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Google giving up on Stadia is a prime opportunity for Xbox

Stadia
Stadia (Image credit: Windows Central)

Google and Microsoft killing products is something we're all used to by now. After Microsoft pushed Mixer off the cliff last year, it's back over to Google to get 2021 off and running. To be clear, Google isn't killing Stadia, but it might as well be doing.

Google is doing what Google does best; giving up on a product that doesn't deliver immediate success. The worst part in all this is the human cost, and the blase way that today's blog post announces the news that a lot people are going to be looking for a new job.

It all stinks. But let's face it, nobody is really surprised, right? We all thought Google would get bored eventually, it's just happening a bit quicker and I'm pretty mad I let myself get into it as much as I have.

What's happening at Stadia?

Google Stadia Premiere Edition Controller Box

Source: Nick Sutrich / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Windows Central)

If you haven't yet seen the news, a quick catch up. Google has announced that it is closing down its internal game studios developing for Stadia. The timing of the announcement is almost comical when you consider it comes the same day as Journey to the Savage Planet finally launched on Stadia. Its maker, Typhoon Studios, was acquired by Google in late 2019.

The head of the division, Jade Raymond, is leaving Google, and Kotaku reports 150 people are going to be in need of a new job. Google casually says in its blog that "most" will be moving on to new roles. You know, corporate speak for we just made them all redundant. All of these people are talented and I'm sure I speak for everyone when I wish them well in finding another role soon. A lot of talented people went to work for Google, hopefully their next employers treat them better.

Stadia as a platform is continuing, apparently, but will no longer be investing in first-party titles. Instead, Google will be relying on third-party publishers, such as Ubisoft and 2K, to fill out its library. Stadia Pro will continue, because Google definitely wants to keep making as much money as it can out of it, and apparently its moving to license the Stadia backend tech to third-parties. It's this last part that is setting the alarm off.

The beginning of the end of another Google product

Google Stadia

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

It doesn't matter how much PR Google spins from this, there is one overarching reaction to this news. Google has a reputation for killing products, there's even a whole website dedicated to it. If the tech behind Stadia is going to be sold off to third-parties, where does the need for Stadia to exist lie? This snippet is the crucial part:

"In 2021, we're expanding our efforts to help game developers and publishers take advantage of our platform technology and deliver games directly to their players. We see an important opportunity to work with partners seeking a gaming solution all built on Stadia's advanced technical infrastructure and platform tools. We believe this is the best path to building Stadia into a long-term, sustainable business that helps grow the industry."

And so most, myself included, would be forgiven for thinking that Google is already starting to lay the groundwork for an out. Making games is a time consuming process, the fact that Stadia is already shutting its first party studios before any ideas are off the storyboard says a lot.

Either Google has no clue what it's doing or it's readying to fill another plot in the Google Graveyard.

Either the company has absolutely no clue what it's doing in gaming, or it hasn't seen enough immediate success and is getting ready to fill another plot in the Google graveyard.

Even if Google proves us all wrong and Stadia continues to live a long life, the damage is largely done. I never put all my eggs into one company basket, because they're all terrible and could cancel something at a moments notice, but I do enjoy Stadia and I have spent some money on games and Stadia Pro.

Now I'm looking at it wondering why I would want to spend anything when there's a pretty solid chance it won't exist in the future. And if all Stadia players react the same way, and revenue tanks entirely, there's Google's icing on the cake for pulling the plug. I hope I'm wrong, because I've got a lot of games on Stadia I don't have on other platforms, and I'm going to be pretty bummed if they get taken away.

Time for Xbox to accelerate

Razer Kishi Xbox Edition

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

At the moment, I'd steer anyone serious about cloud gaming towards NVIDIA GeForce Now or Stadia over Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass streaming. Simply put, Microsoft is falling behind. The tech can't compare and it's still officially only available on Android phones and tablets.

Google confirmed in its blog post today that it still sees a future for cloud gaming, not least because it plans to sell the technology it has developed for Stadia. It's hard to argue, at least right now. The technology exists, and using the cloud opens up high quality gaming to the whole planet without the need for specialist consoles or powerful gaming PCs.

