According to a recent tweet by the official Made By Google account, Stadia is now coming pre-installed on Chromebooks. Now, let’s clear something up right out of the gate – The Stadia ‘app’ that’s being referred to here is not the Google Play app, it’s the web app. Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Michael, Stadia is just a website, it doesn’t need to be ‘installed’ to be accessed,” and you’re right.
In fact, almost every comment to the above tweet has made sure to point this out. However, one of the largest hurdles for Chromebook customers is understanding how to access content out of the box that is not installed from the Google Play Store. The more Google relies on web-based content to drive the experience for users, and they are, the more ‘invisible’, and out of reach most things are for users who are new to Chromebooks. If they have to go and perform an internet search for it each time they want to use it as opposed to clicking an icon to launch a ‘program’ like they’re used to doing with their Windows and Mac computers, they’ll just return it – trust me, I know this from extensive experience in the field.
Luckily, Google continues to add PWAs to the Play Store in place of traditionally packaged apps, thus significantly alleviating this problem. In fact, they just released Youtube Music for Chromebooks today in place of its app counterpart, which mysteriously disappeared two months ago. As you can probably guess, the new version is just a website with an icon that can be installed from the store! The same is true of Google News. Calendar and Youtube began showing hints at moving in this direction recently as well, so it may only be a matter of time before all of the company’s services are PWAs on the Play Store.
The remaining tweet replies criticized Google over its recent handling of Stadia. Shortly after shuttering its first-party development studios (something that would have helped it stand out in the marketplace), it found itself attracting negative attention again because Terraria’s developer, who was porting the popular game to Stadia, was somehow locked out of his Google accounts for three weeks with no response for the company. He took to Twitter to burn off his frustrations and decided publicly that the port would be canceled, and his company, Re-Logic, would no longer support Google or Stadia moving forward.
In the past, Google has pre-installed apps on Android phones to bolster usage statistics for services that were struggling or close to dead (read: Google+), but retracted its decision a few years later after users had strong words about the company contributing to the ‘bloatware’ problem. I’m not saying that this is a sign for Stadia following in those same footsteps, but I’m not saying it’s not either. If a service needs to place itself right in front of your face and scream “look at me! I’m right here, please play me”, that’s not good.
All I mean is that it’s too early to tell, and Stadia certainly has a lot left to give, even if it doesn’t look the way we had originally anticipated. However, deciding to preinstall it on Chromebooks, while a seemingly innocent decision, doesn’t exactly give the right impression for those of us who can read between the lines and have been analyzing the industry for years. I really hope that I’m wrong and that this is just a continuation of Google’s efforts to give Chromebook users out-of-the-box access to experiences that can bolster their device usage, but “only time will tell” – something I’m sick of saying about Google products.