Google Has a New Strategy for Stadia (Premium)

At its Google for Games Developer Summit on Tuesday, Google slyly confirmed rumors that it is pivoting Stadia to be a different kind of service. That is, where Stadia today directly targets consumers who wish to stream games from the cloud, the Stadia of tomorrow will be available to third-party game studios and publishers that wish to directly target consumers themselves. This strategy makes sense. But I do have some questions.

The first and most obvious is whether these two strategies are mutually exclusive: that is, can’t Google continue with Stadia as-is while offering the underlying technologies to others too?

The answer, for now, appears to be yes. As part of its virtual Google for Games Developer Summit 2022 keynote, Careen Yapp noted several ways in which the company is improving the end-user Stadia service we know today. (This starts at about 1:04:30 in the video if you’re interested in watching it for yourself.)

Yapp noted that Google is making it possible for people to browse the Stadia store online without first signing in to their Google account. They’re making it easier for gamers to find Stadia titles through Google Search with “click-to-play” links. And they’re introducing a new Stadia feature that will let gamers trial a full version of games via click-to-play without signing up or paying anything; this requires no work on the developer’s part, and they can determine how much of the game is available during this free trial. (This feature was trialed with just a handful of titles last year to great success.)

Google is also greatly expanding the number of devices on which customers can access Stadia. It’s already available on PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, Android phones and tablets, iPhones, iPads, LG smart TVs, and Android TVs and Google Cast devices. And Samsung is adding compatibility via its Samsung Gaming Hub on 2022 smart TVs and displays this year.

For developers interested in porting to Stadia, Google is likewise making that process easier with automatic DirectX translation, improved Unity and Unreal Engine support, and cloud-native playtest and quality assurance capabilities. This all results in what Google calls “low change porting,” significantly reducing the time and effort it takes to get Windows games onto Stadia. The firm is testing these tools with several partners now and expects to roll them out to the entire ecosystem later this year.

Finally, Google is also making Stadia more lucrative to game makers through a series of incentive programs. 70 percent of Stadia’s monthly subscription revenues go to game makers, as do 85 percent of so-called transactional revenues (which I assume means in-app revenues). There’s also a new affiliate marketing program that pays game makers $10 for every player that converts to a Stadia Pro subscription after using their click to play link. “No other game publisher does this,” Yapp said, adding that the program will be live for all devel...

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