This month has been… something, for Stadia fans. Between closing its studios, new exclusives, questionable updates, a possible lawsuit, some new games and 100 more promised, and one incredibly damaging report, being a user of Google’s gaming platform has never been more of a wild ride. It’s clear that Stadia is not in a great place right now, and it’s got us thinking, what could Stadia have done differently during its first full year?

Cloud gaming saw a huge year in 2020. Stadia was on the market starting in late 2019, and within the first few months, the service had opened up its important free tier, which made Stadia a much more attractive value. Google also made other big moves with Stadia in 2020, growing the library considerably, launching new features in Crowd Choice, Crowd Play, State Share, YouTube streaming, and more. The platform also expanded to iPhone, but not promised expansions such as Android/Google TV.

Around the same time, Nvidia had finally launched its GeForce Now service publicly, only to be hit by some developer takedowns later, forcing a tweak to its business model, which saw fewer games, but happier developers. By the end of the year, GeForce Now managed over 175 million hours streamed and had expanded to Chromebooks, Android TV, and iPhone.

Amazon Luna also hit the scene this year in an early access state. It lacks a lot of core features, but did arrive with a small library of games, Twitch integration, its own controller, and iPhone support. Months later, it added limited Android support while still expanding its game library and also added Ubisoft+ a few weeks ahead of Stadia. In early 2021, Luna is still in early access.

Then, there’s xCloud. Microsoft’s game streaming tech launched to the public late in the year but remains restricted only to Android smartphones and tablets with the promise of web expansions this year. The service has a rotating library of Xbox games that’s one of the biggest outside of GeForce Now.

With all of that in mind, it’s Stadia that’s seeing a hard time after its first full year. Despite all the progress made, the service was still viewed negatively by gamers as well as the gaming media. In large part, that’s due to the big promises Google made but didn’t deliver on in a timely manner. Due to that, Google did implement a policy of not overpromising.

In my eyes, the biggest flaw of Stadia was not having at least its first year in a beta or “early access” state. Had Google opted for that route, mistakes could have been forgiven. Not many games? No problem, we’re in the early days. Missing features? Of course, the service is still in development. This is why Luna has never seen the negativity that Google has. Amazon’s service is sorely lacking behind Google’s offering, both in features and the number of games. However, everyone is more than willing to forgive that because Luna isn’t considered a final product, where Stadia is.

Of course, that’s probably not the only thing Google could have done differently. The company easily could have delayed the launch while it worked out the kinks, giving developers more time to not only bring over more games at higher quality, but to make Stadia a more complete product when it was available for people to try. There’s also the business model. Many gamers have pointed to Xbox Game Pass and Luna as having better models for game streaming, and while many of us here at 9to5Google are fans of being able to buy games on Stadia, it probably would have been smart for Google to have an “all you can eat” offering.

Whatever the case, it’s too late now to go back to the beginning. Google can only sell and, frankly, save Stadia based on what they do from this point forward. Hopefully, they’ll make the right call from this point forward.

But we’d love to hear from you, especially if you’re an active Stadia user. What do you wish Google had done differently during Stadia’s first year? Vote in the poll below or drop a comment below and let us know!

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