Part of what made the initial buy-in intruiging for the Founder’s Edition of Stadia was the 3-month Buddy Pass that would allow a friend to enjoy 90 days of gaming along with you for free. Sure, the ability to snag your gamer name, the unique controller color, and early access to the new gaming service were also big factors, but the Buddy Pass was a pretty big deal for me signing on.
When Stadia launched on November 19th, there were plenty of missteps and hiccups. The invite codes were quite late, hardware-based lag issues took a bit to get identified, and there were some snafus surrounding 4K games not actually running at 4K on the servers. Nevermind the missing features like Google Assistant integration and live streaming; most users were very sore about Buddy Passes not being available on day one.
To be fair, Google has remedied quite a few of these issues quite quickly. They’ve publicly addressed the 4K issues and pointed out the reasoning, the invite codes clearly went out, Google Assistant is now available (in a limited fashion) via the Stadia Controller, and many of the lag issues have been cleanly resolved. Overall, most people wouldn’t argue that Stadia works at its core. The promise of streaming games in a way that is playable has actually panned out.
But no game platform can exist off of tech alone. Instead, it needs two very important and very vital things: great titles and players. There is no substitute for either of those things in the gaming industry and currently, Stadia needs to bolster both. If Stadia delivers on its earlier promises, we should see another handful of games show up in the next few weeks, but getting players on board isn’t that simple.
For this, Google looks to be pushing the grassroots recruiting by allowing existing Stadia users to invite yet another friend to 3 months of free gaming. With Stadia, you don’t have to buy anything at this point if you simply play in the browser with mouse/keyboard or a 3rd party controller you already own. As Stadia Founders, we now have a second opportunity to invite a friend to not just sample Stadia, but to really use the service in its full form for 3 months. Just open the app, click the little envelope in the top left, and get the invite code just like last time around.
I think this strategy is wise of Google and they need to do whatever is necessary to show the world that this is a legitimate option for casual gamers versus an XBOX or Playstation. The games will keep coming and the features will show up, but getting new players to really choose Stadia over a physical console in their home is the biggest hurdle Google faces right now, and more free opportunities for potential users on the fence is likely the right move.