Why I’m putting Stadia on notice

Juhani Lehtimäki
5 min readDec 10, 2021

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I’m one of the people who bought the Stadia Founder’s Edition. I’ve also been pro subscriber pretty much uninterrupted since the launch.

But I don’t play a lot of games. If I get 30 mins game time in a month, that’s a lot. There’s been many months I’ve not played at all. To me Stadia was and is promise of the gaming future I want. With my gaming time, there’s very little point buying dedicated hardware. It would just take space, gather dust and get outdated. A streaming service doesn’t do any of the above. So I wanted Stadia to succeed. It allowed me to play the latest games. I was completely fine with the compromises like input lag (really not noticeable most of the time).

The promise, not kept

The promise made was that Stadia would give me the experience of top-of-the-line gaming PC. While the graphics on Stadia are not bad by any standards, it’s not aligned with the top end hardware available for gamers. The big game expectation to me was Cyberpunk 2077. Regardless how the game itself turned out to be, the graphics are not maxed out when playing. Most noticeably raytracing is still missing, a year after the game launch.

Cyberpunk 2077 on Stadia

OK, as a causal gamer, this is something I could live with. You don’t get the fanciest graphics on gaming consoles either and on PC you need to constantly be updating your hardware to keep on pace with the development. The graphics are good enough for my purposes. Disappointed? yes — blocker? no.

The big thing though. Available games.

The game selection is good, but not great

There are a lot of games on the platform. But there are even more games that are not on the platform. In the early days of Stadia, the pace Google managed to lure publishers was good. Ubisoft brought (nearly) all of their games to the platform and it looked like it was just a matter of time until the rest did the same. But that wasn’t how things ended up. There’s still huge number of big publishers missing and no new announcements have been done for a long time.

There are games I enjoy a lot. Dirt 5, Grid, Wreckfest, all great. Driving games are fantastic on the platform! But the rest. Yeah.

Missed opportunity

The big missed opportunity of Stadia is lack of games utilising the unique opportunities this kind of service enables. Where are all the MMOs and other multiplayer games running on the Stadia servers?

I know there’s The Elder Scrolls Online, PUBG, Destiny 2 etc, but these are all games that were built for other platforms. What I want to see is games like multiplayer shooters with fully destructible environment in city-size maps. These are the games which simply cannot be implemented using the normal server-client infrastructure of the “normal” multiplayer environment. On Stadia on the other hand, this would be possible. All of the clients run on the same hardware and synchronising state between them feels like a solvable problem. This kind of games could start to pull the crowds that are now missing on Stadia.

The Stadia studio closure

Google closed their dedicated gaming studio not long after it become operational. To me this felt like the right thing to do at the time. It is better to spend the resources to lure the existing publishers to the platform than spew out mobile-game like “exclusives” form the internal studio. I did not see the closure as a death sentence, quite opposite in fact. We see how badly the games coming out form Amazon’s counterpart are being received. The faith of Stadia Studio games would probably have been similar. However, if the efforts would have bene focused on Stadia specific opportunities, the situation would have been different.

What Google should have done, is to acquire the (one-man) team behind Teardown to build a destructible sandbox worlds for stadia MMO. The Minecraft-like freedom would have likely gathered quite a following as well as shown what is possible. Create a city-size map of this detail and drop 1000+ players in it and the tech demonstration would have been unparallel.

This would be spot on for Stadia

Putting Stadia on notice

You’re on notice

So, I’m putting Stadia on notice. Yesterday, a new version of my all-time favourite shooter Space Marine was announced: Space Marine 2.

Once the game launches and the likely XBOX exclusivity period is over, if the game is not available on Stadia, I will cancel my pro subscription and subscribe to another streaming service and will unlikely not return to Stadia again.

The countdown has begun

Game streaming is a good idea

I’ll never buy a gaming PC again, nor will I buy a gaming console for myself. Streaming is the future for me. Which service I’ll be paying for.. I don’t know yet. Stadia is technological masterpiece. But if Google can make it work, others can as well. I just hope we’re not heading into a similar situation with game streaming as we’re with video streaming where each of us have to subscribe to 5+ services to get access to all the content we want. That future feel bleak. I’m happy to pay for a couple but more than that feels like a losing proposition to everyone involved.

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Juhani Lehtimäki

Dad | Founder, CTO @snappmobile_io | CEO @snappautomotive | GDE, Android | GDG-Android Munich organiser