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Stadia is making desperate moves to stay relevant

Due to the continuing lockdowns and social distancing happening in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, a lot of people have suddenly found themselves with a ton of free time to play video games. To that end, Google is offering two months of its top tier Google Stadia service, Stadia Pro, to users — for free. Stadia head honcho Phil Harrison released a statement on Google's blog detailing the company's new plan. And at the risk of sounding too terribly cynical, it all kind of sounds like this was a convenient way for Google to drive up some subscription numbers. There are a few reasons to see it that way, which we'll get to in a bit.

The announcement from Phil Harrison reads, "We're facing some of the most challenging times in recent memory. Keeping social distance is vital, but staying home for long periods can be difficult and feel isolating. Video games can be a valuable way to socialize with friends and family when you're stuck at home, so we're giving gamers in 14 countries free access to Stadia Pro for two months."

All you have to do to get this free trial is to sign up for a Stadia account at Stadia.com. Then you simply download the Stadia app and start playing games in the Stadia library from your laptop, desktop, or mobile device.

So you may be wondering what all of that entails? After all, the Stadia's library has been notoriously slim since its launch. Though several new games are meant to be added this year, it's still lacking when compared to its competition. Stadia is supposedly adding around 120 new titles this year, with a few of them even being timed exclusives.

At the moment, though, a great deal of the current Stadia game library is made up of titles that have been out for other systems for quite some time. As a result, the incentive to repurchase these games for the Stadia has been slim to none. Not only that, but many of the games were not included in base subscriptions, leading to people having to purchase older games at full price just to play them on this new service. Also, what about folks who have already purchased a Google Stadia Pro subscription? Well, Google has at least got you covered in that department.

"Anyone who signs up will get two free months of Stadia Pro with instant access to nine games, including GRID, Destiny 2: The Collection, and Thumper," reads the announcement. "You can purchase even more games on the store, which will remain yours to play even if you cancel your Stadia Pro subscription. If you're already a paid Stadia Pro subscriber, we won't charge you for the next two months."

That last bit is great news for users who have been paying a monthly subscription for a somewhat lackluster service. To put things lightly, the Google Stadia hasn't been in a particularly great spot since its launch. While the free trial is a nice gesture on Google's part, particularly in the age of self-isolation, it doesn't do much at all to course correct from the rest of the platform's many, many issues. 

It wasn't long before Stadia players started to revolt. Many of the gamers who had plopped down cash for the Founder's Edition of the service felt that they'd been swindled. After spending a cool $130, they were finding that there simply wasn't the wealth of content or functionality that they'd been promised.

As for this new initiative? It's honestly not as big of a deal as you might think, despite the kind words from the Stadia camp. Back in February, Phil Harrison gave fans some good news. That's when he assured us that Stadia Base (the service's free tier) would be launching "over the next few months." In other words, we already knew to expect some kind of free version of Stadia right around this time. Sure, the timetable and the reasons for offering free Stadia services has changed, but it's not as much of a massive upheaval of Stadia's business model as it may seem at first.

Again, it all just feels like a bit of savvy marketing masquerading as a charity. At the very least, it smacks of an attempt to save some face in light of the platform's shortcomings up to this point. Still, it might be a great way to get Stadia into more gamers' hands. And if it helps people pass the time in self-quarantine, all the better. Might as well give it a shot while we have all this extra time on our hands.