Since Google Stadia’s admittedly rocky launch, Google has added more games, achievements and Google Assistant functionality. But there’s no denying that the game-streaming service is still missing a number of important features.
Google has promised to address some more of Stadia’s weaknesses during the first part of 2020; whether these upgrades will turn Stadia from a curiosity to a frontrunner is anyone’s guess.
The Google Stadia Team released a blog post on Jan. 16, outlining plans for the platform’s first-quarter improvements. Over the next three months, Stadia users can expect 4K support for Web browsers, more Google Assistant commands, expanded support for Android phones (at present, you can play games only on the Pixel line) and wireless Web browser play with the Stadia controller. These are all good features, but three of them probably should have been present at launch.
Google also plans to increase Stadia’s game lineup. By the end of the year, Stadia should have more than 120 games available. On a more interesting note, Google is “targeting more than ten games in the first half of this year alone that will only be available on Stadia when they launch.” In other words, Stadia will have ten timed exclusives, although it’s not clear what games they’ll be, or how quickly they’ll make it onto other platforms afterward.
Judging by the responses to the post, Stadia fans are pleased with the announcements and eager to keep using the service. The official Stadia Reddit also continues to be mostly positive, although Google employees on Twitter don’t really understand how to reply to memes.
Still, overall, Stadia is a fairly niche product. It’s difficult to come by hard numbers, but the number of Destiny 2 players on Stadia has dropped considerably since launch. Perhaps Stadia has simply attracted a large audience in single-player titles, but it’s more likely that the player base is not enormous to begin with.
Even so, Stadia has implemented a lot of features to help the player base grow. You can now access Stadia from any Chromecast Ultra — not just the devices that shipped with early adopter Stadia bundles. Furthermore, Google has given Stadia Pro subscribers an extra Buddy Pass to help spread the service to players who might be on the fence about it. (Buddy Passes give three free months of Stadia Pro, and Stadia Pro includes some complimentary games.)
Stadia’s success in 2020 will likely come down to what kind of games it can offer, and how quickly it can achieve parity across TVs, computers and smartphones. And if the company can deliver a few more exclusive titles along the way, so much the better.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.