Stadia died because there is no trust in Google
There is a lot of noise in the air about the end of Google Stadia, their game streaming service. People were getting tired and had started to switch over to Geforce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming, two services that were backed with established businesses and knowledge in gaming. The main trouble with Google Stadia was that people lost trust in them to keep the service going for long after one or two years.
It’s become abundantly clear: no one trusts Google. The company has exhibited such poor understanding of what people want, need and will pay for that at this point, people are apprehensive about investing their money in its most popular products.
With Stadia, the technical aspects were well-executed. I will admit to being suspicious when they said they could meet the frame rates and response times they promised, but boy did they deliver. At its best, Stadia outperformed its competitors and was almost miraculous in how it fulfilled its promise of going from no content to in-game in one second.
Stadia is a new and cutting-edge way to work with your content on the go. It will solve many problems and offer plenty of advantages, both of which can be seen in the much-mocked pre-launch hype sign for Stadia. This is followed by an empty pedestal, where Stadia will soon sit.
Though the misunderstanding seemed to have been a hilarious case of … just about everything, it turned out to be quite fitting. It was doomed from the start and had no point in being alive.
The last assuring comment on the Stadia Twitter account was made just two months ago, when someone worried that the service was shutting down.
In fact, the decision to shut down was probably inevitable, but higher-ups had yet to actually tell their social team, developers or pretty much anybody about this being the plan. It has been reported that a lot of people close to the service were blindsided by the decision — and who wouldn’t be, after hearing about the company publicly declaring there are no problems with their service?
Some people may have realized there were issues when the first-party games team was shut down by Google. The team was put together to create exclusive games, and they never really had a chance to do any work. At least not as long as a Google Doodle takes to make!
If Stadia had a compelling product, it would have been successful without any exclusives. Unfortunately, the Power Glove was just as pointless and flashy.
I could tell from the start that it had been executed brilliantly, but I couldn’t pinpoint just who this service was for. A huge majority of gamers who want to play the latest hit like Deathloop already have either a console, gaming PC, or both: why would they buy Deathloop through Stadia instead of on their PS5 or even Steam? It will run and look better natively (though Stadia did actually look very good), and, of course, they’d already invested hundreds into those platforms.
Gaming today isn’t just about picking up your console and playing when you have a spare moment. Services that let you do this already exist, and the experience isn’t great anyway. Full-priced games these days are immersive, major affairs where you sit down for an hour or two on the couch and get into them with the surround sound system blasting. Sure, I wouldn’t mind doing a little inventory management on my laptop during a coffee break at work, but beyond that, it’s not a big deal to have access to AAA games all the time.
Meanwhile, games like Genshin Impact were bringing AAA graphics to portable devices and having millions of downloads on phones. So why would you create a product that would be less attractive?
It might have made sense if the proposal was for you to pay $20 a month and get your hands on Google’s cloud service. This would allow you to play the PlayStation, Xbox or even PC games from anywhere with internet. You would be able to use these services through any device, like your Switch or phone, because of Google’s platform-agnostic approach. This sounds a lot like what Samsung is attempting:
But no, you couldn’t access your existing games – even the ones from other developers. You couldn’t even use your old controllers! For an entrance fee and for a monthly fee, it seemed like you would have to keep on buying games, at full price.
When people have a bad feeling about something, they aren’t going to put up with it. So while people are happy to spend a couple bucks here and there for things like Google Services, no one is going to pay hundreds of dollars for something they think will be worthless in a few weeks time.
It’s well-known that Google has a legacy of killing products. It’s hard to trust them with anything beyond their core businesses, and often they even seem to mess those up now and then.
I still have my original Super Nintendo that plays as well now as it did when I bought it. My Mario Kart and Super Metroid cartridges have been working for 30 years. My games on Steam are easily playable, too-I bought them a decade ago or more! Do you trust these companies even though they’re digital? Why?
A lot of gamers were disturbed by the recent P.T. fiasco. Games are one of their only sources of entertainment outside of their jobs, and to have a developer just cancel their project can be really disheartening. All of a sudden, the game disappears on launch day with no explanation.
I remember when Google Reader was unceremoniously shut down by Google – a death I’ll never forgive. For me, and probably many others, this is the turning point when I became skeptical of anything from Google. They’ve been extending products that might not need a separate service (like search), then getting rid of them and drawing on the rest of their users for something else.
I feel like Google has my back. Switching from Gmail to another provider would be a major hassle, so Google can’t do anything that makes me want to leave. Hopefully it’s not too hard for them to compete with all the other email providers out there.
And although there is no doubt that the people for whom Stadia did make sense for whatever reason (and I was happy for them) do feel betrayed, the millions more who never questioned Google and the reasons for the product’s existence are feeling validated. I will say that I‘m surprised Google is doing the right thing with a truly robust refund. It’s the least they could do, and they have all that money.
I don’t think Stadia could probably ever be a success. Its entire model was probably doomed to failure from the beginning. But even a long shot can be molded into a successful product with few pivots if the core is solid and it develops a large, invested community. Google has built so strong of a case against themselves that it will never really matter whether creators are on YouTube or coders and scientists on Colab; no community will trust them again.