Google Stadia Failed Before It Was Announced

Stadia failed when Google+ failed.

Phil Harrison on the official Google Blog:

A few years ago, we also launched a consumer gaming service, Stadia. And while Stadia's approach to streaming games for consumers was built on a strong technology foundation, it hasn't gained the traction with users that we expected so we’ve made the difficult decision to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service.

Pretty much my entire Twitter timeline is dunking on Google Stadia's closure today, deeming it an inevitability we all saw coming. For my part the few experiences I had with Stadia were exceptional, I felt as though they'd totally nailed the technology end despite the business model being absolutely wild. For example, to play a Stadia game on my television I'd have needed a Google Chromecast, the official controller, have paid $10 monthly for access to the service, and then would need to have purchased each game individually. This was, obviously, nonsense. Although Stadia's technology was compelling at launch, competition quickly shifted the balance away from the model Google seemed convinced would work... eventually.

And to be clear: I love cloud gaming. I played the (until recently) Windows-only hit Inscryption months ago on my Mac via the free tier of Nvidia's GeForce Now. I played through a majority of Halo Infinite's single player campaign via Xbox Cloud Gaming, Safari, and a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. I played through the entirety of 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim by streaming my PlayStation 4 into an iPad I brought to a remote cabin in the woods. I should have been a day-one fan of Stadia given my compulsion to adopt new tech earlier than is healthy. Skill Up nails what held me back:

Despite being interested in the service and seeing how well it works first-hand on more than one occasion, this is why I never took the plunge. Again: Every experience I had using Stadia was excellent, but how could I invest dollars into an account of my own and the hardware I'd need knowing it could — like many other Google products before it — disappear one day. I'm seeing a lot of coverage of this in games media, but I think this poses a more existential threat for Google as a company holistically than it does as a one-off failed attempt to break into this one specific industry. Ralph from Skill Up and I are not the only two people in the world who believed Stadia would fail because of Google's track record for throwing products and services into the bin, or letting them languish unsupported until they fade into obsolescence without even a blog post like this one. This was a widely held assumption back in 2019 when the service first launched. That they displayed a Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo Powerglove, and Atari ET cartridge in glass cases at their own reveal event only fanned the flames of group-think-supposition.

I truly think this is yet another example of how Google has not only become too big to fail, but maybe too big to succeed as well. For every win in the form of Pixel or Nest, there is an ever growing pile of Stadias, of Waves, and of Daydreams. To announce a service like Stadia and be met with an immediate chorus of potential users saying "sounds great, but let's see if you really stick this one out" speaks to a larger problem with Google's reputation in the tech landscape as a whole more than it does a lack of faith in their ability to deliver a new and innovative experience to the gaming audience. In the eyes of the public, Stadia failed when Inbox failed. Stadia failed when Clips failed. Stadia failed when Google+ failed. Stadia failed before it was even announced, back when people stopped believing Google could launch and support an ongoing service.

Their best bet was to prove the naysayers wrong.

That's not what happened this time.