Stadia Has an Amazing Opportunity to Use Indies as Mascots

Lots of things make a gaming platform successful. Many will say “games, games games!” and there is a lot of truth to that. Perhaps equally as important as games though, is the characters. A potential buyer can’t look at gameplay and necessarily decide if it looks fun or worth a purchase. They can, however, look at a character and decide whether or not they look cool, exciting or interesting. Even if most of the money in gaming comes from live services now, mascots still play a key role in making a product attractive. Playstation through the years has had Sly Cooper, Ratchet and Clank, Ape Escape, Sack Boy, Astrobot and more. Xbox has had Master Chief, Blinx, Kameo, Conker and Battletoads and those funky Pinatas. But Google doesn’t need to invest in its own properties, because Stadia has an amazing opportunity to use indies as mascots

Not all of these characters will grab you or I, but not all of them have to. Only one needs to grab our interest and hook us. The problem is that developing a single, iconic character while also developing a good game for that character takes years. Google knows that and I suspect that’s a big reason they shut down their internal studios to rely on third-party franchises. It was a smart move, but there exists a problem there: you have no iconic characters aren’t tied to your platform. It’s very nice that I can get Far Cry on Stadia, but as a normal consumer I know that series is on Xbox and Playstation. Far Cry on Stadia is nice for people who are on the platform already, but people who aren’t on the platform may not necessarily be drawn to it; same thing with Tomb Raider or Mortal Kombat.

However, there exist plenty of iconic, amazing characters in the indie space that have been developing quietly over the last ten years who are only being used as cameos and punch lines. Take Shovel Knight as an example: its popular in the gaming community, but non-gamers aren’t familiar with it. The game sold three million copies, which is tremendous for an indie title, but underwhelming for a AAA. If I’m a normal consumer who isn’t paying a lot of attention to games, seeing Shovel Knight on Stadia would make it look like the platform is coming out with really unique characters and experiences. If I’m seeing Shovel Knight for the first time on Stadia, I’m just going to assume it’s a Stadia-exclusive experience. And, in a sense, Stadia is uniquely helping me discover great games that got buried on other platforms.

You might balk at my promotion of a game that has only only three million copies suddenly becoming a big competitive advantage for a young new cloud platform. Let’s consider though, that Shovel Knight sold the majority of its copies on Nintendo-a platform where it was competing with the most iconic characters in gaming! Perhaps one of the great reasons the game sold so well was because Wii U and 3DS had pretty slim libraries at the time, as third parties were focusing on PS4 and Xbox One. Shovel Knight sold well on Nintendo because, although it had to compete with big iconic characters, it was competing with comparatively fewer titles. That’s the same place it would be on Stadia, where the platform typically sees fewer than ten releases per month. Shovel Knight would get front-page status on Stadia.

We can echo this argument with more comparatively iconic indie games. Keep in mind these games don’t just have well designed characters, they have award winning gameplay and stories.
-Yooka Laylee
-Hollow Knight
-Hat Kid (A Hat in Time)
-Sans (Undertale)
-Shovel Knight

You’ll notice that a few of these titles are already on Stadia. That’s fine! But right now, they’re hidden in the library of Stadia games. New users should be able to see these games on the front page. These games have proven track records through their reviews, and present an excellent value to new customers who might feel overwhelmed by Cyberpunk’s $60 price tag. Using these titles in Stadia advertising gives the platform a unique identity by having unique indie mascots that Google didn’t have to spend years developing. While these games are available on other platforms, those companies clearly aren’t using them. Nintendo would rather advertise Mario, Xbox would rather use Master Chief and Sony would rather use Aloy.

A library of high quality indie games would allow Google to capitalize by bolstering their library. Add to that advantage with strong recognizable, characters. It creates opportunity for indies, but gives Google iconic design that is both expensive and rare. But in this case Google is buying it at a discount because the franchises are in their infancy.

Imagine how attractive a Stadia Pro advertisement would look that had a splash of characters from the games I listed. Shovel Knight and Hollow Knight on one side, Celeste and Spelunky on the other. Having them on the front page of the store would add so much personality to the main page. Compare the bright colors of a Celeste or Yooka Laylee illustration to something like Rainbow Six: Siege. Siege is an awesome game, but it’s also gritty and intimidating. Perhaps not something a first-time user would be looking for.

The indie space has been a tremendous pillar of support for Stadia since the beginning. Google would do well to lean into it.


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