Even before the fumbled Founder’s launch of Google Stadia, the announcement of the streaming platform had many asking who exactly the service was for. Google seemed to be bringing the service to life just because it could, not because there was any real demand for another competitor in the gaming space. That question remains, and throughout the turbulent waters of the Founder’s early release, Google seems to have trouble with how it’s delivering Stadia’s message and just who that message is intended for.
Stadia as a competitor simply doesn’t make sense, at least not yet. It doesn’t have the lineup of exclusives to sway people like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo do. While the technology is impressive, it’s also trying to break into an ecosystem where most players have already established their platform of preference. I’ve previously written about how Stadia should be seeking to partner with platforms using Google technology, rather than compete, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that Google has no intention of extending the olive branch. Considering that, it’s time for the developers who are putting games on Stadia to take things into their own hands.
Having had plenty of hands-on time with my own Founder’s Edition, I can safely say that Stadia works. I’ve used it to play quite a bit of Destiny 2… and ummmm, Destiny 2. That’s about it. It’s the whole reason I bought into Stadia to begin with, to support the tech on the ground floor and to have another way to play Destiny 2 away from my PS4. And it works for that purpose (full thoughts/review coming soon). But Google Stadia is in no way enticing me to purchase games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Final Fantasy XV, or Mortal Kombat 11. Why would I? I already own those games on my PS4. I have my save progress and my trophies, and while it’d be nice to have the convenience of Stadia for those games, I’m not going to completely replay them just for that.
So it’s a lose/lose/lose situation. Stadia loses because I’m not playing games on it. I lose because I don’t get the convenience of Stadia’s tech for those games. And the developers lose because I’m not picking up another copy of their game on the Stadia platform. But what if there was a way to convince me to shell out another $60 for Red Dead Redemption 2? What could make some of these Stadia Pro sales on games even more enticing than just a price drop? Easy. Cross-save.
Stadia Games Need Cross-Save
Bungie already proved it with Destiny 2 cross-save, the only reason I even jumped on the Stadia train in the first place. While the tech is cool, I just can’t see myself playing games primarily through Stadia. And if I’ve already got a game on my PS4, well, it’s highly unlikely I’m going to make a duplicate purchase or start a whole new save. Stadia Pro gives players access to free games (currently Destiny 2: The Collection, Samurai Shodown, Farming Simulator 19 Platinum Edition, and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition), but even those—aside from Destiny 2—I probably won’t spend my time playing. But add cross-save to all games on Stadia, and you suddenly increase the value proposition of what Stadia is trying to do as a service.
If Google isn’t going to make the moves it needs to in order to make Stadia a success, then the developers can step in and do what it takes to get people to utilize Stadia as a supplementary service. Stadia’s strength lies in being a supplement. If I could take my Red Dead Redemption 2 save with me to my mother-in-law’s for the holidays or boot up my progress on Final Fantasy XV on my phone while away from my TV, suddenly I’m a bit more included to fork over a bit more money for a duplicate copy of the game. When you aren’t asking me to completely leave my ecosystem behind, I’m much more inclined to buy into what you’re selling. Consider this: I bought the Stadia Founder’s Edition and a second controller entirely on the promise of playing Destiny 2 anywhere and taking my progress with me. Build that value into the rest of the service. And if Stadia won’t do it, the developers can.
I understand that the solution isn’t as simple as “just add cross-save,” and that there are a million and a half development roadblocks along the way to making that happen. But in a world where cross-play between competing consoles is becoming the new normal and Sony has partnerships with Microsoft for the future of cloud technology, Stadia needs to put its pride aside and lean into what it can best offer. It’s never going to be the next PlayStation or Xbox, but maybe, just maybe, it could be the go-to supplementary cloud service we all use to extend our gameplay when we’re away from our consoles. It will take Google’s encouragement and support of developers to implement cross-save. It will take effort from developers to make it happen. And it will take consumers buying into the promise of gaming anywhere and anywhen. But after Stadia’s rough early launch, it could use the win.
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