For better or worse there has been a ton to unpack for cloud gaming wholesale as we leave the second month of 2021 behind us. Even if you’re feeling positive, from afar it may look very much like the writing is on the wall for Google’s premiere gaming platform, which — sadly — makes February 2021 yet another eventful month for Stadia.
About Stadia “Save State”: This is our overview/compilation of all the updates, upgrades, and potential pitfalls for Google’s game streaming platform over the previous month. We also decompile the latest versions of the Stadia application and dig into the code online to better understand where Stadia is headed. Expect opinion, information, and speculation on all things Google Stadia, the games, and everything in between.
- Google closes Stadia Games & Entertainment developer studio
- Video — Stadia ‘Save State’ February 2021!
- February 2021 new releases
- Stadia Pro: Upcoming games for March 2021
- Stadia tidbits and highlights
- Google Stadia: New features added in February 2021
- Upcoming features
- Upcoming games
Google closes Stadia Games & Entertainment developer studio
What a way to kick off the year and instantly undo so much good work in recent months. News broke right at the start of February 2021 that Google had closed the Stadia Games & Entertainment game development studio, and in the process effectively ending any potential first-party games in the process.
Now this means that exclusives are simply off the menu for Stadia gamers in the foreseeable future, but it has far wider ramifications that are not to be glossed over. One of the most obvious, and in most cases warranted, criticisms of Stadia from the very beginning has been the lingering doubt over the long-term viability of the service.
Google has been known to pull the plug on services it deems are not working seemingly on a whim. Many hardcore fans will try and brush this off, but detractors will decry they “told us so.” As it stands, Stadia is not dead, or at least it isn’t yet. Are there creeping doubts that the service could end up on the scrapheap? Sure, but nothing has been particularly clear where Stadia is concerned — least not at this stage.
So, to summarize, Stadia general manager Phil Harrison shared in an official blog post that first-party Stadia games are no longer a priority and the studio is shutting down with Jade Raymond departing. Since then news has been shared showing some pretty poor handling of the entire situation, with Harrison even praising the good progress of the internal studio literally hours before the shutdown was planned — shocking, right?
After hiring some of the best talents in the gaming industry, it’s a shock to the system and one that paints the entire platform in a bad light. Google claims that the 100 or so developers will be moved to other projects, but given the very unique skills needed within the games industry, it’s not clear how well these transitions will work in practice.
Stadia is going to be the home for third-party titles, with only a few pre-existing “exclusives” being made available. In the short term, this isn’t great as the traditional “system seller” won’t exist. Harrison suggested that Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Bethesda was cited as a reason that this decision was made.
Since then, we have seen Google double-down on third-party games with “more than 100 games” promised as coming in 2021. It seems small-time compared to other platforms but — not to defend the decision — huge brand-new IPs are few and far between. If Google wanted the next Halo or Gears of War, it’s now a tougher time than ever at a time when games as a service almost reign supreme.
What does the future hold? It’s anyone’s guess. Stadia definitely works, and works well. It just remains to be seen how long Google will persevere and if Stadia can act as that “complementary” gaming service that offers an easy route into a “core” game library for most people out there without the hardware overhead.
Video — Stadia ‘Save State’ February 2021!
February 2021 new releases
New titles are proving to be a commodity from January through February 2021 for Stadia — or in general. We saw a few more indie titles joining the ranks throughout the month with bigger games expected over the next couple of months. In reality, the turn of a new year is often a lull period for gaming in general with the odd new IP or triple-A game taking advantage of a less-packed release schedule:
- A Place for the Unwilling
- Shantae: Half – Genie Hero Ultimate Edition
- Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut
- Little Nightmares II
- Welcome to Elk
That’s not a lot to choose from, but Little Nightmares II is the newest of the lot, with the horror puzzle platformer likely to be a popular title with some jump scares and returning characters. PIKUNIKU is one of those absurd puzzle-exploration style games that fuses gameplay elements and technicolor splendor into a family-friendly format.
