Google Stadia fundamentally misunderstands its audience. We here at Culture of Gaming have been very critical of stadia, and I think rightly so. Not only is it horrendously anti-consumer when it comes down to it, but it also misunderstands its audience, to the point that I now beg the question, is Stadia even worth it anymore? 

Who Would Want This?

Google is adamant about claiming that Stadia is targeted towards the very casual audience. This is a point I’d like to briefly reinforce, as any game being run on a console or (better yet) a PC will provide an infinitely better experience than anything Stadia can ever offer with streaming. Because of this, the need arises to define a ‘very casual’ audience. Who exactly is this, and will they even want to try Stadia? 

To put it bluntly, you reading this probably aren’t the audience for Stadia. The reader reading something on a video game website. I’d wager that you reading this probably already have your dedicated piece of hardware for gaming. Because of this, the definition of ‘very casual’ becomes clearer and clearer. Stadia isn’t for the person playing Sekiro on PS4, or Call of Duty on Xbox One. Stadia is for the person playing Clash of Clans or Candy Crush on their phones.

Know Nothing Better

People who play these trendy mobile games, and these being all that they play, is exactly who Stadia is for, at least, in Google’s eyes. The entire idea behind Stadia’s target audience is to introduce this ‘very casual’ audience to the “next level” of gaming. Getting people who only know Candy Crush to play say Destiny 2  or Borderlands 3. Now usually I’d be the one to say “Great, let’s get more and more people into gaming!” but this case is different, as Stadia fundamentally misunderstands its audience.

The people who only play Candy Crush are, well, very casual. And a ‘very casual’ audience like this has no interest in the “next level” of gaming. To them, by and large, gaming is just simply something to do casually, to pass the time. Not compete, or necessarily be recognised as a form of art, or something higher than just simple entertainment. Which to be clear, is fine, but these sorts of people, by and large, are just simply not interested in the “next level” of gaming. And, Stadia is by far the worst choice to try and introduce people to the “next level”.

Google Stadia Fundamentally Misunderstands Its Audience
Credit: Google

Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems 

Stadia is perhaps the worst choice to introduce this “next level” and there are a few reasons why. For starters, the price model. While the base level of Stadia is free, the “Pro” level is $10.00 per month, and games are their full price. Immediately, this is an issue to the ‘very casual’ audience. The most top-grossing mobile games don’t have an upfront cost. They are all free to download, with many in-app purchases. However, the big highlight here is that the upfront cost is monetarily zero. This is important, especially when considering that most mobile users are willing to pay $0 for an app, but are willing to pay for things in the app. Not only is this the logic that is used in implementing microtransactions for these mobile games, but this also contrasts Stadia’s business model. When trying to attract an audience, keeping with a business model they are familiar with is important.

Furthermore, people are slowly becoming more and more willing to pay for app subscriptions, as long as the price is right. And, this is where Stadia went astray. When initially announced, Google was very vague about revealing pricing details, leading many to speculate as well as conclude that perhaps the best business model Stadia to adopt would be to offer a monthly subscription for access to games. And obviously, that didn’t turn out to be the case. This misstep by Google may become problematic. They’re not easing users into this “next level” with pricing already familiar to the ‘very casual’ users.

And hence, Google Stadia fundamentally misunderstands its audience. 

Thank you for reading, besides writing these columns, I also host our Power Up Podcast recorded live every Saturday at 3PM PST on our Twitch channel.

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