Google Puts Stadia Out of Its Misery

Google is officially pulling the plug on Stadia, its cloud gaming service that’s been on life support for the better part of a year. If there is a lesson to learn from Stadia's less than three year journey (looking at you, Netflix), it’s that breaking into gaming — even cloud gaming —  is harder than it looks.

Stadia, We Hardly Knew Ya
Despite being among the first to market, Google Stadia never found its legs, not even peaking at a million monthly active users. Belated attempts to repackage Stadia as a white label technology for other companies clearly didn’t pan out either. 

  • November 19, 2019: Official launch
  • February 2021: Google shuts down its only first-party studio
  • February 2022: Stadia is demoted within Google’s corporate structure
The Writing Was on the Wall
While we would like to claim credit for our February prediction that Stadia was destined for “the big vaporware farm in the sky,” Stadia had fundamental problems.
  • Uncompetitive Business Model: Unlike Xbox Game Pass’ a la carte game library, Stadia was premised on users purchasing games individually. This eliminated the main advantages of a cloud gaming service aimed at more casual gamers: affordability and ease of use.
    • GeForce Now has succeeded with more dedicated gamers as a cloud gaming service with individual game purchases
  •  No Killer Feature: There was simply no glaring reasons to pick Stadia and its lackluster game library
    • All the more true after Google gave up on first party titles
How Not to Exit the Market
Google has sadly further bungled Stadia with an inept exit. Many Stadia game partners, from indie devs to the likes of Ubisoft and Bungie, were not informed before the announcement of Stadia’s cancellation. 
  • Developers now have to try and recoup lost revenue from now canceled releases
  • Ubisoft and some developers will try to transfer Stadia games to other platforms
  • Google is promising it will figure out how to refund hardware & game purchases
  • It will not be refunding Stadia Pro subscriptions ($9.99/month)
It’s an unfortunate truth that gamers are used to being treated poorly as customers. But spurned publishing partners could be less cooperate the next time a new player wants to try its hand at cloud gaming or a console.

Lessons (Hopefully) Learned

  • Gaming Requires Commitment: The creative-driven nature of video games means accepting that it takes years, if not longer, to break into the market. No amount of money or on-paper expertise can completely compensate for that.
  • Cloud Gaming Is Still Niche: Whether it’s the need for high-speed internet, inferior gaming performance, or the appeal of simply owning your system and games, consumers are not yet sold on cloud gaming. 
  • Netflix: While the media streaming leader has been eyeing cloud gaming for some time, Stadia’s demise and a challenging economy may put these plans on hold.
  • Cloud Gaming Handhelds: Attempts from the likes of Logitech and Razer to capitalize on cloud gaming with handheld consoles may be in for a rough landing if Stadia’s death is any indication. 

Featured image: Stadia