How Google Missed the Game Streaming Revolution

Google Stadia will shut down next January. However, the cloud gaming service had everything not to end like other ambitious projects of the company which, poorly managed, passed into posterity for the wrong reasons.

Stadia will soon join the lost paradise of Google’s aborted projects. Alongside Google Glass, Google+, Google Duo and other Google Lively which had left to revolutionize everything. But, badly managed, badly calibrated, they fell into oblivion.

However, on paper, Stadia had everything to succeed. First of all, because the Mountain View company had felt the direction of the wind, that of cloud gaming, online entertainment and the even greater boom that the pandemic was going to cause in video games.

The former promise of the future of video games

Launched at the end of 2019 after a fanfare announcement, the completely dematerialized game service, carried by the power of Google servers, promised mountains and wonders. Entering a new era of video games where a controller would be enough to enjoy the most ambitious titles without having to worry about your hardware or updates. And this thanks to a streaming operation: thanks to a good Internet connection, the player enjoys a game that works on a powerful remote computer, which will be used by another player at the end of his game.

The absolute dream for many gamers who no longer wanted to have to buy the latest generation console, to invest in ever more financially and resource-intensive gaming PCs to be at the cutting edge of technology and video games. A year before the advent of the PS5 and other Xbox Series S⎜X, everyone wanted to believe in the promised ease.

A Chromecast 4K Ultra on his TV a few years old, a simple entry-level smartphone or a touchscreen tablet, even an old PC completely outdated: the hope of playing by simply pressing a button, without the slightest download time or waiting, in 4K with minimal latent, made the novelty even more attractive.

In addition, many functions that do not exist on other platforms also promise to see video games in a new light, more creative with State Share, to allow a contact to replay a portion of their game, more user-friendly also with Crowd Play which allows to invite a friend to their game, or even Crowd Choice to have spectators vote on the progress of the game.

Lack of experience

However, the matter quickly turned sour both internally and externally. For players, the new features promised at launch took forever to arrive. The catalog has never really kept its promises and will end up far from the more than 400 games announced. Cyberpunk 2077, a failed launch on consoles, had offered its best experience to Stadia. And what had Google done with it? Not much. A discount on its pack, but no braggadocio to gargle its service then hailed for its ability to offer the best version of the most anticipated game of the end of 2020. Only today remains the possibility of playing several dozen games for free. games (from 30 minutes to 2 hours in trial version) with a simple Google account.

Excerpt from the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer
Excerpt from the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer © CD Projekt Red

The worst will remain the closure of its own studios led by Jade Raymond without any game seeing the light of day during their short life. Studios that will have been his way of the cross and the most resounding sign of his failure. To believe himself too good in a sector where he had no experience, the internet giant experienced one of his greatest failures, dragging down the entire service.

On paper, Stadia had all the cards in hand. Google failed to take advantage of the pandemic and the gaming boom during confinement to promote its service, which admittedly lacked muscle in the face of a Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation exclusives, but offered a different experience. The explosion of home fiber connection, an essential element for cloud gaming, was however a support of choice, as was the gradual arrival of 5G.

Players, but not enough exclusives

But Google Stadia’s biggest mistake was arguably getting the wrong target from the start. With its notoriety, Google has targeted the most demanding players. But to meet the expectations of these hardcore gamers, a library of high-flying games is essential, as soon as they are released. And on this point, Google has largely sinned, despite some nice moves (FIFA, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Outriders, Avengersetc.).

For a Baldur’s Gate 3 or one Orcs must die! 3 unreleased, players instead got the sympathetic Pacman Tunnel Battle, Gylt or Super Bomberman R. At a time when Xbox and PlayStation are multiplying exclusives, Stadia has not been able to hold the comparison for long, recovering too many games late to keep the most assiduous players.

Despite an unwavering love of service fans who have become too few over time, Google has therefore decided to signal the end of the match and to reimburse the players for their investment for two years. Without even the main interested parties, game developers like Stadia employees, being notified in advance. Several of them have poured out on social networks to share their dismay at sometimes seeing years of work reduced to shreds a few days before the release of their game on the cloud gaming service.

A white label jump?

What will be left of Google Stadia? A feeling of waste for a bright idea. Too ahead of its time or simple ignorance of the codes of the environment, Stadia’s first attempt in video games ends in flop. The future will tell if it was just a matter of the wrong people in the wrong positions or if the whole design of the project was flawed, Stadia achieving the sad feat of not being viable in the age of dematerialized gaming, cloud gaming and entertainment growth.

Stadia may not shut down entirely, even though the company has entered a period of financial restrictions. Because the technology is there and it would be a shame for Google to draw a final line on it, at a time when the environment no longer swears by streaming and cloud gaming.

Sony’s PlayStation Plus service has also revealed a mention of Google Stadia for certain games offered for streaming to Premium package subscribers. The company has never hidden that it could offer its white label services to ex-partners wanting to take advantage of the power of servers for their future cloud gaming games. Google promised the future of video games without consoles. It will be especially without him in the front line.

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