Early next year, Google is set to shut down Stadia, its very own cloud gaming platform that the tech giant launched just three years ago. The platform originally had big plans on launch, including integration with an in-house studio that would launch exclusive titles for Stadia users. Now that all that isn’t going to happen, here’s a quick recap of the platform and its rise and fall.
Google Stadia is a cloud gaming platform and works similar to other cloud gaming services. This includes playing a game on a device using nothing but your internet connection. Unlike a traditional game that completely runs inside your phone or gaming PC, cloud gaming services like Stadia operate entirely over the cloud.
What that means is the entire processing of the game, including elements that react to your controls, are all processed not locally on your device/system, but at Google’s own data centres. From here, the display output of the games is then sent back to you, the player.
To understand this, imagine a set of really long wires connecting your monitor, mouse, keyboard and gamepad to a CPU cabinet far, far away in a Google data centre. Now replace the long wires with internet connectivity, that is pretty much how cloud gaming functions, allowing your own computer and hardware to be spared from doing the heavy lifting, especially for resource-intensive games. Of course, for this to work, you don’t need a powerful machine, but what you do need is a really good, fast and stable internet connection that can support the fast, high-volume data transfers that take place almost in real-time during cloud gaming.
Cloud gaming fixes a number of issues for gamers who want to enjoy games without having to build a specced-out system that can cost a lot of money, and in some cases, high maintenance and energy bills as well. Instead, a fast enough internet connection allows your machine to play games over the air – letting them be processed elsewhere while you enjoy the title on your monitor.
The idea picked up quickly over the last few years, which is why we have a number of cloud gaming services today other than Google Stadia. Microsoft has Xbox Cloud Gaming, Sony has the PlayStation Plus tier for cloud gamers, and there’s also Amazon’s Luna and Nvidia’s own GeForce Now. Not all of the above are available in all regions across the world but in countries where they are supported, you may find more users than you think.
With 5G coming into the picture in more regions and internet speeds quickly picking up pace, more players now have a much faster connection to the web than they did only a few years ago. This opens the doors of Cloud Gaming to a lot more people.
Then there are the other perks of the service, primarily including the ability to play on any device, and resume your in-game progress from virtually any other supported machine. You could beat one boss battle on a game on your home PC, and play the next battle at a friend’s house on your phone, without the need to physically carry any of your progress data there.
Google Stadia started out well on launch back in November 2019, and despite some initial shortcomings, people were able to sign up and start playing games without having the required hardware. Moreover, Stadia’s server speeds beat that of rivals like the PlayStation Pro program at the time. However, things quickly started going downhill for the platform just a year after launch, owing to technical issues, missing features and simply, a lack of enough users.
As per a report by Engadget, Google said that the service “hasn’t gained the traction with users” that the company expected. This has been the case for a while, though.
In 2021, Google announced that it was closing its internal game development studio, the very one that was pegged to launch Stadia-exclusive games. However, while Google continued to run Stadia, turning it into a sole platform for other developers to make their titles available on, many began predicting the end of the service after the move.
In March this year, Google also launched a version of the service that third-parties could license called ‘Immersive Stream for Games’. Google also reportedly mentioned that it sees “opportunities to apply this technology across other parts of Google” like YouTube, Google Play and the company’s Augmented Reality (AR) projects.
Existing Stadia members will not be able to put any money behind Staida anymore as Google has already shut down the Stadia Store as well as in-game transactions. Any Stadia hardware purchase will be refunded to members too. However, Stadia Pro subscriptions will not be reimbursed. However, Pro members will be able to use the service until Stadia shuts down in January 2023.
Likely not. While Stadia is shutting down, rival cloud gaming platforms mentioned above continue to thrive and add new members. A report by Grand View Research suggests that the cloud gaming market accounted for $691.6 million in 2021 and is anticipated to grow at 45.8% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) between 2022 and 2030. Given the benefits of the service, this isn’t a surprise either.
The report also mentions that cloud gaming could have witnessed a boost along with traditional gaming through the early COVID years. While the service is yet to pick up pace in many regions due to bottlenecks like internet speeds which could cause increased latency (a gaming pain in general, but a much bigger issue for cloud gaming), that could change soon with things like 5G adoption and people, in general, wanting faster connectivity.
The cloud gaming market could soon be a billion dollar industry, and adoption could rely on key benefits of cloud gaming like eliminating the need for expensive hardware, large downloads, and wait times. Of course, there’s also an overall cost benefits for gamers who want to dive into multiple games and genres.