"Clearly Unfinished": Google's Gaming Platform Faces Uphill Battle in Marketplace

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Google Stadia head Phil Harrison

With only 31 games revealed and a monthly subscription fee, the tech giant's foray into gaming faces stiff competition from more established industry players.

On Thursday morning, Google announced the pricing, subscription details and roster of games for its Stadia game streaming service, set to launch this November.

Stadia subscriptions, dubbed Stadia Pro, will be available for $9.99 per month (a preorder bundle package, called Stadia Founder’s Edition, is available now for $129 and includes a Chromecast Ultra streaming device, a Stadia controller and three months of Stadia Pro) and will grant players access to a library of 31 games from developers like Ubisoft, Capcom and Rockstar Games. 

While Stadia's announced game library features a number of titles that are already available on other platforms (such as NetherRealm Studios' Mortal Kombat 11 and Bungie's Destiny 2), high-profile upcoming releases like Gearbox's Borderlands 3 and Ubisoft's Ghost Recon Breakpoint will launch day-and-date on Google's platform as they do on consoles and PC. However, only one of the games touted by Google on Thursday will be exclusive to the Stadia platform: Gylt, an atmospheric stealth survival game from Spanish developer Tequila Works. 

"The right way to think of this is as a buffet with not very many selections," Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter tells The Hollywood Reporter. "You can't offer a subscription service without enough choice to make it worth it. Netflix has thousands of shows, not 30." (For comparison, Netflix subscriptions currently range from $8.99 a month for its most basic plan to $15.99 for its premium package.)

"This is far more akin to a console launch and not even close to ‘Netflix for games,’" says Patrick Weekers, head of marketing and communications at PC subscription game service Utomik. "The product is clearly unfinished, but Google is feeling pressure."

The "Netflix for games" tagline has become a theme for the first half of 2019 in the video game industry. Microsoft is expected to debut new details and a launch date for its own streaming service, Project xCloud, at this weekend's pre-E3 Xbox press conference, while Apple debuted its own game subscription service, Apple Arcade, earlier this year. 

"Cloud gaming is still a new medium but we are already seeing strong competition from the likes of Microsoft, Sony and others," Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad says. "Content is king and it’s clear to us that Google has a long way to go before it can catch up with heavyweights in the industry."

Weekers stresses the importance of a deep library to justify a subscription fee to users and says Google is "racing to meet expectations."

Ahmad agrees: "Whilst convenience and being able to play a game at any time and on any device may be seen as the killer app itself, we believe that Google will need to build up a strong library of titles, including exclusive content, in order to attract the largest audience."

"I don’t think there’s enough there on the Stadia Pro subscription to entice consumers," says Pachter. "They’ll get a million, maybe two, subscribers, but not 20 million."