Is Google Stadia already dead?

Google is one of the most successful companies on the face of the planet, with an income of billions of dollars per year. Through their search engine, the company has become part of day to day life for anybody who uses the internet on a regular basis.

Google Stadia

Because of that, it’s sometimes easy to forget that not everything they touch turns to gold. Google have already had a major failure in the past with the attempted launch (and expensive failure) of the first generation of Google Glass. Now, sadly for gamers who had high hopes of a successful brand new platform to play with, history seems to be repeating itself with Google Stadia.

The premise behind Google Stadia was a good one, and still is a good one when it’s written down on paper. By removing the console from the equation, Google hoped to turn gaming into a level playing field where everyone with a screen and an internet connection could play brand new video games with no performance issues. The idea was akin to the way an online slots website works. The vast majority of modern online slots websites like Amigo Slots gather hundreds of games together in one place and allow players to flick through them, with the website serving as a type of portal. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only thing that Google copied from online slots – their entire business plan was a huge gamble, and the early signs suggest the gamble has backfired.

In their enthusiasm for the product, Google failed to take into account two very important things. The first was that not all of their intended end users enjoy internet connection speeds that are the same as those enjoyed by Google’s staff in their offices. The second was that for their format to succeed, they needed almost every major game developer to get on board and embrace it. That hasn’t happened, and the lineup of games available for Google Stadia right now is far from inspiring.

To make matters worse, the schedule for planned launches through the rest of 2020 is sparse. Google has very little in the way of a hook to get players interested in paying to use their service, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to get one in the near future either.

While it may be premature to say that a gaming service that was only launched three months ago is dead, the metrics that can be observed publicly aren’t encouraging when it comes to Stadia’s potential for longevity. Of the few top-level games that are currently on offer to Stadia players, Destiny 2 is one of the standouts. For the first few weeks of Stadia’s existence, the number of players online playing Destiny 2 was one of the few bright spots in a period full of lukewarm reviews and performance issues.

Look again at the numbers now, and it’s readily apparent that there’s been an exodus. There are less than nine thousand players playing the game on an average day. That’s down from close to twenty thousand a few days after Stadia launched, representing a loss of more than fifty percent. Those players must have gone somewhere, and the likely answer is that they’ve gone back to their original consoles.

If this were a normal year, Google would have time to get Stadia right. They could experiment with the format, negotiate with developers, and go through a trial and error process to make Stadia more appealing to players. It would have been better if they’d been through such a process prior to launch, but the situation wouldn’t be beyond salvage.

Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t have picked a worse year to launch in. By the end of 2020, both Microsoft and Sony will have launched brand-new, next-generation consoles. Both launches are bound to attract the attention of players who might otherwise have been inclined to give Stadia a try. Worse still, they’re likely to attract the focus of game developers, who are bound to be far more interested in developing games for exciting new consoles than working on backward compatibility for a platform that very few people appear to be using.

We shouldn’t write Stadia off as a terrible idea, because it wasn’t. The idea of playing cutting-edge games through nothing more than your television and a controller is neat, and the fact that you can play through a phone is a nice gimmick. When we come to reflect on Stadia six or twelve months from now, we’ll probably conclude that it was well intentioned, but too far ahead of its time.

For Stadia to succeed, the average internet connection speed would have to be a lot higher than it is for most people, and all of the world’s major publishers would be on board with the idea. The reality is that issues with lag were reported almost from day one (and are still being reported now), and the service went live with less than forty games available to play. There isn’t enough substance there to attract hardcore gamers, and what there is performs badly unless internet conditions are at an optimal level.

Could Google still turn this around? Sure they could. They could look at their pricing strategy and try to attract players in at a lower price point. They could go cap in hand to developers and make them a better offer to bring games to the platform. If they were to offer a free trial before players have to subscribe to their service – similar to the way that Amazon Prime or Netflix work – they’re likely to at least see a small bump in their user base. If they do none of these things, though, the harsh fact of the matter is that there probably aren’t enough people using Stadia to justify keeping it going.

To answer the question we posed at the start of this article, no, Google Stadia is not dead. It is, however, on life support – and the prognosis isn’t good. Unless dramatic changes are made or a new way of marketing the platform is thought of, we’d be surprised if it was still a going concern at the start of 2021.

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