Hands up if you remembered that Google launched a console-less video game streaming service last year? I’d forgive you if you weren’t able to recall that; it seems that those responsible for Stadia’s muted launch weren’t interested in promoting it either, even on launch day.
There’s been the odd snippet of news here and there, as well as the update on which games will be given away as part of Stadia’s Premium service and a newer update on what’s coming (more on that below), but on the whole it seems that the service is just being left to quietly wither away.
It’s a shame, but not entirely without precedent for Google, who have a history of rolling out services and then abandoning them extremely quickly at the slightest whiff of failure.
Though the launch was a bit of a disaster – especially when top tech reviewers were able to test the service and, for the most part, found it to be extremely variable at best in terms of quality – I had seen some positive feedback from a small number of users; it seems now, however, that even those early adopters are unhappy at seemingly being ignored by Google’s game streaming initiative.
There’s a great article on this issue here. It’s such a shame that this potentially groundbreaking tech is seemingly being hung out to dry by the company, who could sink an awful lot of money into making the infrastructure work – but I think it’s most definitely a case of the right product at the wrong time. I’m sure that one day us gamers will have a better reason to want to stream our games – as well as not have to pay full retail price for the privilege and the reliable bandwidth to do so – but the offering has to be made a lot more attractive, reliable and we will need to be reassured that our libraries aren’t going to just disappear if the company (or companies, plural, as we do with video for example) we stream from decide that they aren’t going to continue with the service after all.
Google did announce this week that they’d be adding 120 games to the Stadia service throughout 2020, however, including 10 exclusive titles (which is, at least, 10 more exclusives than Xbox will have ready for next gen, amirite?). This doesn’t seem to have been picked up on by many news outlets (the phrase ‘if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound’ immediately springs to mind) – and, despite seeming initially impressive, is an extremely low number compared to the competition: for comparison, 1400 games were released on Nintendo Switch in 2019.
With 110 of Google’s proposed 120 games arriving this year being available to own (not just physically, but also to actually download if opting for digital), rather than just leave at the mercy of a giant corporation – who may or may not revoke access to their streaming service at any time – on other platforms, this becomes even less attractive, especially given their approach to pricing so far.
Hopefully things do start to turn around; I’ve always maintained that I would rather there be a healthy level of competition, especially from more disruptive tech, in the games industry – already we’ve seen Microsoft pushing themselves into Stadia territory with the very promising Project xCloud and Sony improve their Playstation Now service, both from a pricing and software offering point of view. Would either of those things have happened so quickly if it wasn’t for the then-imminent threat of Stadia?
That Stadia is so far struggling to make an impression seems to be more to do with Google’s indifference towards it and less to do with the failings inherent in the tech; though far from perfect, it seems to work for a number of people who just aren’t being given anything to be excited about yet. It’s a shame, but it’s definitely in character for the enormous corporation in control of the service’s fate.
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