Google Stadia, the company's attempt to get into the gaming world, was welcomed into the world with the general sigh of "meh." While the concept offered a lot of promise, the company seemed to have developed it more out of a feeling of obligation to fulfill years of rumors rather than out of wanting to be in the gaming space. That attitude led to a lot of challenges, including a poor rollout outside of the Google ecosystem. This week, Stadia officially launched on webOS 5.0 TVs, but is it too late for it to matter?
Since Google launched Stadia in 2019, the brand has seemingly floundered to find its place in a crowded marketplace. Mismanagement from inside, plus competition from established gaming brands, caused early issues. The shutdown of the company's game studio before releasing its first game left the platform with no exclusives, making it a hard sell for most gamers, who could get more from Xbox Cloud Gaming or NVIDIA GeForce Now.
As the company felt the game slipping from their hands, they made an announcement - they would begin to license Stadia's backend as a service for other companies to offer game streaming. It was an interesting approach to avoid the fate of OnLive before it. The first known implementation of Stadia as a Service came only a few weeks ago, as AT&T launched Batman: Arkham Knight for its wireless customers (though it was only playable on PC). For most of us, this signaled the end of Google's first-party ambitions, though it seems like that might not be the case.
Up until now, the platform has been nearly exclusively available on Google and mobile platforms: Android, Google TV, Chromebooks, plus iOS and desktop. But, the platform has been noticeably missing from some of the big smart TV platforms, like Amazon Fire, Roku, Apple TV, Samsung, and LG. Google could have really set Stadia apart by hitting these TV platforms hard in the beginning, positioning the platform in places where others were missing.
This week, LG finally made good on its CES 2021 promise of bringing Stadia, in one form or another, to its webOS TV platform. The company did not announce during the event exactly how much of the service would be available, but they did promise that it would launch in the second half of 2021. The beginning of December does qualify, so they have made good on the promise.
But, offering Stadia on LG TVs is not cause for a party. This doesn't mean that Stadia is back and we should all rejoice - it could just mean that LG was trying to position its own TVs with something that other manufacturers don't have. So, this could be more about LG than Stadia.
How does it work?
Once you download the app and sign in, you have a couple of ways to play your games. The first is, if you have a model 2021 TV, you've got Bluetooth and can connect a controller that way. Otherwise, you'll need to find a way around. You can grab a super long USB cord and use a controller of your choice, though that's not ideal. You can also pair a Stadia controller to the mobile app, signed in to the same account and play that way. It's an interesting setup option, and one we plan on trying out here in the office.
According to reports so far, the app works great. Gamers have been happy with the experience, despite some oddities. The important part is that it is incredibly responsive, even on the older model TV that support the platform (you must have webOS 5). This is going to give LG a great selling point for those who want to play games without a computer or console, but that market seems to be very niche right now.