Google is shutting down Stadia, its polarizing cloud gaming service, only four weeks after the company’s target audience of me, Makena Kelly, actually started using it.
When Stadia was announced in 2019, Google pitched it as the future of gaming, providing a more accessible alternative to expensive PC rigs or whatever $500 next-gen console iteration was on the horizon. And when Stadia finally launched, it worked. Sure, features were missing, and connections were shaky, but suddenly I had access to a handful of games that would have previously cost me hundreds of dollars in hardware and controllers to play — a steep investment I wasn’t willing to make for games I may have only thrown on for a few hours.
Despite Stadia’s obvious benefits, it took me until just a few weeks ago to really start using it. For the last three years, Google has spent millions of dollars to bring already established PC and console titles over to Stadia. Those titles weren’t enticing enough for me to buy the hardware to support them before Stadia, and all of my friends were already playing games like Destiny and Red Dead Redemption on the consoles I didn’t want to buy in the first place.
But after a weekend of musing over how much I’d love to revisit Skyrim with my boyfriend earlier this month, I realized we could play Elder Scrolls Online together in a fairly cost-efficient way by using Stadia. So, I dusted off my white and wasabi controllers, fixed my Chromecast Ultra to our television, and staged our living room into a two-person LAN party, placing an old monitor on our coffee table and connecting it to my Macbook.
There were occasional connection hiccups with both of us streaming the game from the same room, but the service has been so reliable that we’ve likely sunk dozens of hours into exploring Tamriel together over the last four weeks alone.
Not only has Stadia worked well, but the service has revolutionized the ways I’m able to play MMORPGs. For nearly a decade, I played World of Warcraft on and off, but I was never able to consistently commit to raiding or battleground schedules with a guild. I’d easily fall behind on end-game content, unable to make time for all of the daily quests and content I needed to finish to keep up. With Stadia, I’m able to claim my daily login bonuses in my office before logging into work, and I can finish immersive quest lines on the living room TV in the evenings, fully soaking in all of the different environments Bethesda and ZeniMax labored on creating in the game.
Stadia may not be the best platform for everyone, but using it over the last few weeks has been one of the better gaming experiences I’ve had. While I have a long and tattered history with MMORPGs, my favorite games have always been ones I can play with people couch co-op style. With Stadia, I’ve been able to easily combine those two genres together, and I’ll be sad to see it go next year.