In an unsurprising but disappointing turn, Google is shutting down its Stadia cloud gaming service only three years after unveiling the technology. The surprisingly – effective cloud gaming software was met with initial skepticism when Google announced it in 2019 – not because of the tech itself, but because of Google’s track record with cutting-edge technology.
The so-called “Google Graveyard” is littered with projects like Google Glass, Google Plus, and numerous other hardware and software initiatives that failed to take off. When gamers heard that Google planned to charge full price for streaming versions of existing video games, many feared that sinking money into the project would only end with Google pocketing the funds and shutting the service down, leaving players with nothing to show for their efforts.
Google’s leadership seems to have given up on Stadia without giving it an honest opportunity to succeed. Google, like Amazon before it, tried to muscle its way into the gaming industry with sheer financial might and seemed unwilling to listen to experts or follow the direction of the marketplace.
The biggest issue plaguing Stadia from the get-go was the pricing. Despite the service offering intangible benefits, like playing games without needing hardware, the cloud-streaming service still charged full price for games. That was a tall order for fans who worried that they might be paying for something that would vanish in a few years – and those fears ended up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Stadia as a service worked quite well – reviewers noted that, with a fast enough internet connection, it was easy to play games at 4K resolution and with 60 frames per second. Doing so without dedicated gaming hardware made the service intriguing, but the pricing structure kept many casual gamers away from it.
Ironically, Stadia filled a niche few gamers inhabited: it was ideal for hardcore gamers with the money (and good fortune) to access a blazing-fast internet connection, but without dedicated gaming hardware like a console or gaming PC. It turns out that these players were few and far between.
It’s impossible to overstate how much better Stadia could have been had Google followed a common streaming approach and made it a subscription service. By paying a flat fee each month, players should have been able to access a wide library of exclusive titles created in-house and a selection of high-end third-party games like Assassin’s Creed and Red Dead Redemption.
This would have solidified Stadia as the premier budget-friendly way to play video games. Instead, Google treated the experimental cloud service like a gaming platform – just one you would find on your web browser. This proved to be a fatal misstep, and the service will soon join many of its fellow Google experiments in the graveyard.