Although Google’s shutdown two first-party game developers for Stadia, they seem to be holding on to the service for as long as they can.
Google Stadia’s had a rough time in its relatively short lifetime. At launch, Stadia premiered to commercial and critical failure, with founders, including myself, having to wait weeks before getting codes to access the service with around 20 games. You then had to have an incredible WiFi connection, which I did not have, and it only worked on PC and Chromecast.
For those of you that don’t know what Google Stadia is, it’s a cloud gaming service, allowing you to stream games from a server to your computer, phone, TV or browser. There’s almost 200 games on Stadia, with a monthly subscription allowing you to play these games in 4K, although there’s a free version that provides 1080p. You still have to buy games, unlike Game Pass or PS Now for example. It faced some praise pre-launch, at least before it started to receive criticism and lost a large portion of its playerbase.
Luckily, Google noticed that, cutting prices on things, adding more games, and giving out a few free months here and there. That was up until recently, when the service hit more troubles, after Google axed that its two, and only, first-party games studios. This follows the same pattern that destroyed Google+, once a leading social media service.
Google+ eventually was shutdown by Google after a lot of issues, including a secret bug that leaked the data of millions of users to outside sources. It also lost millions of users to Facebook or Instagram, forcing Google to take loss after loss. Even with that news and analogy, it seems as though Stadia has several catalysts to at least carry it through the short-term. So, let’s begin.
Although Google Stadia’s only game studios are obviously the only game studios that produce games for the service, there’s a lot that goes on behind the surface, past exclusives.
Exclusives seemed to be an issue for Stadia from the start. Google seemed to be confused as to what they wanted their service to be like, launching Stadia without any exclusive games. They relied on around 20 games to lead the service into the public, changing their position suddenly with their first exclusive games, Gylt and Get Packed.
These weren’t terrible games, but they definitely didn’t give anybody a new reason to subscribe to Stadia, especially when you could play other, better, indie games across other platforms. This didn’t stop Google however, as Stadia soon promised over 10 exclusive games for the year after its launch.
That didn’t really end up being fulfilled however, as soon, most of the games were dropped and Stadia didn’t end up releasing many games following that. Their first party exclusives were fine, but weren’t spectacular, although overall, these studios, (including Typhoon Games, developer of Journey to the Savage Planet) didn’t perform as well as Google was expecting.
Underperforming exclusives are reason enough to bag exclusives and studios, but I believe the real reason came from Stadia’s ability to move mind and manpower from exclusives to the service as a whole. Redirecting effort could allow Stadia to make more deals with developers and publishers, helping to get more games on the platform. Stadia works better as a platform or a service, not as a console with exclusives.
Think of Stadia as a Windows PC.
PCs can play all PC games, but doesn’t really have a PC branded PC exclusive game. While you have third-party games released for the PC, the developers of PCs, such as Dell or HP, don’t develop games for their machines. That’s what Stadia’s like. They’re better as the developers of the technology as a medium, rather than the beginning, medium, and end points for gaming.
After bagging Stadia’s first-party studios, they proceeded to announce that over 100 games will arrive to Stadia throughout 2021. That’s actually really impressive, and is a good sign for Stadia.
Google+ died off from a lack of significant upgrades or updates, with its userbase withering away slowly. Stadia on the other hand, died off slowly, with many (such as myself) unsubscribing from the service, before starting back up on growth. The service’s Reddit community for example, was at 10 thousand members when I was part of it. It’s now at over 100 thousand members.
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Stadia’s faced a big resurgence as games, such as Cyberpunk 2077, actively market themselves as coming to the service, helping to authenticate Stadia as an actual place to play games. Cyberpunk’s a massively demanding open-world game, requiring massive CPU and GPU power. Computer equivalents of Stadia cost upwards of $1000, which is obscene when compared to Stadia’s $10/month fee on top of the game’s purchase price. That’s even for its Pro model, although it has a Basic model which is free.
It’s incredible what Google’s actually managed to do, proving that although its killing off its own exclusives, it’s making the right choice towards a long-standing platform for gamers.
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