When Google launched its Stadia gaming platform in November 2019, the company promised us a new era for video gaming. Gone would be the days where we’d need to own an expensive piece of hardware in our homes to play the latest games. That space on our shelves could now be reserved for other things. Gone, too, would be the days of either going to a store or mail-ordering new game releases. Everything we could ever want or hope to play would be available for instant streaming using any web-enabled scheme a player had to hand. Be it a phone, a laptop, a tablet or a television; Google Stadia would allow you to play games on it.
In both form and function, Google envisaged the launch of Stadia as a step forward just as significant as the day the first online slots website was launched in the early 21st century. Before that happened, nobody ever imagined that casino games would be taken out of the hands of “real” casinos and go on to run riot across the internet. These days there are quite literally thousands of online slots websites, and real-world casinos are closing down. Try as they might, the old-school casinos can’t keep up with up-and-comers like Rose Slots CA, and so playing online has become the default choice when it comes to playing slots. Google hoped to have the same impact on Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo – effectively making the consoles and hardware they produce obsolete. Suffice to say, it hasn’t turned out that way – or, at least, not yet.
There is certainly a lot of merit to the idea of streaming games rather than owning them. Both Sony and Microsoft even have their own streaming services to appeal to existing PlayStation and Xbox owners. Amazon must see some merit in the idea because, within the past six months, they’ve launched a new platform called “Luna,” which works almost exactly the same way that Stadia does. There have even been rumours that Netflix is considering entering the gaming market with its own streaming platform. Google’s idea isn’t a bad one – it just may have been a little ahead of its time. Internet connections are faster now than ever before, but outside major cities, they’re still not quite reliable enough to make playing games as seamless as it would be if the games were played on a native device. This is why Google Stadia has struggled to gain traction – a fact that saw Google close down one of its in-house gaming studios as recently as February.
Even with the decidedly-not-rosy picture we’ve painted above, Google hasn’t given up on its trailblazing idea just yet. It’s tried everything to get people interested in Stadia within the past twelve months, including giving controllers and subscriptions away with YouTube Premium purchases. However, the one thing they haven’t done is make Stadia playable through the Chromecast TV or Android TV services. Given that the company owns both platforms, this has always looked like either a curious oversight or a catastrophic mistake. If it’s been the latter rather than the former, it appears that Google is finally ready to correct the error.
With a start date of June 23rd, Google is now ready to add Chromecast, Android TV, and Google TV support for Stadia. This is part of a move that should eventually result in Stadia becoming what it purported to be on day one – a gaming platform that’s available to everybody, everywhere. Even owners of smart televisions that aren’t listed on the current breakdown of Stadia-supported devices will be able to use “experimental support” to see if their device is capable of accessing Stadia. At the same time the newly expanded service goes live, the Stadia app will appear in the Play Store connected to all applicable Android devices. Full support for Google-made Stadia controllers is included in the new offering, although whether the support for other controllers that’s available to existing Stadia users will be available immediately is unclear.
The big headline here is that Stadia will now be available for Chromecast with Google TV, but it will also be available for all Hisense Android Smart TVs, Nvidia Shield TVs, and various Phillips and Xiaomi devices. This means that Google is delivering on a promise that it made at the very beginning of the year, albeit late. In January, the company promised full support for Chromecast during the first half of 2021. June 23rd is about as close as you can get to the mid-point of the year while still technically being able to claim that you kept your word. The reason for the extended delay is unknown. For now, the price of a Google Stadia dongle and remote will remain unchanged at sixty dollars. Compared to the five-hundred-dollar-plus price of a new PlayStation 5, it’s a drop in the ocean, and so Google still hopes to win this battle by pricing so much lower than its competitors.
While this move solves some of the availability issues that Google has experienced with Stadia, it doesn’t solve the problem with game availability. As of the time of writing, there are still fewer than thirty “triple-A” games available to Stadia subscribers. The latest version of “Resident Evil,” for example, has not yet been released to Stadia Pro. Nor has the latest version of “Hitman.” You can play either game – along with many more – by purchasing them separately through the Stadia store, but this seems to defeat the point of having a streaming platform. If you’re paying full price for games, many players might feel they’re better off sticking to the platforms they already know and love. If more game development companies aren’t willing to make their products available via Stadia Pro in return for a cut of the monthly subscription charge, the platform might be doomed in the long term, no matter how available it becomes.
Some companies would already have given up on Stadia by now. Even Google has ditched ideas faster than this in the past. After investing so much money and time into launching the product, the company must feel determined to cling on and see a return on that investment. This might be an important step along the road – but it’s still a long way short of solving all of the problems that put people off the idea of ditching their PlayStations.