It's time for Microsoft to start moving up through the gears with its game streaming.

The time is now for Microsoft to double-down and accelerate its streaming plans. We need to see the client for Windows and iOS, and above all, the backend overhaul to bring it up to snuff with the competitors. The world in 2021 is not the world any of these services were born into, and there are challenges to overcome, but Google is throwing in a towel that Microsoft can wield to its advantage.

You'll be able to play Halo Infinite from the cloud, future Forza games, whatever comes out of the Bethesda deal, so many amazing first-party titles. But it won't matter without the end experience being as good as it is on the competing platforms. And since Stadia probably has a lot of mobile fans among its user base, Xbox is a natural alternative if they decide to jump to a more stable ship.

GeForce Now (opens in new tab)

NVIDIA's cloud game streaming service is one of the best available today, delivering lag-free gaming at 1080p/60fps. The fact that you can access NVIDIA's servers for free makes it an easy sell, and the $4.99 plan makes it an immediately enticing option for seasoned gamers.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

36 Comments
  • I said when it was announced that it wouldn't last even two years. ANYTHING Google makes must provide revenue via their advertising business (either directly like their Search function, or indirectly through data-scraping in their apps) or it is not long for this world. Stadia did not provide enough revenue to justify the expense and going forward their projections don't look much better than it is right now.
    So, they either just kill it off or sell it off (probably BOTH. Sell off the back-end and kill the actual Stadia service.) On a similar note; What ever happened to the Amazon game streaming tech? I have not heard a word about it since it was announced last year.
  • Amazon Luna recently launched but it still requires an invite to get in and it's still U.S. only at the moment. No idea how good it might be because I'm British.
  • this is the beginning of the end for Stadia... Alphabet is trying to find new sources of revenue besides Google Search and YouTube. at some point, the EU and the US governments are going to force Alphabet to split which means everything Google will die if they don't find different ways to make money.
  • Add this to the long list of articles shocked about how big companies give up on small parts of their business. Google makes the lion's share of their money from ads. If a new business doesn't add to that, it's not doing much for them. They have better ways of investing their money and time. I really don't think "Google has no clue what it's doing." Maybe they had disappointing take-up during the pandemic? If they don't see strong prospects now, they may never.
  • It's quite contrary. Google is desperate finding a source of revenue any other from ads. They want to diversify. But they're terrible at it. That was the whole point of giving developers 20% of their time doing whatever they wanted. They hoped the developers will come up with something to be monetized differently. Gmail came out of it, but it's still monetized by ads. Other than that, no success, so Google canceled the policy.
  • Google's market cap is $1.3 T.
  • So. Still their revenue is off one product and that is advertising about 70%of their revenue comes from it.
  • They should be getting into the "love hotel" business. Nintendo needs competition and they wouldn't have to show ads on anything.
  • So far for me streaming is just not that useful. Stadia wasn't baked well yet, xCloud is too account restrictive and still not all the way rolled out. The best of the bunch is from Nvidia because I can play steam games I own already. Although it doesn't always work well it seems. Which is my point. It's a luxury still and not one that makes gaming easier or more accessible for the vast majority of people. It's a sometimes I might use it thing and not an I need to use it. Until it is necessary or perhaps way easier to consume it will have trouble being relevant
  • Account restrictive? It is an extension of Game Pass Ultimate and so you sign in to your GP account. If you don't have the service then you don't have it.
  • Yeah I was confused about that as well. Google Stadia is every bit as "account restrictive" and I believe Nvidia is as well if I'm not mistaken. Some clarification is needed on what they mean by "account restrictive" and what makes Nvidia less "account restrictive" than xCloud
  • Waiting for Google to give up on Android and Microsoft buying it, along with Pixel.
  • Not going to happen.
    Android is a huge platform and the play store is an integral part of the experience.
    Microsoft buying pixel and launching decent phones would be a welcome move though.
  • The same way mixer failed to compete youtube, google can't compete microsoft
