Google puts an end to Stadia, its cloud gaming service

No one had seen it coming. Phil Harrison, VP in charge of Stadia at Google, announced on the evening of September 29 that the cloud gaming service would end on January 18, 2023. Players therefore have two and a half months to finish their games before access be permanently cut off from them.

Reimbursement of equipment and games

Aware of the extent of the promises not kept, Google undertakes to reimburse sales of hardware (Stadia Controller, Founders Edition, etc.) made on the Google store, as well as games and additional content purchased on the Stadia store. Purchases made in other stores are however not eligible. Stadia Pro subscriptions will also not be refunded.

Phil Harrison ends his blog post by assuring that the technology at the heart of Stadia will find other uses within platforms like YouTube, Google Play, or even future augmented reality products. Without forgetting of course the marketing of this technology in the form of a white label, of which the American telecom operator AT&T was the first customer last year.

The ending clap seems final, however, with Harrison indicating that “many members of the Stadia team will continue their work within other divisions of the company.” Understand that there will probably not be a dedicated team left.

A big mess

The wise reader will have understood it from the ironic opening sentence of this article: this failure is not a surprise. Stadia was on the decline almost from its original announcement, despite Google’s bombastic statements at the time. Its shutdown in early 2023, roughly 3 years after its launch, almost feels like the company delayed the announcement to save some face.

This fiasco was not, however, a foregone conclusion. Google was ahead when it launched its Project Stream with Ubisoft in 2018. Its technology was impressive, and its power to “disrupt” the video game market was taken seriously, especially since it bet on an integration with YouTube. But the company did not have the conviction to commit to the long term, nor to invest seriously to conquer the market.

Between the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced people to stay at home for long periods of time and contributed to an explosion in online gaming, and the global shortage of semiconductors which made graphics cards and game consoles new generation almost untraceable for two years, yet Google had the perfect situation to impose itself.

A lack of serious feature at Google

This serious lack of will is exactly what game developers feared when the service was announced to launch in March 2020, highlighting Google’s pretty ridiculous record of killing products without really giving them a chance. The search giant is obviously not alone in this; Microsoft also has a well-filled graveyard. But it became almost sickly for the Mountain View company.

These strategic mistakes damage its brand image and give the impression of an arrogance that makes Google believe that it can conquer any market without putting too much effort into it, or trying to really understand it. In this case, although he left later, it was Microsoft who did well with the Xbox Game Pass, while the rest of the industry (Nvidia, Sony and even Nintendo) also continued their merry way with these services in addition to their main business. For Google, this market is just another failure.

Julien Bergounhoux

@JBergounhoux

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