The Google Stadia version of Thumper, which is being offered for free to all paid Stadia Pro subscribers, has only seen a few thousand players, based on leaderboard data reviewed by Ars Technica. The numbers suggest significant struggles as the new streaming gaming service from Google, launched in November, tries to attract players away from traditional gaming platforms.
Thumper, along with Rise of the Tomb Raider, was a free Stadia Pro title for the month of January, meaning everyone who paid $129 for the service’s “Founder’s Edition” and “Premiere Edition” bundles has access to it (those bundles, which are the only current way to access Stadia, include three months of Stadia Pro service). As of this morning, though, only 5,515 people have registered a score on the leaderboards for the first stage of the Stadia version of the game, which separates such leaderboards by platform. That number was at 4,563 on January 15, when Ars conducted a spot check.
That doesn’t mean that Stadia Pro only has 5,515 users, of course. For one thing, not everyone who has played the game has finished the first stage (which takes about 10 minutes to complete, depending on personal performance). Trophy data for the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game, though, suggests that almost 70 percent of all Thumper players do manage to pass this low bar, which would translate to about 8,000 total players so far for the Stadia version.
There are also likely a significant number of Stadia Pro subscribers who simply haven’t bothered to redeem their free copy of Thumper on Stadia or have redeemed it but haven’t played it yet. Data from PlayStation player tracker Gamstat suggests only about 65,000 new players tried the PS4 version of Thumper in October 2018 when it was offered as a free PlayStation Plus download in Asia/Pacific countries. That’s despite the fact that there were about 34 million PlayStation Plus subscribers worldwide at the time, a number that likely included millions of subscribers in the Asia/Pacific region.
The Stadia Pro player base may also include many users who have already enjoyed Thumper on other platforms. Stadia subscribers that already played the game on Windows, PS4 (and PSVR), Oculus headsets, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, or iOS in recent years probably aren’t in the market for a streaming copy, even if it’s free. If that’s the case, though, it calls into question the real value of a legacy title like Thumper as a Stadia Pro freebie.
There also may be some Stadia Pro subscribers who simply haven’t used the service at all in January and thus haven’t been able to play the game. But a large group of such “inactive” Stadia subscribers so soon after launch wouldn’t be a great sign for the service’s long-term health (if you’re among that group, you still have a chance to log in and redeem a great game!)
The Thumper leaderboards also include an unknown number of Stadia Pro users who bought the game for $19.99 in November and December, before it was offered for free. In November, Google offered refunds to early adopters who bought Stadia copies of Farming Simulator and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition before the titles became Stadia Pro freebies in December.
Not a strong start
The Thumper leaderboards suggest that Stadia is by far the least popular platform for the game at this point. The first level has been cleared by about 172,000 players on PS4, about 120,000 players on Steam, and about 51,000 players on iOS, according to leaderboard data (we were not able to check the Xbox One and Switch versions as of press time). Even the Oculus Store version of the game registers over 12,000 scores for the first level, despite extremely limited overall sales for Oculus VR hardware (players who play in offline or “private” mode on non-Stadia platforms may complicate this comparison).
This kind of comparison is a bit unfair to the Stadia version, of course, since those other platforms have had multiple years to amass their player bases. Gamstat data suggests the PS4 version of Thumper only had about 13,600 players a month after its late 2016 release on the platform, which is more in line with the Stadia data.
Then again, it’s important to remember that all those players on non-Stadia platforms had to actually pay up to $20 to buy the game before playing it. Thumper has only attracted a few thousand Stadia players despite being completely free for everyone currently using the service since the beginning of January.
Caveats aside, the low player numbers for Thumper on Stadia aren’t a good sign for a service that attracted widespread criticism in multiple launch-day reviews and is receiving growing impatience from many early adopters hoping for a larger game library. If a game that Google is literally giving away is only attracting a few thousand players on Stadia, we have to wonder how many sales publishers are seeing for full-cost streaming titles that can run up to $60.
Perhaps titles that launch on Stadia on the same day as other platforms (or potential future Stadia exclusives) may have an easier time attracting new streaming players. Maybe Google’s planned 2020 launch of a free Stadia tier that doesn’t require a monthly fee will increase the total customer base for the service’s games. Maybe Thumper‘s twitchy, trippy rhythm-action gameplay is less appealing on Stadia than it was on other platforms.
For now, though, the Thumper leaderboards give us a direct, if incomplete, public look at the size of the potential audience for legacy titles on Stadia. And so far, that look can’t be very encouraging for Google.