Why Stadia Needs More Than Free Demos

Some gamers are happy, but is that enough?

Key Takeaways

  • Google is introducing limited-time demos to Stadia in an attempt to draw new users in.
  • While demos allow users to try a game, you still have to pay the full price to buy it.
  • Google needs more reliable servers with less lag if it really wants to grow.
Google Stadia on a smartphone with a controller nearby.

The latest update for Google Stadia brings a series of limited-time free demos for players to try out. While demos might sound like a good idea, ultimately experts feel that Google needs to do more if it wants Stadia to thrive and grow.

Google Stadia came out at the tail end of 2019, bringing Google’s cloud gaming system to homes around the world. Since it’s release, Stadia has struggled to get its footing in the game streaming world. The latest move by the company still may not be enough to entice users, however, because free demos aren’t really what the service needs.

"The biggest problem with Stadia is latency and connection issues," Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review told us in an email. 

More Than One Front

Freiberger isn’t the only one that feels like Google’s cloud gaming service is a laggy mess, either. In fact, Back in November of 2019, when Stadia hit the floor running, sites like The Washington Post warned users to steer clear until Google had sorted out the issues.

While the concerns about Stadia’s connection are important, there are other issues that have plagued the service since it’s release, like a limited game library.

Following recent announcements about some new games coming to Stadia, long-time users like KingKeeton97 took to Twitter to showcase their disappointment in Stadia’s game offerings, even second guessing the company’s marketing choices. Others like Twitter user ioneBear seem to be happy with the current state of Stadia’s offerings, who responded with "I’m a very happy customer," in a tweet to the Stadia Twitter account


Jacob Smith
, a freelance travel and edtech blogger, thinks the demos are a great way to try before he buys. "The demos seem like a great option to me because they allow me to see the value of a game before I spend my money on it," he said in an email. 

Unlike other streaming services out there, Google Stadia doesn’t cost anything to use at its basic level. You’ll need to purchase the games that you want to play, and many of those come at the same price they would on other consoles. Since you have to pay full price for most titles, knowing whether a game plays well on your connection is important. Input lag is a huge concern with cloud gaming and it’s not uncommon to see input lag tests pop up on sites like Reddit, where users can see how the game responds to basic command inputs from controllers, keyboards, or mice. 

Still, Smith is sold. "I’m pretty much the epitome of cloud gaming’s target audience," he said. "The last dedicated gaming machine I purchased was the original Xbox, but I still really enjoy gaming."

Lost in the Cloud

While some, like Gadget Review’s Freiberger, believe that Stadia’s struggle comes down to the service’s infrastructure, many of the service’s users feel that the overall lack of games is the real reason for the blunders that have befallen Google’s cloud gaming expansion in the past several months.

Google is actively working to fill in the holes that currently occupy it’s gaming library, with many new games like Cyberpunk 2077 set to arrive on Stadia this year. Despite those upcoming releases, a stable gaming experience is going to be key to getting the most out of cloud gaming.

"If you’re offering a game streaming service there’s no excuse to have lag. Your servers need to be rock-solid," Freiberger wrote. "If the main selling point of your platform (streaming games) isn’t actually accessible to the vast majority of people, your service is dead in the water."

For Stadia, that network reliability has proven to be an issue since the service’s launch, and with other game-streaming options on the rise, Google will find itself falling further down the list if it doesn’t do something to improve the lag and connection issues plaguing the system.

With the current state of basic broadband access speeds degrading based on reports from BroadbandNow, Google Stadia needs a good core infrastructure to keep things running smoothly. Fiber isn’t available everywhere and that means supporting more basic internet speeds is going to be a big feature that Stadia needs to work on. It doesn’t matter if the streaming service has the best library of games in the world if the servers can’t deliver a smooth gameplay experience to its users.

This is what will make or break a service like Stadia: no lag and a solid library of games to play on it. Anything else—free demos or not—just looks like smoke and mirrors.