Google has finally had an idea for how to expand Stadia’s audience, and it only took a worldwide pandemic for the company to realize there might be a better way to reach potential customers. A recent company blog post states:
Video games can be a valuable way to socialize with friends and family when you’re stuck at home, so we’re giving gamers in 14 countries free access to Stadia Pro for two months. This is starting today and rolling out over the next 48 hours
You can read our review of Stadia by my colleague Ryan Whitwam here.
How It Works and What You Get
First of all, the offer is free to anyone with a Gmail address, which is to say, it’s free to anyone who can figure out how to make up a name for a burner email account they’ll never otherwise use. The nine games you’ll have access to are:
- Destiny 2: The Collection
- SteamWorld Dig 2
- SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
- Serious Sam Collection
- Stacks on Stacks (on Stacks)
This is a two-month trial of Stadia Pro, which means you get access to the free games offered with that service. Other titles have to be purchased at full price. Stadia Pro is normally $10 per month, but nobody will be charged for the next two months; existing customers will receive two months free. You also don’t need a Chromecast or any other hardware from Google.
Does This Make Stadia a Good Investment?
No. The average lifetime of a Google service, based on ~200 products and services the company has killed, is about four years. Google has made absolutely no guarantees about Stadia longevity and I will not recommend Stadia as a paid service to anyone for anything until it’s either sufficiently successful that Google would be downright stupid to kill it, or Google starts making written minimum-service guarantees. That’s been my consistent opinion since Stadia launched, and it remains my opinion today.
Obviously, if you don’t care about retaining access to games you’ve previously played, you may feel differently about the value proposition. But the prospect of paying full price for games that I promptly lose access to when Google decides Stadia hasn’t made enough money instantly kills my interest in paying for the service.
Trying Stadia, on the other hand, seems pretty reasonable. Yes, Google is hoping these nine games will persuade you to sign up for the service. I wouldn’t. Use Stadia as a way to investigate two different questions: First, can your local ISP deliver game streaming at acceptable frame rates in the first place? If it can’t, no streaming game service is going to be worth your time and money, regardless of what you think of the underlying product. Second, do you want to buy the games from stores with longer histories or better track records? Stadia is a perfectly useful way to answer those two questions and if you choose to sign up, that’s what I’d use it for.
I’d like to say something along the lines of “And if you enjoy it and think the value is good, why not stay a Pro subscriber at $9.99?” But my problem with Stadia isn’t the idea of a $10-per-month subscription, it’s the fact that Google charges you full price for games you have no access to if or when they shut the service down. Until the company provides a method for consumers to keep the games they purchased, makes an in-writing commitment to operate Stadia for at least five years, or guarantees in writing that customers will not lose access to games they’ve purchased by providing equivalent digital licenses for products via Steam/GOG/Epic in the event of a shutdown, I can’t recommend spending money on it.