Are you a casual gamer? You know, the kind of person that loves video games but has never been into eSports or playing the most up-to-date games.
You’re not alone. In fact, today’s average “gamer” is a middle-age, working professional with three kids.
I only have two kids, but otherwise, I fit the bill. Personally, I was about to give up on playing the fastest and latest games due to console upgrades and pricing…
Then I found Google Stadia!
The Making of a Casual Gamer
I grew up in the mid-to-late 80s glued to a 13-inch television attached to a Commodore 64C. At 14 my parents divorced, and I somehow guilted my mum into getting me a Sega Genesis for Christmas. I was so excited… Until…
I realized that playing Out Run on a Genesis was a far cry from playing it at the mall arcade.
I evolved to playing more cerebral games on old-school PCs. You know the story: Sim City addiction, followed by the curse of turn-based compulsive disorder playing Civilization (the original version).
I loved playing on other friends’ consoles, but was too poor or cheap to buy one myself. Until… I convinced my wife to let me buy a Nintendo Wii and subsequently spent three straight months playing PSE Soccer and Resident Evil… while my wife was at work. (Yeah, not my “Be Best” moment — apologies, Melania. 😉
Started a career. Had a child. Sold the *Wii* on eBay. Didn’t play games much. Until…
Black Friday 2015. I foolishly strolled through a Best Buy. Naturally, I walked out 15 minutes later with a PS4 — Battlefront Deluxe Edition!
All of this is to say, I’m truly a casual gamer. (And a sucker for Star Wars!) I like to play a lot of different types of games for fun, not to compete or brag to friends. I just like having them readily available on a moment’s notice.
I Was the Perfect Mark for Google Stadia
I wasn’t looking for Google Stadia. It found me. (Damn, Google’s AI Analytics!)
One day I saw an article on Google News announcing that Google was giving YouTube Premium members a free Stadia Premiere. I went to a website, requested one, and it came in the mail within a week. About as lucky as one could get!
But alas, what is Google Stadia? I remembered vaguely hearing that Google was thinking about creating a gaming device. And I remember hearing that its launch was, as is typical for a Google device, less-than-memorable. (I make the latter accusation as a Nexus One, Nexus Four, and Chromecast Audio owner. All great devices that very few people ever knew about or bothered buying.) I figured I would receive the package and then immediately flip it on eBay.
Blame the Packaging…
Then it arrived. The box looked so beautiful. The packaging was simple, downright elegant. The picture of the controller facing me was so clean.
I succumbed. I opened the damn package. After all, it didn’t cost me anything.
I haven’t touched the PS4 since.
The Google Stadia is damn slick!
The controller is modern and largely mimics the PS4’s, with a modern touch. It’s weight is perfect — heavier than a PS4 controller but fitting better in my medium-sized hands. It’s buttons are more fluid and less clunky than the PS4 controller — similar to the PS5 one in some ways.
Most impressive of all… There is NO CONSOLE! Just a Google Chromecast Ultra — with a bonus RJ45 port on the plug for wired internet in addition to Wi-Fi. Nice! They don’t even offer the RJ45 port on the over-the-counter Ultras anymore!
Blame the (Lack of) Hardware
Simply plug the Chromecast into an HDMI port on any TV and your console is ready. All you need to do is set up the Chromecast with your phone. You synchronize the controller with a game pad code that is flashed on the Ultra screen and… Wallaa! You have videogames. They just magically pop up with your free month of Stadia Premiere.
Stadia Premiere is stock full of games for a casual gamer. The library grows every month, and if you “claim” a game, you can unsubscribe for months and when you come back later, those games are still in your Premiere Library. Many of the games were ones I had been too cheap to buy on my PS4, but had always wanted to try. I was in heaven.
My heart sank a bit it looked like I had to pay a subscription fee after the first month. I’m adverse to paying $10 a month to play video games — at least in the summer. (The way my brain works, that’s $120 a year, which might be better spent on building a Raspberry Pi Zero Home Security System! See my other post about that!)
In typical fashion, Google failed to get the message out (at least to me) that that you can both own games or subscribe for access on Google Stadia. You can subscribe and unsubscribe to its monthly Google Stadia Premiere service as easily as you can add and drop Netflix every other month. You aren’t stuck. If Stadia Premiere has a good game selection down the road, with some new games you would like to try, splurge $10 and go bananas. Then unsubscribe before it renews. Easy. Even better — you get to keep and play all of the games you claimed in previous months. The games don’t disappear after you claim them. You just pay $10 to get access to them when you want it.
Even better? You can buy games that are yours forever. You don’t have to pay membership dues or whatever the hell that Playstation online access fee shakedown is. (That’s $60 a year just to play games you paid for!) Stadia may not have a surfeit of games in its library yet, but the games it does have are high quality. It frequently has game deals that change weekly. EA PGA Golf Deluxe 2021 ($11.99), EA NBA 2021 ($11.99), EA Last Jedi ($24.99), and a bunch of Ubisoft games for under $10.
Google Stadia’s Game Selection is Perfect for a Casual Gamer
It’s true that the Stadia library is not going to win awards for size. They continue to add games all the time — some substantial, some less so. The games they do add have, typically, been a year or older. However, starting this fall new releases have become fairly regular, and it is possible to preorder games that are coming out as far as April at the time of writing. Ubisoft now offers a huge library of its games on the platform, and EA has promised to add more.
Seeing as many of the games aren’t new releases, they are often very cheap. I quickly found myself picking up Hitman 2, Borderlands 3, Star Wars, Wolfenstein, and a slew of Tom Clancy and Tomb Raider games for about $50 total. They are in the cloud forever for me to play whenever and wherever. Within a week I was so hooked on the Stadia, spending far more time playing than I ever did my Playstation when it was new, that I went ahead and preordered Cyberpunk 2077.