The rest of the lineup includes indie titles that won’t break the bank and have some interesting art styles. Welcome to Elk feels like a fusion of Bob’s Burgers-style animation with an interesting story telling element that includes card games, videos, and more.
A Place for the Unwilling is another narrative-driven adventure games that is set in the final 21 days of a dying city with an in-game clock and the ability to talk to practically anyone within the Dickensian game world. It has a real Braid feel with regard to the hand-drawn elements, look, and feel.
A duo of Shantae titles arrive in the form of Risky’s Revenge and Genie Hero. The 2D side-scrollers have very distinct art styles with you playing as a half-genie Shantae with hair whipping attacks. It’s probably a fairly unknown side-scrolling gem to sink your teeth into.
Stadia Pro: Upcoming games for March 2021
If you’re a Stadia Pro subscriber, it’s slim pickings again for March 2021, but given just how many games you can claim, it still remains a reasonably good value for casual gamers who just want something to play. The $8.99 plan only offers a few games this time around, but there is no denying that almost like Xbox Live and Playstation Plus, it’s an essential add-on for avid players though who want to build a library and ensure 4K gameplay is possible. February 2021 was very light on games, with only three titles being made available for Pro tier subscribers, and looking ahead to next month, you’ll be able to grab just four more games from March 1, 2021:
That isn’t the best selection of games we’ve seen but two of those titles are new releases, with a cumulative value of well over $20 it isn’t too bad in terms of a game-per-dollar rating. Like last month the brand new Savage Planet, the addition of PixelJunk Raiders — which comes with the second usage of the State Share feature — is likely worth the $8.99 subscription fee alone. Pac-man Mega Tunnel Battle is fun for all of 5 minutes, while AVICII Invector might be a must-play for fans of the pioneering DJ.
Be sure to claim all of the February 2021 free titles, as there often is, some titles will be leaving the Stadia Pro tier, including Kine, Hello Neighbor: Secret Neighbor, Monster Jam Steel Titans, and from March 2nd Outcasters will also leave the free tier. Be sure to grab them before February 28, 2021, though, as part of your $8.99-per-month subscription fee. The count will stand at 30 titles after the additions/subtractions:
- SteamWorld Dig 2
- SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
- SteamWorld Dig
- SteamWorld Heist
- PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS
- Crayta, Orcs Must Die! 3
- Human: Fall Flat
- SUPERHOT: MIND CONTROL DELETE
- Sundered: Eldritch Edition
- Submerged: Hidden Depths
- Cthulhu Saves Christmas
- Ary and the Secret of Seasons
- F1 2020
- Hotline Miami
- El Hijo
- Journey to the Savage Planet: Employee of the Month Edition
- Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
- Enter the Gungeon
- Little Nightmares II
- PixelJunk Raiders
- AVICII Invector
- PAC-MAN Mega Tunnel Battle
Stadia tidbits and highlights
Stadia is now “pre-installed” on new Chromebooks + 3-month trial
Google will be hoping for a serious uptick in the Stadia userbase by tapping into the even greater Chromebook marketshare than this time last year. The COVID-19 pandemic really did boost numbers with Chrome OS overtaking MacOS in sales for the first time. Midway through February 2021, Google confirmed that the Stadia PWA would come “pre-installed” on all new Chromebooks.
It’s not really “installed” in the traditional sense. Rather it’s just a homescreen shortcut to the Stadia website, in a kind of PWA format. Given that Chromebooks are often low-powered and can barely handle intense Android games, this might open up gaming possibilities for the millions of people out there transitioning to the work-from-home model.
There is even an extended three-month free trial for new sign-ups, making the Chromebook one of the core ways to access Stadia. It’s a solid move to try and entice people to simply click the homescreen icon and just find out where it takes them. We guess we’ll just have to wait and see if it helps bolster the playerbase in the long term.
Google faces Stadia lawsuit
Google is getting sued by disgruntled fans over the initial claims that games would be available at 4K UHD at 60fps upon launch. There is no denying that Google’s original information was misleading, with certain titles actually upscaled from lower resolutions to hit that 4K 60fps mark. It’s not great, but at the end of the day, it likely isn’t enough to make most people aggrieved enough to sue.
