Google just wrapped up their July Stadia Connect today and with it they brought a bunch of reveals. While it didn’t exactly meet many gamer’s expectations, there is certainly a good reason why exceptionally high expectations should be kept in check. For now, let’s talk about how our pre-Connect predictions stacked up against what was actually revealed.
Opening the stream by taking a moment to talk about how new subscribers get 19 games to play for free upon signing up for a 30 day free trial, Meagan Timney, lead of Stadia’s user experience research team then moved on to flex about how those of us who have been signed up for Stadia Pro since launch have over two dozen games. Smooth, Google, smooth. I mean, she’s not wrong, but until you take a moment to scroll through your library, it may be hard to keep in mind the sheer amount of content we’ve accumulated since launch.
Next, she recapped Stadia’s features and though it felt a bit like an advertisement, it is their show and they’re proud of what they built. Then, she recapped what we expect to play before the year ends which includes Marvel’s Avengers, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Cyberpunk 2077, NBA 2k21, Mafia II and III Remaster, PGA Tour 2K21 and WWE Battlegrounds.
Initially, we predicted that the ever popular State Share feature, which lets gamers share a simple web link and allow their friends to join their session with a set of highly specific parameters, would be discussed during the Connect. Little did we know, however, that Crayta, Stadia’s new voxel based social game, would be releasing this feature alongside of its launch for Stadia Pro on the first of the month, a whole two weeks earlier.
Click to Play
This one surprised us a bit. Click to play allows you to drop a link in the Youtube description box or anywhere else around the web and it launches those who click it directly into that Stadia game. If they don’t have Stadia or it’s a Stadia Pro game and that user is not a Pro subscriber or doesn’t yet own that game, they will first be taken to Stadia.com or to the Stadia store to meet the requirements. While we do feel that this feature is an extension of the State Share technology, we see it being massively beneficial for getting sign ups from Youtube Streamer’s audiences. Who knows, maybe they’re preparing for Ninja’s possible migration to Youtube Gaming.
He (Ninja) has nearly 24 million YouTube subscribers, though he said on his stream that he had never gone live on YouTube before Wednesday.
If Mr. Blevins does choose to stream exclusively on YouTube, it could provide a boost for YouTube’s gaming push. The platform recently signed the contentious star Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, to an exclusive contract, but trails Twitch over all in the fight to dominate the live gaming industry.The New York Times
The only thing we feel could be done better here is that the Stadia team should consider making the Click to Play feature a button instead of a link that can be placed right on the description box of the Youtube livestream. Since Youtube Gaming integrated with the core platform, each game stream requires the streamer to choose which game they’re playing. This then shows below the video and it takes viewers directly to the official Youtube Gaming page for that title.
We’ve seen code in the Stadia APK teardown by 9to5 Google that pointed to a very near release for Family Sharing. Google Families is also set up to work with Stadia, so we were sure we would hear more about it today. In fact, here’s what we originally said:
The Stadia team is almost a year behind schedule with offering Family Sharing which will allow you to let those in your Google Family Group to play your games without purchasing them again. Being that this feature was supposed to launch ‘in early 2020’ it’s clear and understandable that its development track must have been offset by the pandemic. Also, the Families page has been updated to include Stadia and Google Support already has step-by-step instructions for setting it up for your children, so we expect to finally have access to this long awaited feature.Our predictions article from last month
Welp, we were wrong. Family sharing was nowhere to be found during today’s Connect. Regardless, it’s definitely still on the horizon. In the meantime, just don’t buy any games twice. Let’s wait patiently for this feature to roll out so that we can share our purchases with our families under one cost.
Crowd Play and Crowd Choice
We were spot on with these! Crowd Play allows gamers to jump into a live game with their favorite Youtube streamer and Crowd Choice allows streamers to poll their viewers on decisions they can make as they play. We felt that these features were long overdue and sure enough, there was a heavy focus on them during the Connect. In fact, Dead by Daylight announced their game for Stadia a few hours earlier and mentioned both as launch features.
Interestingly enough, Super Bomberman R Online was also announced and prominently features Crowd Play. While this is an older game series and many have already taken to the comments about how the Connect continued to lean on older titles throughout the presentation, I think the truly amazing thing here is how Stadia’s features can be intricately woven into just about any title. Playing Bomberman with 64 people at once (I see what they did there…Bomberman 64 anyone?) over the internet and allowing stream viewers to jump in at a moment’s notice is truly revolutionary. These Stadia features will surely change the gaming landscape indefinitely, given enough time and polish.
Unfortunately, we were wrong about the Connect featuring more Google Assistant news and a Stadia website redesign, but like other features on this list, including Family Sharing, we’re likely to see more news on the Google Assistant stealth drop on the platform or be posted on the Stadia Community Blog before or during the next Connect. Regarding a website redesign, the more I thought about the current layout, the more I realized it’s actually pretty efficient, but change still always excites me!
