Pour one out for Google Stadia.
Yesterday, Google broke the news that Google Stadia, its cloud gaming service, will cease operation on January 18, 2023. That’s only slightly over three months away, which is hardly any time at all — especially for developers who are launching titles on the service in the coming months. Many devs were left in the lurch, only finding out that Stadia was shutting down through Twitter posts.
Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise. Google has a long history of shutting down its services with little to no warning. In fact, Google’s reputation for launching and then shuttering big products like this may have actually contributed to the lack of interest in Stadia.
This tweet sums it up:
lol. The self-fulfilling prophecy is complete.
Nobody bought Stadia because they assumed Google would kill it, and Google is forced to kill Stadia because it's unpopular.
Google's reputation for killing services killed a service,. I'm not sure how the company ever fixes that.
— Ron Amadeo (@RonAmadeo) September 29, 2022
When Stadia was first announced, many gamers viewed it with skepticism. It’s almost a running joke at this point. There’s even a website called Killed by Google where you can view all the past projects that have been buried six feet under, or that will see their end soon.
To name just a few:
- Google Glass
- Youtube Originals
- Youtube Go
- Google Bulletin
- Google Bookmark
- Cameos on Google
If it seems like this constant barrage of failed projects is hurting Google as a brand, that’s because it is. It’s hard for customers to put trust in a company that might shut down their favorite services at any time. While the company’s willingness to try new things should be applauded, those services need to be vetted and fully-fleshed out before being made public.
The good news? Google is issuing refunds for all hardware and software purchased through Stadia, so gamers aren’t out hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The bad news? Well, all those save files are gone, and this shutdown is but another kick in the shins for cloud gaming.
Cloud-based gaming may seem like the inevitable future of the industry, but gamers seem as devoted to their consoles as ever.
A Few Stadia Alternatives
If you enjoy cloud gaming and aren’t sure where to go now that Stadia is kaput, there are a few other options on the market.
- Amazon Luna is a low-cost option that performs decently well, but its overall lineup could be better. It’s still early days for the service, though, so there’s still room to grow. Check out our full review.
- Xbox Cloud Gaming is a great option for Game Pass subscribers. You can stream games straight to your phone, tablet, or computer from the internet, and it performs great. I spent quite a bit of time with Fallout 76 through cloud streaming and noticed next to no framerate drops or lag despite it being a multiplayer game.
- NVIDIA GeForce Now is another fantastic option with a free tier, plus it comes with an additional benefit: you own the games you play. Gaming sessions are time-limited, though, and you might have to wait in a queue before you can reconnect and play more.
Why Cloud Gaming Struggles
Cloud gaming is still an untapped market. The ability to play your favorite titles on the go holds a lot of appeal, especially when it means you don’t need to store and keep track of dozens of physical discs. At the same time, it requires low latency and fast Wi-Fi, which just isn’t available to enough people at the current moment.
There’s also the ownership question. When you don’t have a physical copy of the game, the right to play it can be revoked at any time — along with any progress you might have made in that game. Stadia players are finding themselves losing their progress in games on top of the ability to play them at all.
Until these issues — along with others — are addressed, cloud gaming will likely be a convenience for gamers, rather than the primary way to play.