Bad Google Stadia; the service seemed like a slow-motion train wreck from the moment it started. The service’s launch, life and death played out exactly as the “nobody trusts Google” naysayers (your author included) would have predicted, but we were all forced to go through the motions anyway. When Google killed the service, the story from the company was that Stadia’s technology would live on in Google Cloud, but according to Stephen Totilo by Axios, even Stadia’s white-label game streaming service is now dead.
Stadia was supposed to be Google’s big foray into AAA gaming, with a cloud-based gaming “console” that didn’t actually have a console — the console was the data center, and it streamed the video game to you, just like a YouTube video. The service launched in November 2019 to sales that were much lower than Google expected, and manufacturing dates on the boxes suggest that the company never sold out of the initial series of controllers. The first signs that Google was tiring of its gaming experiment came after 14 months, when it shut down Stadia’s only first-party studio, relegating the service to third-party ports only.
Two years later, the news came that Stadia would be “de-prioritized” and turn into a white-label streaming service. Later, Google confirmed that it was saving the service as a new Google Cloud offering called “Immersive Stream for Games.” This meant that Google would resell Stadia’s technology to various companies so they could offer game streaming on their own platforms without any Google branding. This is a normal thing for Google Cloud, which offers a multitude of cloud services for companies like Apple, and you will never see a Google logo. Immersive Games saw three main customers – AT&T offered Batman: Arkham Knight to its subscribers, Peloton launched a cycling game called Working hours on its exercise bikes, and Capcom launched one Resident Evil Village online demo.
When Stadia’s closure was formally announced, Stadia VP and General Manager Phil Harrison made a big deal out of the continuation of Stadia’s technology, and even titled it “A message about Stadia and our long-term streaming strategy.” The post read: “The underlying technology platform that powers Stadia has been proven at scale and transcends gaming. We see clear opportunities to apply this technology across other parts of Google such as YouTube, Google Play and our Augmented Reality (AR) effort – as well as making it available to our industry partners, which aligns with where we see the future of gaming going.”
All that “gaming” seems to have been killed and all the Immersive Stream for Games partners have closed their projects. AT&T’s Batman link now redirects to a free trial for another cloud gaming service, GeForce Now, while Resident Evil link only 404s. The only surviving “Immersive Stream” mentioned on the Google Cloud website is “Immersive Stream for XR”, which renders an augmented reality view in the cloud. Instead of doing whatever Linux boxes in Google Stadia, this is limited to Unreal Engine. Google’s Immersive Stream for XR examples include an educational scenario and a bunch of advertising cases, like walking around a new BMW, testing kitchen renovations, or trying on an outfit. You have to wonder how much trajectory the XR project has, and so far the promised Stadia offshoots for YouTube or Google Play have never materialized.