improvements. In the past, their early announcements were premature and over-promised, which backfired on them, so they pulled way back on announcing new features until they were ready to launch. I think they over-corrected. They’re making a mistake by failing to excite existing customers and entice potential customers to their platform. As far as customers are concerned, there isn’t anything to look forward to save unknown game releases, and far too few of them.
- To their credit, the Stadia social marketing team is extremely kind, helpful, and responsive to direct messages on Twitter. Thanks, Stadia team. I do know you care. Google just needs to allocate more of your time to Stadia.
Expand Co-Op Support
- Cooperative play is available for Stadia both locally and online. But to play online, each player must own a copy of the game. Stadia’s competitors, most critically Amazon with their Luna service, support full co-op capabilities with only the host owning the game. Meanwhile, Steam offers Remote Play Together and Parsec features an arcade lobby for open games. Cloud gaming is perfect for this type of feature, and Google should invest into supporting it if they want to offer a special platform experience and remain competitive.
- If you are playing Stadia with an official Stadia controller and switch to playing on a new device (like from a TV to your phone), you need to re-pair the controller with your game’s server. The process isn’t particularly painful or problematic, but a seamless transition would be another notch on their belt of supporting seamless cloud play.
- Add the ability to take captures with Bluetooth controllers. Currently, players may take captures only with the Stadia controller, with touch controls, and on PC.
- Add a dedicated icon linking to the captures page in the Stadia UX. The current means of accessing the page is cumbersome; you must scroll through the home screen and find the captures row, which has a link to the captures page.
- The captures page does not have lightbox functionality. If you click a capture to expand it, you cannot advance to the next capture.
- Allow players to post their captures to the Explore feed from their gallery. Currently, users must visit the Explore feed to post their captures.
Explore Feed Improvements
- The Explore feed is as bare bones as could be. It’s a simple listing of publicly posted screenshots and videos.
- Add the ability to Like posts.
- Add the ability to share posts to social media directly.
- Add the ability to share other people’s posts. You can share only your own, currently.
- Add filters and sorting to the explore feed.
- Filters: friends’ posts, capture type, game captured.
- Sort: most liked, most recent.
- See all of a friend’s public captures on their profile.
- See all of a game’s public captures on the game page.
State Share Improvements
- State Share is a platform feature that allows players to capture a particular setup of their game and share those conditions with others. State Share captures can be sent as a link or posted to the Stadia Explore feed. But here are a few ways they can expand the feature.
- On the Explore feed, filter posts to show only State Share captures.
- On a game’s page, show all publicly posted State Share captures.
- On a friend’s profile, show the State Share captures they’ve made public.
- Add a list of public State Share captures in the overlay menu when playing that game.
- An oddity of State Share functionality is that, even if you’re already streaming the chosen game, launching the State Share will close your current session and start a brand new stream. It’s weird.
Expand Live Stream Capability
- Currently, players can livestream their game directly to YouTube when playing on a computer. Add the ability to livestream from any device.
- Also add a live chat thread to the Stadia overlay or atop the game.
- Google chose the à la carte business model, but they need to support it better.
- One simple way is to add a wishlist function and notify subscribers when their items go on sale. It’s a proven fact that discounts massively increase game sales. For this business model, Google needs to go all in.
Emphasize the Subscription Benefits of Stadia Pro
- Did you know you can claim 40 games on Stadia Pro right now? That’s not quite the breadth of games you can access from a competing subscription-only service, nor quite how those work, but it’s close enough. Start advertising Stadia as a subscription service first and an á la carte option second. Almost every tweet and blog post they make should strongly emphasize that you can claim dozens of games right away and keep them so long as you’re subscribed.
- Alternatively, retire the à la carte model and go full subscription. I can’t advise on how to navigate the PR nightmare you’d suffer with your current customers, but I honestly think it’s the best option for long-term viability. Maybe give them a free year of Pro. I’m sure there are plenty of stipulations in your sales agreement to avoid a class-action lawsuit.
What other ideas do you have for improving Stadia? Hit us up on Twitter.