One of the biggest barriers of game streaming, other than latency and internet speeds, is the convenience factor. For now, all game streaming technology is going to have some level of inherent input delay since the capability is still relatively new, but as the ubiquity of high speed internet becomes more commonplace, game streaming infrastructure will inevitably improve over time. However, the convenience factor has been something that’s been iterated on very differently between different streaming platforms. Google, in particular, has made great strides with Stadia to make it much easier to stream games to a variety of devices like phones and TVs.
Recently, announced at CES 2021, LG announced a slew of new (and existing) TV sets will be receiving a native Google Stadia app available to download. LG’s standalone Stadia app also sets a precedent for even more expansion of the Stadia service to various smart TVs, without the necessity of purchasing extra hardware to specifically play games. The idea behind game streaming was always to ditch the hardware or console, and what better way to do that than making Stadia more widely available. This could be the start of a greater expansion for Stadia in 2021.
While the marketing on behalf of Google Stadia, Xbox Cloud gaming, or Amazon Luna may not necessarily reflect this, the biggest draw to game streaming is how convenient it is to plug-and-play. The idea is to both avoid the necessity of setting up dedicated hardware at any point, as well as be able to boot up and play games as realistically close to instant as possible. Each service has done serviceably well in that regard, and is continuing to improve as each service expands. In particular, Google Stadia has made great strides in expanding its service’s convenience and compatibility with a range of different devices, with this LG TV news being more evidence of that.
Along with being able to stream any Stadia game to any desktop Chrome browser, Google has also taken major steps in expanding the service to various different Android devices in smartphone and tablet form. Clearly, the next biggest barrier for expansion was going to be television. In all fairness to Google, rolling out Stadia strictly on the Chromecast Ultra (for TV streaming specifically) may have made the most sense logistically. The breadth of smart TV makers in the market is huge, with tons of companies like TCL, Samsung, LG, Insignia, Vizio, and many more offering their own versions of smart TVs to consumers. Chromecast Ultra was the best way to bridge that gap.
However, now that smart TVs are becoming more ubiquitous from a variety of different hardware manufacturers, extending beyond Chromecast is the next logical step for expanding Stadia. As more smart TVs are in more households, consumers are less inclined to pick up a Chromecast specifically for gaming, especially if the very idea of game streaming is to avoid purchasing additional hardware. Utilizing the Chromecast Ultra at first to establish the new platforms footing, especially in a beta phase, made the most sense when Stadia launched in 2019. However, now more than ever, expanding natively to smart TVs will be a serious boon for Stadia’s offering.
Consumers who by smart TVs primarily for streaming video, theoretically speaking, are going to be far less inclined to buy a Chromecast Ultra. What reason would they need Google’s dedicated streaming hardware other than specifically for Google Stadia? They can easily opt-in for an Xbox Series S, or even a last-gen console, if they’re willing to purchase hardware. Adding a native Stadia app on more smart TVs is the right move for what Google Stadia aims to be. Even if this native app is only coming to LG TVs at the moment, this is still Google’s opportunity to set a precedent. In the future, a Stadia app could come to Samsung smart TVs, Roku TVs like TCL, and more.
Overall, this is the step forward that Google Stadia needs as it moves into 2021. Further accessibility is only going to make Stadia more appealing, even if its time in the limelight has certainly passed. Over time, especially if more TVs (and potentially other devices) receive a native Stadia app, the barriers of entry will start to fall for Stadia. Not to mention all the other benefits of being able to use Google Stadia on Android/iOS phones, tablets, even Chrome browsers on desktops/laptops. Even if things like input delay or minimal latency are still affecting Stadia, casual and new video game players are going to be willing to make the trade-off for Stadia’s convenience factor.
Google Stadia is available now.