A lawsuit originally filed in New York in October 2020 has recently been surfaced by ClassAction.org as the suit moved to New York Federal Court. The case alleges that Google “greatly exaggerated the streaming quality and display resolution” in order to “juice subscription numbers” for Stadia ahead of the platform’s launch. It’s up to developers if they support 4K 60fps, which isn’t technically the fault of Google in this instance. Maybe it could have been made clearer, but it’s simply miscommunication — at the risk of sounding like a huge apologist.
As our own Ben Schoon even suggests, this claim is similar “to suing Netflix because some movies aren’t available in 4”. Which we think sums this entire premise of this court case up pretty succinctly.
In light of the closure of the Stadia Games & Entertainment studio, more information emerged that really does not paint Google and especially Phil Harrison in a good light. Basically, an internal email commended the “great progress” made by SG&E studios to date.
Gaming outlet Kotaku was able to get hold of a portion of an internal email that would provide any forward strategy and objectives for the development arm for 2021. This was all despite Harrison apparently knowing of the decision to shut down the studio at the time of this correspondence.
Some employees didn’t even find out of the shutdown until the public reveal. To say this entire thing was handled badly is an understatement – from multiyear plans to effectively dumping more than 150 staff in an instant. A call on February 4 that offered team members a Q&A proved unsuccesful with Harrison allegedly pointing to the Microsoft acquisition of Bethesda as one of the reason’s behind Google’s decision. COVID-19 was another supposed reason, but given the massive gaming industry boost, delayed development would be the only major negative.
Terraria for Stadia canceled
The Stadia port of Terraria was canceled in early February 2021 after the co-creator Andrew Spinks was locked out his Google accounts. He explained that his personal Google account has been locked for about three weeks now, leaving Spinks unable to access his Gmail account of 15 years, “thousands of dollars” in Google Play app/movie purchases, and his Google Drive data. The troubles started with YouTube when the Terraria YouTube channel was locked.
Spinks claims that he has done “nothing to violate” Google’s terms of service, leading to the decision to pull Terraria from Stadia entirely. The project has been canceled, and Spinks further says that his company will “no longer support” any of Google’s platforms going forward, saying that doing business with Google is “a liability.”
Google Stadia: New features added in February 2021
Nada. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Our regular deep dives into the Stadia APK files often unearths snippets and tidbits of what we can expect from Stadia in future — without a dive into v3.2 in February 2021 proving no different:
Voice chat on Android
One of the key missing features of Stadia for Android is that there’s no ability to join parties or use in-game voice chat. Stadia 3.2 continues working toward voice chat in Android, including work to offer separate volume levels for game voice chat and party voice chat. We’ve found evidence that work is still ongoing into the feature and it when in party chat, friends can be set a reasonable volume while in-game voice chat offered by games like Destiny 2 stays at a much lower level.
Right-to-left language support
Last year, Stadia expanded to a new set of European countries including Austria, Hungary, and Portugal. Stadia 3.2 makes a very small change that could point toward a new set of languages and regions gaining support for Stadia.
Specifically, Stadia has set “android:supportsRtl” to be true, which means that the app should now be one step closer to supporting right-to-left languages like Arabic, Hebrew, and Urdu. Of course, much more work will still need to be done before any of these languages or their regions are properly supported by Stadia but it’s a promising little snippet that could hint at an even wider rollout of the cloud gaming platform.
January and February 2021 have been really quiet months for the Stadia game library, but a few key announcements will bring some of the biggest game series to the platform. Launch dates or launch windows were also confirmed for games like FIFA 21 plus a few more.
That said, you can see the super-short list of potentially upcoming titles below:
- PixelJunk Raiders
- Paw Patrol
- SkyclimbersIt came from space and ate our brains
- Killer Queen Black
- Street Power Football
- Kaze and the Wild Masks
What have you been playing on Stadia throughout February 2021? Be sure to let us know down in the comments section below. You can also find Damien on the platform as “Wilde” – be sure to drop a message and say hi sometime!
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