Saturday, July 2, 2022

Google Stadia is subtly reinventing itself to attract new games and gamers

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Google’s Stadia cloud gaming service didn’t hold up to the landing, and it’s been an uphill ride ever since. But today, at the Google for Games conference, it feels like Stadia is moving in a promising direction — one that gives gamers and game developers alike a reason to pay attention. And the magic word is ‘free’. Free demos, free trials, free for developers to offer, and hopefully free of the friction that made Stadia a difficult investment to start.

I’d like to start with something I wrote last February, when I explained how Google had drastically reduced its Stadia ambitions from what essentially became “a game company” to instead “offer a white-label service to game publishers.” “. I wrote:

There is nothing inherently wrong with white labeling.

Done right, it might even unlock one of the most magical things about cloud gaming: the ability to instantly try a game wherever you are. While companies like Google already claim that games are “instantly available”, what they really mean is “after you sign up, log in and sometimes buy a game.” That’s partly due to the complex web of licensing agreements that make game publishers sign cloud services. But if game publishers were in charge of their own games, they might think differently. They can again give you Gaikai-esque game demos with instant access, demos where you can tap a YouTube ad for a game and actually start playing with it, no friction whatsoever.

Everything Google is announcing today points Stadia in that general direction.

This year Google will:

  • Have any Stadia game developer offer an instantly accessible free trial of their game that no longer requires you to log into a Stadia account to play – just a few clicks from YouTube, a Google search ad, social media, etc.
  • Let people actually browse the Stadia store for those free trials, outright free games and games to buy without even logging into a Google account, let alone Stadia
  • Make it easier for developers to port their Unreal Engine and Unity games to Stadia with tools like DXVK to automatically translate DirectX APIs – “so developers don’t have to tweak their game renderer at all,” writes Stadia representative Justin Rende
  • Let white label partners like AT&T Sign Up to use Google’s technology to offer free demos and paid games, a B2B offering now called “Immersive Stream for Games”

Google suggests it’s now so easy to try a game – easier if you click on a direct link instead of browsing.
GIF by Google

In short, the pitch sounds like this: It’s free and easy for developers to bring your games to Google’s cloud platform and put them out there for everyone to see right away. For gamers, Stadia is now a place to check out games that you might want to try before you buy them, risk-free – and if you like what you play, you can keep playing it for as long as you want, wherever you are like, for an easy payment at the end of your free trial.

However, there’s one thing you shouldn’t necessarily expect, even though Google will be talking about it today: the company is not create your own emulator to bring Windows games to Stadia. I got a peek at the presentation, and it’s more of a suggestion and tutorial on using binary translation techniques than anything else. “This is not a disclosure of a finished product or feature available to Stadia developers,” the company wrote.

Without it, the big question is how much friction is left. I have absolutely no experience transferring games between platforms so can’t comment there, but not even the free trial for players rather like the instant dream, because you still need to be signed in to a Google account for now. But Stadia spokesperson Justin Rende also says the company is still “continuing to experiment with the goal of eliminating friction where we can,” and that not verifying a Google account when diving into Stadia would be a big step. compared to Google’s early October free trials. The fewer clicks, the better.

And it’s hard to beat freely.

I suppose not Which hard to find free spell these days – the Epic Games Store gives away some every Friday, and free-to-play titles like Fortnite and Genshin impact dominate the world. But finding a free cloud gaming PC to play them on, if you only have a phone or a tablet or a weak laptop is something else entirely. I would have killed myself as a kid for that.

If your internet connection can handle it, you can already play Crayta, Lot 2hitmanPUBG, Super Bomberman R Onlineand a handful of great game demos like Rainbow Six: Extraction and Resident Evil Village free on Stadia. Today it brings a free trial of Risk of rain 2 also, and Google says AT&T will soon announce another game beyond the free one Batman: Arkham Knight sessions it offered last October.

I’m curious to see if Google’s changes are tempting companies to bring a lot more free stuff to Stadia – and how this could all align with its once-secret vision of becoming the world’s largest gaming platform.

If you’re interested, you can watch the Google for Games Summit here

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