AAA and First Party Titles
In our predictions post, we mentioned that Stadia needed to bring the heat with more triple A titles that would garner more interest from people on the outside looking in. You know, maybe even a first party title or two being teased from Stadia Games and Entertainment. Well, they must have been listening because several AAA titles were announced and we even got a peak into what the company’s own studio has been cooking up.
It’s great that they didn’t waste too much time on titles that we’ve already seen like Baulder’s Gate III and Wavebreak which recently aired new gameplay at Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest, Cristales and Windbound which were announced on the Stadia Community Blog last month and Ubisoft’s Gods and Monsters which was leaked way too early
Instead, we got a first look at Outcasters, a battle royale style Pop Vinyl toys style game to come out of Google’s deal with developer Splash Damage, which we totally called.
The real bombshell in our opinion was the reveal of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice coming to Stadia by the Dark Souls developer, FROM Software. It’s hard to keep in mind at times that games like this aren’t Playstation exclusives, though they seem like they ought to be with all of their polish and marketing under the Playstation brand since its launch. Since we will never get my favorite yet-to-be-released Samurai game, Ghost of Tsushima on Stadia as it’s a Sony first party title, Sekiro will do just fine. That’s assuming it doesn’t cause me to throw my controller in frustration.
A nice surprise was that the long awaited Orcs Must Die 3 was dropped as available on the Stadia Store during the livestream! While I’ve never been one for tower defense games, this one looks pretty special. We’ll discuss at length why we’re excited for this game, but first, we’re going to play it to confirm some of our thoughts before sharing them!
Oddly enough, They didn’t speak about the Summer of Games sale which also began during the Connect over on the Stadia Store which include a handful of deep discounts for those who have been waiting to buy a few of the more expensive titles.
Square Enix and developer People Can Fly also showed off OUTRIDERS; a 1-3 player, drop-in-drop-out co-op shooter set in an original, dark and desperate sci-fi universe. To be honest, while I absolutely love Square Enix games, this game at first blush looks simply looks like a Dark Souls Destiny. I’ll be digging further into this, but I’m not impressed so far. Either way, it’s great to see so many games coming to the platform, so I’m not going to complain!
Another surprise announcement was that the Hitman Trilogy remake would also be coming to Stadia! First, Hitman 1 will launch as a Stadia Pro title in September and then Hitman 2 and 3 will launch shortly after in January of 2021. Offering Hitman 1 as a Pro game will definitely whet subscriber’s appetite and may give them a reason to buy the next two games in the series.
So that this article doesn’t become too long, we’ll quickly mention that a cool looking indie game called One Hand Clapping is also available in Early Access right now on the Stadia Store for just a few bucks, Supermassive Games, creator of Until Dawn and the Dark Pictures Anthology, Harmonix, creator of Rock Band and Uppercut Games, a smaller developer who created Submerged and City of Brass are all working with Stadia to bring games to the service. We can definitely see the latter titles as Stadia Pro games down the line, but we’ll have to wait and see.
There we have it! We think we did pretty good with our predictions! What you have to keep in mind with Google’s Stadia Connect is that it was never meant to be like E3 or any other big reveal event. I believe it’s called a Connect because Google wants to connect with players in a transparent, human way as they develop the platform and games. Such is Google’s approach to all of their products and services, so it’s actually refreshing to see that philosophy applied to their gaming efforts as well. The Stadia team is composed of excited gamers just like you and I after all! Like a Nintendo Direct, it’s about allowing gamers to walk alongside the developers as they share what they’re creating while it unfolds. Holding back the flood gates for some humongous marketing event is how these things have always worked, but I definitely see more value in this new approach which has been popularized by Nintendo.
The Stadia team is creating incredible new technology and experiences which have never been tried before. Expectations have been high for a new company like Stadia Games and Entertainment who only just ramped up their teams and studios this last year. Many fans expect them to compete with the likes of Sony and Microsoft who have had nearly 20 years longer to create their brands and business models.
Big events like E3 used to be necessary as gaming was still getting its legs and trying to be accepted into culture, but nowadays, it has no problem with that. In fact, it’s so big that it’s created its own culture and makes more money than the movie industry! With that being said, let’s try to be okay with bites morsels of news and reveals which keep us satiated throughout the year as opposed to a feast which leaves us starving after we digest it. As stories of development crunch become more prominent, especially with companies like Naughty Dog, serious physical and mental strain plague the amazingly talented people working on these games – some to the point where they need to be hospitalized. I believe that events like Stadia Connect may go a long way to mitigating these issues by tempering gamer’s expectations about development timelines and set backs like the pandemic while developers transparently share milestones with their audience in a healthier, more well-paced manner.
What did you think about today’s Stadia Connect? Let us know in the comments below and for all of your on-the-go gaming news, keep it locked right here on Gaming Unboxed!