Stadia is about to get scary. Google and Capcom have announced that both Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil Village are coming to the cloud gaming platform. Stadia Pro subscribers will get the Gold Edition of Resident Evil 7 for free, but there’s a tantalizing incentive for fans to buy Village on the platform.
Players who pre-order or purchase the game before May 21 will get the Stadia Premiere Edition at no additional charge. That means $60 will get fans the full game, a Stadia controller, and a Chromecast Ultra. This is not only a great value, but it marks a major strategic shift in how Google plans to get more people into Stadia.
When the platform was first announced, Google was cocky right out the gate. Despite not being a proven name in the gaming space, the megacorporation launched the platform as if it was immediately on the same level as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo’s consoles.
The overconfidence was an immediate misfire.
Rather than trying to get skeptical players hands-on as easily as possible, Google treated the platform like an exclusive club. Players could become early adopters by grabbing a $130 Founder’s Edition, which only included three months of Stadia Pro alongside some physical goodies. Even more confusing was that Stadia Pro subscribers still had to buy most games. That left early adopters confused about what the value of a Stadia subscription even was.
Cloud gaming was still a mostly foreign concept in 2019. Playing was believing, but Google figured that the idea was already strong enough on paper. It wasn’t. Stadia spent the next year struggling to retain subscribers as its player base dwindled.
Compare that marketing story to something like the rise of Xbox Game Pass. When Microsoft launched its risky subscription service, it was practically giving it it away. Fans could play all of Microsoft’s newest releases for $5 a month (often even less) and test the waters themselves. That gave Game Pass the “Best Deal in Gaming” label. Today, it’s a veritable cornerstone of the gaming industry. There was no ego about how well Game Pass might sell.
Stadia took a similar approach when it introduced a free tier in April 2020, but now it’s pursuing a more aggressive avenue. The most recent pivot began in December 2020 when Google tried to entice players to the platform by giving away the Premiere Edition with copies of Cyberpunk 2077, perhaps the biggest game of 2020.
This new Resident Evil Village deal follows that exact same formula, and it’s a promotion that’s hard to resist. If players are going to buy the $60 game anyways, why not get a free controller and Chromecast as a treat?
That’s a far cry from 2019’s pricey early adopter program. Instead of trying to sell Stadia as a luxury item, Google is now taking the Trojan Horse approach. Hook people with a deal they can’t resist and give them an excuse to try the platform. It’s exactly what Google needed to do in the first place to convince players that cloud gaming was more than an unproven tech fad.
The deal comes at a period of immense strategic change for Stadia. In February 2021, Google fired 150 developers who were hired to create original games for Stadia. Instead, Google has shifted its focus to bringing major third-party games to the platform to make sure Stadia can compete with the likes of Sony and Microsoft. According to leaked internal documents from last year’s ransomware attack on Capcom, Google allegedly paid $10 million to bring Resident Evil 7 and Village to Stadia.
It’s a chaotic reinvestment that feels like a fourth-quarter Hail Mary attempt. Google finally seems to understand what gamers knew from day one: It’s playing from behind. As a gaming platform, Google Stadia will have to earn its seat at the table just like other console powerhouses have over the years. Otherwise, it just might be left in the dust.