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2021: The Year Stadia Died

View Nelson Schneider's Profile

By Nelson Schneider - 10/24/21 at 03:57 PM CT

It’s official: Google, the search giant that embodies the very concept of “Big Data,” has decided to ‘pivot’ their ill-conceived Cloud gaming service into a ‘backend’ service for other corporations that think they can sell Cloud gaming to end-users more effectively than Google could. Stadia, Google’s Cloud gaming consumer offering, only launched in 2019 (a year in which it earned a coveted(?) spot on the MeltedJoystick List of Fails), and even after a year of pandemic lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, nobody wanted to use it, causing the service to drastically undershoot Google’s sales and usage projections.

And you know what that means! Time to pull the plug! Of course, with Google’s track record of unceremoniously discontinuing products and services that don’t meet astronomical and arbitrary metrics, end-users have become savvy to the whole issue, causing Stadia’s failure to be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: Users didn’t believe Google would support Stadia for more than a couple of years, which caused Google to stop supporting Stadia after a couple of years. Fun stuff!

The ‘pivot’ from a commercial product to a backend service comes 8 months after Google shut down its shiny new game development studio, SG&E, before said studio was able to actually develop even a single game. Thus between the beginning of 2021 and the present, it’s just been one long, slow slide into irrelevance for Stadia, with the project losing executives hand over fist, since, like the rats they so resemble, corporate executives know when to leave a sinking ship.

Personally, I’m not surprised in the slightest by Stadia’s failure as a consumer-facing product. The primary audience for gaming is still in the United States, and, as the pandemic showed us in stark relief, the United states still has abysmal Internet service penetration overall, with sizable portions of the continent unserved by any terrestrial ISP, forcing residents to subscribe to a satellite service or go without. Likewise, even when an area is served by a terrestrial ISP, systemic monopolies mean that residents have one choice, and that choice has no motivation to improve service or offer value. Ironically, Google itself was once a champion of spreading fiber-optic Internet all across its home nation before, as usual, the corporation got bored with the idea and stopped after a couple of years, leaving an Internet-starved nation with only a handful of cities powered by Google Fiber.

Cloud gaming may eventually become a thing, but if you want to make such a huge paradigm-shifting change, you have lay the groundwork and do the heavy lifting first. Google thought it could use its status as Big Data to get everyone on board a bandwidth-hogging, consumer-rights-eroding Internet service without first ensuring that there’s high-bandwidth Internet available to enough foolish consumers to make the concept work. Is anyone, then, surprised that Stadia failed? And, if so, why?

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