Ironically, given how much hate has been spat on Cyberpunk 2077, it was this game that convinced me that Stadia is the best platform I’ve ever owned. I haven’t run into a single major bug or graphics issue on my 4K, 70” television while playing the game. The game itself doesn’t live up to the hype and the AI is bad, but truth be told, the $100 MSRP Stadia runs through the game like butter.
But why exactly was I hooked? What makes the Stadia the only system I’ll maintain moving forward — excluding Civ6 on my Macbook. (Hey, some old addictions die hard!) There are three things that make Stadia the perfect device for a lifelong casual gamer like myself.
Play Google Stadia (Nearly) Everywhere
I have a teenage daughter who has gotten into videogames. That means that the console is more hers than mine now. If you have a similar situation, Great News!
You can play Stadia anywhere in the Google Chrome browser is installed. In my case, that means when my daughter is nerding out to The Sims on the main TV, I can simply borrow her Chromebook and play my games on it. Or play on my Macbook, or my wife’s Window’s laptop. In fact, I can even play on my $130 MotoG7 and my other daughter’s iPad. It’s amazing! The games literally pick up right where you left off when switching between devices. All I have to do is walk from room-to-room with the gamepad controller. No other hardware required.
One drawback, and this may be bad if you’re hoping to play while traveling, is that Stadia needs a high-speed internet connection. (Something that won’t be available on an airplane, for example.)
The reason Stadia works so fluidly is because it runs completely on the backend. There is no software to download, games to install… Everything runs seamlessly on Google’s super computers in the cloud and gets piped to your Chrome device.
On the flip side, if you are traveling anywhere with decent internet connections — e.g., a nice hotel or family member’s house — packing the Stadia requires merely bringing your laptop and the Stadia or any other modern bluetooth controller. I found the PS4 controller works just fine on my daughter’s Chromebook.In a sense, if your friend has a controller and computer, you can just play wherever you go by logging into Stadia with your Google account. Can’t do that with your Playstation or Xbox — at least not yet.
Unbelievable Save and Load Times
There is actually one, core reason I haven’t bothered to turn on my PS4 in over a month. Load and save times. Once you experience nearly instantaneous game loading and saving, you will never go back.
Remember a time before there were ad blockers? Remember not being able to stream shows and being forced to watch advertisements? Think about how much time you have saved using such technologies. Over the years, I’ve gained 100s of hours — not only do I not spend that time viewing ads, but I gain that much more time to do what I love — watch TV shows.
Stadia’s load and save times are the equivalent. The PS4 feels like watching TV did 20 years ago once you experience cloud-based gaming. I own Hitman on the PS4. I loved Hitman. I never bothered getting past the third level. The loading and saving times were dastardly long. Playing Hitman on the Stadia — for free — has already likely saved me about 10 hours in a single month! That’s 10 extra hours of play time! I finished it. For a casual gamer, who is raising two kids and trying to maintain a full-time, high stress job, speed is everything.
Share Your Games and Play Concurrently with Family
I hate split screens. The only split-screen game that I ever thought was worth a damn was 007 on the N64, and that was because it was novel. Low and behold, when I want to play a game with my family on the PS4, I have to sit and share a screen. It’s hard for me. Distracting. And it ruins the experience.
Stadia allows you to play with friends in the same house! If your friend owns the same game, they can bring their laptop or controller over, and you can sit next to one another, each with your own screen. It’s absolutely amazing! Liberating! No more LAN party crap. With digital internet, you can have about 20 people over playing against one another. (As an introvert, that’s not happening here, though!)
Have a big family? Just like everything else with a Google Account, you can share games with family members. My wife (who hates gaming), my daughter (who loves gaming), and even my pet dog (who has a fake Google account), are all allowed to play any games I have purchased or have access to when I pay the Stadia Premiere monthly fee. They can simply fire up a game anywhere they want. (Don’t fret, there are family controls, and you can keep your youngin’s from playing Mature games right from your phone.)
Best of all: if I really want to play a game on the TV and my daughter wants to game at the same time, I can now ask her to go play somewhere else — on a different TV or her Chromebook. (That’s the plan anyway, as I bought her a Stadia controller for her upcoming birthday!)
The Best Present I Received This Holiday Season
Shhh… Don’t tell my wife or kids, but Google sent me the best present of the holiday season. As a casual gamer, I can start, stop, and load games instantly, anywhere I have a computer or TV. (I play on my iPad in bed at night when I can’t sleep sometimes. The family doesn’t even know!)
It’s lightning fast — faster than any console or gaming computer that I’ve ever experienced.
It’s insanely cheap — $100 or less for the entire set up. In fact, if you have a spare Xbox or PS4 controller lying around, you can play with just a free Stadia account and a Chromebook. The Chromecast Ultra that is included is great for streaming too.
What it lacks in game selection it makes up for in… game selection. It has more than enough entertaining games than a casual gamer like myself will ever get through in a lifetime, and it’s getting more games as they are released all the time. (It got Madden 2021 this past week, albeit only a week before the Super Bowl.) Plus, the older games are almost always sold at insanely discounted prices.
Finally, it’s just fun. It reminds me of the olden days, back when you could just pop a cartridge into a toaster-like contraption and just start playing. No loading times; no slow startups.
The Google Stadia is a high recommend if:
- You want to be done upgrading PC hardware and consoles and want games that will always run on premium hardware.
- You want to chillax and blast some bad guys in short spurts and don’t have time for a machine to fire up, load, and update.
- You want to play your PC and console games on any device in your house, from an 80” TV to a 5” smartphone.
- You aren’t too picky about which games are available, as long as there are some good games to play.
- You only want to spend $100 for a system that will last years.