RIP Google Stadia (and thoughts on why it failed)

Google Stadia controller

Last updated on May 27th, 2023

Google’s announced that it’s shutting down its attempt at getting into cloud-based video games, Google Stadia. The service, launched in November 2019, offered the ability to play video games without needing to use an expensive console—just the Chrome web browser, an Android app, or certain Chromecast devices. A Stadia controller was also sold.

However, the service never took off, and so Google Stadia is joining a very long list of other products axed by the company known as Alphabet. Stadia’s last day is January 18, 2023. Google at least is refunding anyone who bought any Stadia games, add-ons, or the Stadia controller, though concerns exist about said controller becoming “e-waste” without a firmware update.

Why did Google Stadia fail?

Overall, Stadia seemed ambitious, but probably had too many obstacles in its way to take off.

For starters, it competed with a large number of existing video game platforms. On the console side, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo are well established, with popular franchises (Halo, Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., etc.). Xbox’s Game Pass has particularly become popular as a subscription service, and offers its own implementation of cloud gaming. The Nintendo Switch is also a popular portable gaming device.

On the desktop side, Stadia competed with Steam, which is already a long-established and popular third-party gaming platform.

On the mobile side, Android and iOS already offer tons of mobile games, without requiring a third-party service. Over on iOS, Apple offers Apple Arcade as a subscription service; $5/month gets access to over 200 games, including some popular ones (NBA 2K series, etc.). It’s basically already designed for Apple devices; meanwhile, Stadia requires creating a web app within the browser to use, something few people do.

On top of all of this, Stadia had marketing problems. A Statista survey shows relatively few people had heard of or played it:

Infographic: Google's Stadia Fails to Break Through | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

Finally, some people might have been hesitant to invest heavy money in a Google product that isn’t an Android device, Chromecast, or Chromebook. Google’s infamous for quickly killing off products that aren’t a YouTube-sized success. A TechCrunch article on this point is pretty blunt, with the headline: “Stadia died because no one trusts Google.” Given people (including the author of the TechCrunch article) are still mad about Google Reader being shuttered almost a decade ago, plus Google’s upcoming plans to break the tech behind most existing ad blockers in Chrome, it’s not so far-fetched.

That said, cloud gaming does have a future… just with one of the existing video game platforms people already use, and not the former home of Google+.

Google Stadia Controller on display at the Gamescom in Cologne, Germany” by verchmarco is licensed under CC BY 2.0. (Flickr / cropped from original)

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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