Google Stadia: Theories Why Failed
10 March 2023
Disclaimer: everything we are going to talk about below are pure theories as to why it is not working. Nothing has 100% reliable sources. Having said that, let us get started.
Before to give you the theories, it is important to give a resume to the readers that does not know a lot about Google Stadia.
What was Google Stadia and why was it important?
It was conceived as a cloud gaming service where games could be purchased and played, but without the need to download them to a console or PC.
Across multiple connected devices, such as phones, laptops, and TVs, it allowed you to play the game in real time, but the processing on a remote Stadia server somewhere else in the world. The game video was streamed to your device over the Internet, while the control codes for a game controller were sent in the other direction.
As we mentioned earlier, their servers were in many locations around the world, which helped shorten the distance between the player and the server from which they streamed. This drastically reduced the enemy of streaming: latency!
In addition, Google provided a dedicated Stadia controller that connected to the Internet directly via Wi-Fi, rather than your device. It sent the controller codes without having to first send them to a phone, tablet, or other connected device. The method reduced milliseconds of latency, and in gaming, you know that matters.
Then what went wrong?
Here is where the theories start. Around the 2018 and 2019, rise of competitors in the cloud gaming space. As an example, Amazon that was working on what became Luna; Microsoft was openly demonstrating xCloud; and Google was starting to mock what became Google Stadia. Each company had its own competitive positioning: Amazon had Twitch, Microsoft had Xbox, Nvidia had GeForce, and Google had massive reach and Android.
According to a former Product Manager on cloud gaming services, there are 3 reasons why Stadia failed and explain each one to us:
- Consumers who want to play AAA games already have the hardware.
- Developers will not port their games to Linux.
- Stadia lacked compelling content offerings.
- Consumers who want to play AAA games already have the hardware
If you are a fan who is deeply interested in the action-adventure games such as Assassin’s Creed, you already have the hardware. So, how many people are there that want to play Darksiders 3, but just do not have the hardware to do it? According to Mathew Enthoven, he suspects very few.
Stadia also was not a hardware free solution, requiring you to purchase a controller and a Chromecast for $129.99 when it was launched. And if we make the mathematics, it costed double the price of games at the time. That make you question Who is Stadia for? Because for $70 more, consumers could purchase a second coat Xbox One or PlayStation 4 and accessed a huge library of free games.
- Developers will not port their games to Linux
Getting developers to port their games to Linux are hard. With so many different game engines, extensions, and development environments, there is not a straightforward way to motivate an industry-wide investment in Linux gaming.
And… Why would Stadia require Linux?
The quick answer is because the Microsoft server licenses are expensive. And it is no profit for the developers to do it themselves. Each new supported platform introduces increased costs to development. Every new game build has an additional platform that needs to be tested, every new patch has another store upload, and every microtransaction has another payments API it must interface with. With Linux sporting only a 2.8% market share in desktop, it is just not worth it for developers to port their games voluntarily.
- Stadia Lacked Compelling Content Offerings
The most surprising decision or the worst by the Google Stadia team was to launch without first-party content. As a result of its 38 launch titles, many were released in 2018 or earlier, and all of them had been deeply discounted at some point. None of the 38 launch titles were intense multiplayer games with deep gameplay and social engagement (like Fortnite, PUBG, League of Legends, Valorant, World of Warcraft, Rainbow Six Siege, CS: GO, etc.).
Google gave up on Stadia as a consumer cloud gaming service because it lacked the… consumers. It never found a large enough user base to help it compete with more traditional forms of gaming.