So Google decided to shut down its internal game development studio, and everyone who already hated the platform since its announcement came out to call this the end for Stadia.
However, I don’t think it is the end for Stadia. Not just because they continue to release games and announce more games coming to the Stadia, but because they made it sound like they were going to work to get more partners to bring their games to the platform. That, to me, sounds like they want to buy their exclusives rather than build them themselves – even if it’s only timed exclusives (or just bringing established franchises to their platform even if they aren’t exclusive).
For instance, if I told you Stadia has the game Outcasters, would your interest be peaked? Now, what if I said, Google has the new Star Wars game?
Google certainly underestimated how much time it takes, and how costly it can be to make their own games, but what they’re really coming to terms with is the same thing that’s put Hollywood into a box of only ever making sequels, remakes and reboots of established franchises.
New IP’s can be hard to sell.
And it’s going to be really hard to sell a new IP on a new platform. Even if it’s good, there are people who aren’t going to adopt a new platform to experience it, because they don’t have any ties to the characters or world just yet.
You have to establish that.
So from a purely business mindset, it probably makes more sense at this stage, to build your fledgling platform on the backs of established franchises before taking a risk on an expensive new IP.
Sure, many argue that you need exclusives to sell a console, but Google isn’t exactly selling a console here. And this really highlights something I’ve said from the beginning that no one seems to have caught onto just yet.
Google was never building the Netflix of gaming. They never pitched the platform as such.
Stadia was always meant to be the Google Play Movies & TV of gaming, the iTunes of gaming, the Steam of cloud gaming. It is, and always has been, just a digital storefront for cloud gaming. Where people can buy one game a la cart and play through it on any screen.
And this kind of platform makes sense for Google. For those who have bought into the Google ecosystem, especially those who own a Chromebook, there really wasn’t an option for gaming on the platform before Stadia’s arrival.
Google provided access to music and movies and TV, but Chromebooks can’t run games from Steam or other PC gaming platforms.
So Google built its own web browser based alternative so that people can own a Chromebook and still have the latest and greatest games.
But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, maybe I should explain the basics of how Stadia works.
There is a subscription for Stadia that grants access to playing games in 4k at 60 fps (however if you don’t pay for the subscription, you can still play the games, just at 1080p and 60 fps, which will be fine for most people).
The subscription works like a mix of Audible and Playstation Plus.
Just like Audible, you pay a subscription fee to use the service, but you still have to buy your books – but there are some special sale prices for items exclusively for subscribers. The monthly fee offsets the fact that you don’t have to buy a physical box like you would have to with conventional home consoles.
But like PlayStation Plus, every month you get some free games to add to your library, but you only have access to them as long as you’re subscribed to the service. If you cancel your subscription, you lose access to the games, but you can access them again once you’re subscribed (you will always have access to the games you bought regardless of whether you’re subscribed).
The service essentially takes a different approach to solving a similar problem Nintendo solved with the Switch. You want to be able to start playing a game on your TV, but you also want to be able to take it with you when you’re out and about, or while you’re traveling.
Nintendo built a tablet with attachable controllers, Google lets you play in a browser on any computer, or in an app on mobile devices.
And everyone distrusts Google, because, well, it’s Google, but that led many to bash the platform and declare it dead before it even launched. Then it came out and everyone scrutinized every possible flaw and wrote very negative reviews and then moved on, satisfied they’d buried a thing they presumed was already dead.
Then Cyberpunk 2077 came out, and it was terrible on the base PS4 and Xbox One, but ran really well on Stadia. It also came during a time when no one was able to go out and buy a new console because the PS5 and Xbox Series X are constantly out of stock.
So it ended up being a big win for Stadia. People who had previously bashed the platform had to acknowledge that things were actually looking up. Or they just ignored it altogether, because they’d already spoken on the matter, and they weren’t about to reconsider their harsh review based on new information.
And now Google announced it was closing its internal games studio and everyone went back to saying the platform was dead again.
Is it getting hot and cold in here every few minutes or is it just me?
Anyway, cloud gaming is still in its infancy stage. It was always going to take time for it to catch on, but everyone seems to agree it is the future.
Once Microsoft gets its streaming service, xCloud, up and running everyone who has been down on cloud gaming will suddenly start getting it, because they’ll finally actually give it a chance.
And Microsoft stands to take the cloud gaming scene by storm because of how easily it should work with Game Pass, which is already a great subscription service, in terms of price and what’s on offer. Game Pass and xCloud should combine to become the Netflix of gamin that everyone was expecting Stadia to be.
But honestly, I think xCloud and Stadia can both survive alongside each other, for the same reason digital movies and TV storefronts haven’t disappeared once Netflix rose to prominence.
There’s still the possibility that Stadia evolves into some sort of platform Google sells to companies like Ubisoft, EA and Activision, or pretty much any company not already owned by Microsoft, so they can offer their games in the cloud.
I’m not sure how that would end up taking shape, but it’s a possibility.
I don’t know what the future of the platform is, but so far I like it. It has worked well for me. And the convenience factor is not something to overlook. Especially at a time when the next generation of consoles are so hard to get.
Right now I can’t buy a Playstation 5, but I can play recent releases like Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin’s Creed, Watchdogs Legion, Hitman 3 and Little Nightmares 2 by paying for just the game rather than buying expensive new hardware.
And that’s not nothing.