Google recently announced that it would shut down the first-party game development for its Stadia cloud streaming platform. The announcement led to the speculation that Google Stadia has finally come to its inevitable end and would eventually shut down just like the hundreds of other Google projects.
Adding fuel to the fire was the beef between the Terraria game developer and Google. The former decided to cancel all upcoming projects with the latter for the foreseeable future.
The entire situation sent a clear message that Google does not care about its game developers. And how can a gaming subscription service succeed if it has no games? Here’s a closer look at Google Stadia and its future.
The Bet on Stadia’s Failure
For the uninitiated, Google Stadia is a cloud gaming console which you can use to play games provided you have a fast-enough internet connection along with a device capable of running Google Chrome and either a controller or keyboard-mouse combo. There are two versions of Google Stadia available, “Base” and “Pro.”
As the name suggests, in the “Base” version, the picture quality of Google Stadia is restricted to 1080p @60 FPS. It is also the free version. In the Stadia “Pro” variant, users can play games in 4k resolution @ 60 FPS by paying monthly subscription fee. Again, you will first need a fast internet service with no data cap, as streaming games at 4k consumes tens of gigabytes of data in a matter of minutes. On top of that, you’ll also have to own the games on Google Stadia as the “Pro” version only offers a small discount on most games.
One advantage of Google Stadia is the absence of hardware requirements. If you want to play a game and have unlimited internet, then Stadia could prove to be a suitable platform for you.
However, the gaming industry, particularly the PC gaming space, operates a bit differently. New CPUs and GPUs are launched every year to increase the in-game FPS (Frames Per Second) and lower the latency, something Google Stadia still struggles with.
Stadia offers no ownership of any aspect of gaming, be it hardware or software. However, the gaming industry relies heavily on this aspect. Having high-performance hardware to run the latest software is what most gamers desire. Stadia couldn’t possibly cause a shift in consumer behaviour with its high list of requirements and lacklustre launch lineup.
Understandably, gamers have never been a fan of Google’s streaming service. During Stadia’s launch in 2019, the tech showcase Google put on looked impressive. Still, the company’s history of launching new projects and preemptively shutting them down remained a significant cause of concern for gamers.
There are entire websites dedicated to keeping track of every new project Google has killed over the years. Therefore investing in a game streaming service from the same brand seemed quite risky for every gamer.
Stadia officially launched in November 2019, and a number of its “exclusive” features were missing. Furthermore, games digital codes which people had pre-ordered arrived late and the entire launch library was outdated by at least a year.
The problems for Stadia continued as it had to compete with juggernauts like PS4 and Xbox One, which were nearing the end of their console generation and had a ton of games. Furthermore, the upcoming PS5 and Xbox Series consoles would also prove trouble for Stadia as they would be compatible with last-gen games and more powerful.
Therefore hating on Google Stadia became the next-best thing. The multiple goof-ups by Google Stadia’s team didn’t help either. One of the developers went online with the absurd idea that gamers should pay companies to stream their games, and as a result, Stadia ended up getting a lot of bad press.
Why Are Developers Unhappy With Google Stadia
Recently, the developer of Action-adventure game Terraria cancelled all upcoming projects for Google Stadia when the YouTube suspended the game’s official business channel and blocked access to his 15-year-old Gmail account.
The team at Stadia has a history of throwing developers under the bus whenever their cloud gaming platform was criticised for not running as intended.
Google recently shut down its first-party game development studio laying off 150 employees in the process despite praising them a week earlier.
According to Google, they’re trying to redirect their focus on big third party titles instead of building their first-party games. The tech giant also cited the high cost of development as one of the main reasons for dismantling its development studios.
While Google Stadia may have delivered on some promises so far after its initial launch, several key features and broken assurances stand in its way towards success.
The recent fiasco with Cyberpunk 2077 did prove that cloud gaming could become sustainable if games are incredibly demanding. But how far will this strategy help Google in 2021 when the next gen-consoles are already available on the market? Only time will tell.