The launch of Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Stadia’s service had its ups and downs. But the technology giant recently announced a major change that should boost it: users can now access the cloud gaming platform for free through a trial subscription to Stadia Pro.
The move is welcome to a cloud gaming platform that, not too long ago, was getting very harsh press coverage (including The Motley Fool) Since players don’t need to buy hardware to use the service, the free trial means they can test the full Stadia experience without spending a dime.
The journey from launch day to night
The super fans who signed up before the launch day used Google’s cloud service with the Stadia Premiere edition: a hardware setup that included a Stadia controller and a Chromecast device to place video game images on the TV screen. Premiere Edition also included a free trial account for Stadia Pro.
Stadia Pro is the premium version of the subscription service – but it was “premium” compared to nothing when Stadia was launched, because at that time, the only way to gain access to the platform was to splurge on the package that included the premium subscription. The controller, although not technically needed on some platforms (Android players could use Bluetooth controllers, for example), it could also have been: Again, buying the hardware package was the only way to get Stadia.
Then there are the games. Although Stadia’s games flow from the cloud, it doesn’t follow exactly one Netflixmodel. Games are purchased individually on the platform (and players need to purchase titles again, even if they already have a game for a different platform). Stadia Pro subscribers can also access some games for free (the selection is updated every month) and subscribers keep the games they have purchased in the past few months.
It is a configuration with some deficiencies and a rocky launch day and the first few months of operation reflected some of them. Stadia’s support for hardware other than the Stadia controller and Chromecast was unstable. The game library was limited, despite Google’s rush to add new titles before launch day and later decision to launch new games to appease its dissatisfied user base. With subscribers’ free trial accounts on launch day expiring (“free” is a somewhat questionable descriptor here, as these customers had to prepay for the package), it was time for Stadia to release a truly free version.
Better late than never, here it is.
Free for all
Stadia now offers two crucial features that are expected to significantly expand its potential reach. First, there is a free way to get an account. Technically, players need to sign up for a free trial of the paid version of Stadia (the aforementioned Stadia Pro). However, after the free trial, these Pro accounts will revert to regular, unpaid Stadia accounts. And since the only way to get a Stadia account before was to buy hardware, this marks the first time that Stadia can be accessed without spending anything.
This erases the need for a Stadia controller – a requirement until now. (Players still need the Stadia controller to use their Stadia games with a Chromecast, but they can use other means to control their games on mobile devices and the Chrome browser).
The important thing here is that Google is making it easier to test Stadia without having to invest money in controllers or premium subscriptions. Users will still have to purchase games on the platform, but this is also easy (and inexpensive) resolved through the free trial offer, as many games are available free of charge every month to professional subscribers – paying and free of charge.
It was time
Stadia hasn’t always impressed, but the debut of its free version could be a great moment in the evolution of cloud games. And although it may have arrived a little later than the fans expected, is arriving at a relatively good time in the same way. Many of the potential subscribers that Stadia is targeting are currently socially isolating (something that Google recognizes in your ad) And despite Stadia’s mistakes, competing services like NVIDIAis (NASDAQ: NVDA) GeForce Now failed to take advantage. It may not be too late for Stadia to win the track for cloud games.