For me, that would have been a compelling alternative to buying a PlayStation 5, whenever it happened. The advantages offered by Stadia, too, with multi-device play and the ability to jump into an existing game with State share, were wonderfully tempting. Why bother with a walkthrough when you can let a pro-YouTuber do what little you find awkward and pick up right after? Hell if it existed a generation ago I could have ended Far Cry 3.
Unfortunately, there is always uncertainty when investing money on a new service created by Google. It is a notoriously impatient company with a the talent to kill products long before they have a chance to take off, and some even after. This might be great for the end result, but it robs you of the belief that the service you bought at will still be in business two or three years after its launch.
Sony and Microsoft, meanwhile, have gone to more of an effort to ensure their hardware is backwards compatible with older titles. The PS5 can play over 4,000 titles originally released for the PS4, while the Xbox Series X can play all Xbox One (and Xbox 360) titles that don’t need the Kinect sensor. Steam, which has been running for almost twenty years, essentially gives you full access to all the titles you’ve purchased – aside from compatibility issues. When players can expect to get a decade of play for each title, Stadia’s short-term risk seems even greater.
And I’m still not sure Google knows who Stadia is for. Is it the die-hard gamer who can expect jaw-dropping high-end performance and a huge library of AAA titles? Are these casuals like me who see little value in investing in console hardware and just want to play and play without having to think too much about it? Is it somewhere between these two poles? My colleague, Nick Summers, did a deep dive into Stadia a year after its launch in November 2020, claiming the service still felt “half-baked”. He concluded that there were “better ways to spend $ 10 a month”.
It’s also worth asking why Google felt the need to shut down its first party division so soon after its inception. Typically, most great games take three to five years to develop, so what exactly did Google expect from Raymond to bounce back during his short tenure?
As Stadia struggles, I notice Microsoft’s efforts in its own cloud gaming service. The makers of the Xbox spent a decade, and a fortune, transforming the Xbox from a joke into a gaming monster, and now owns some of the biggest game studios. And he has his xCloud and Xbox All Access, where for $ 25 per month, you get a substantial library of big budget titles, cloud gaming, and a console, essentially, for free.
Obviously, Microsoft’s end goal is to attract as many customers as possible, but it’s also a show of faith that Stadia sorely lacks.