While I may have fixed my issues with Stadia in my home, in that I can actually play it without significant lag these days, I have been trying to keep an ear out for how Google’s service is being received more generally. And overwhelmingly I hear…silence.
It’s hard to know just how many people are playing Stadia at any given moment, but there’s one metric we can use to gauge interest to some degree at least, the stats of the Destiny 2 Stadia playerbase.
If Stadia had a flagship launch game, it would be Destiny 2, which is not only offered free with the Pro subscription, but is a rare game that takes advantage of cross save, meaning that your existing Destiny 2 characters can be played on Stadia-friendly devices. It’s theoretically the best use case for the service.
And yet if you’ve been tracking the player population, interest in the Stadia version of Destiny appears to be fading. While yes, we are moving away from the Shadowkeep expansion launch and into the less engaging Season of Dawn, we are not seeing similar drops on other platforms.
Here are the player populations for Destiny 2 on various platforms on November 26, 2019, about a week after Stadia launched:
And here are the player populations yesterday, just over a month later (via Charlemagne.io):
You can see some drops from the other platforms, about what I’d expect given that there’s less to do right now in the game than there was a month ago, perhaps. But Stadia? Stadia’s population has fallen by more than 50%. By 58.7%, to be exact.
And honestly, it’s probably even worse than that, because in the week of Stadia’s launch, Founder’s units were still coming in and getting set up. This was also before the “buddy pass” system was implemented as well, which allows subscribers to give free trial access to Stadia to friends. Despite all that, we’ve seen numbers plummet.
The way I see it there are a few explanations for this:
First, you have someone like me, who can appreciate how Destiny on Stadia might be useful in certain situations like going home over the holidays, and yet when I’m back in my office here, there’s simply no reason for me to pick Stadia over PS4 or PC, be that for reasons of performance (even if Stadia streaming is good, it’s not perfect) or player population. It’s drastically easier to find groups for activities on other, more active platforms. For instance, try finding a fireteam for the exact raid you want to do at the exact time when only 400 total people have done raids on Stadia over the course of an entire day.
A second group is new Stadia players who tried Destiny 2 and bounced off of it. Another stat you can track is what people are playing on a platform, and pretty much since launch, a disproportionate number of Stadia players have been in Patrol mode, aka wandering around doing essentially nothing, rather than missions, strikes, crucible, gambit, raids or other actual activities. So maybe they just never knew what they were doing and wandered away when it wasn’t engaging.
The third explanation is just that…Stadia in general is not all that popular and is actively losing popularity over time, at least for some titles. For Destiny, that’s a big problem as a game like that cannot exist without a big enough population to fill its activity matchmaking.
Can anything change this trajectory? Well, there’s the obvious next step of Stadia debuting its free tier, the one that doesn’t require a subscription. But unless I’m mistaken, if you’re not paying for Stadia Pro, you don’t get access to its free game list, which includes Destiny 2, so I’m not sure how much this will help if players then have to buy it separately. If I’m wrong and it remains free to everyone, then perhaps these numbers will see a boost.
I remain skeptical about Stadia’s long term prospects, but I am definitely curious to see where we are a few months or a year from now, especially after the launch of the new console generation. I also want to see how Stadia’s playercount reflects a new, big release like say, Cyberpunk 2077 this spring, as that could be a good indicator of its health as well. I guess we’ll have to see.