    and Sony studios, so focus what your core competence not surprised.
  • Buying up talent at least said they were serious at one point. But Google gets bored easily. More so than even Microsoft.
  • You can't half-attempt the gaming business at the highest levels today. Especially now that content is king, not just the platform. It's not only about the money, you need to go all in. Look at Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo. These are not hobbies you can just do on the side. The competition is extremely fierce, there is high demand for talent, creativity, building studio relationships and patience. Look at Sony's first party titles, as well as those from Xbox and Nintendo. You will not have them on Stadia. Without that there is nothing unique and you are just selling another streaming platform, of which Amazon, Nvidia and who knows who else is jumping in. It's all about the unique content, without that, it may become just another commodity soon.
  • You dismiss them with "they get bored" yet the market values their company at $1.3 T. Other successful companies can projects that don't go anywhere. This is normal. Your shock is completely misplaced.
  • XBOX is 20 years old. And generating billions each year.
    In fact MS gaming is actually bigger than Windows by now.
    (And it's actully older than Windows.)
    People forget MS did games (Flight Simuator) back in the *early* MS DOS days, when it and Lotus were *the* test for PC Compatibility.
    They forget MS did hardware almost from day one. People seem to only remember what they want about MS, mostly the worst of tbe Bllmer gears.
    Not the good parts. Or the Gates Years. Or what Nadella has achieved so far and is building for the future. MS actually has a clear path to a $2T valuation.
    Part of it is pruning the product line at the right time and they're getting much better at that.
    (Hopefully no more "killing MS Reader" just as ebooks were taking off.)
  • You can only think of market value can you? If you have a look at all the products google had left halfway and abandoned, you'll understand. Like Google+ which was so much mature than other social media sites at the time, was killed because of bad marketing. They sure can advertise google assistant on TV when everyone is already using it, but can't advertise a such a great platform?
  • What a dumb reply. They didn't release any games so the projects never even had a chance to go anywhere. Why would 3rd party developers port their games over to Stadia when Google isn't even interesting in making games for their own platform?
  • Never liked the business modeling. It was nearly impossible to make money.
  • Imagine if Microsoft had given up on Xbox in less than two years when it first started...
  • I mean, they basically did that with the Xbox One, given how they burned the entire framework of that platform to the ground. Their launch exclusives were heavily influenced by second-party IPs that didn't get sequels (Sunset Overdrive, Ryse, Screamride, D4, etc.). They did little to meaningfully support Kinect in either generation, again leaning mostly on second- and third-party titles to adopt things. It's the same story with WMR now, actually. That aside, MS basically gave up on WP7, WP8, W10M, Band, and some other products less than 2 years after releasing as well. Why they're so half-hearted in their product launches confuses me. They seem to operate as if things are meant to be instant hits or nothing at all. Their support of their more unique, interesting projects is often quite poor.
  • Microsoft's market cap is $1.8T. They're obviously doing something right. And no one would say their product launch of Azure was "half-hearted." Same with Surface, their push into Android, their push into game and app streaming, and Teams.
  • They gave up on their entire mobile strategy. Five years later, the company is almost worth $2 trillion. Just because you don't get it doesn't mean it doesn't make sense.
  • "Google is doing what Google does best; giving up on a product that doesn't deliver immediate success." I mean, that's kind of how Microsoft has usually operated in the last 10 years or so. They're similarly adept at not just killing products, but setting them up to fail and then acting like it was a tough, shocking decision to cancel those products. They've been inconsistent and aimless with a lot of consumer products over the years, with Surface standing as the ONE recent endeavor that didn't get mismanaged into near-immediate oblivion.
  • You're forgetting about LinkedIn (It's OK everyone does). But yeah, like I said in the opening paragraph. Microsoft doesn't get a pass, but it's Google's turn again.
  • Actually, Linked-in is doing fine as a corporate social tool. And avoiding the drama of the SiliValley crew.
  • Unlike maybe you Richard, I was never favorably predisposed towards Stadia. I always saw Google's involvement in gaming as a cynical play for more seats and eyeballs for their all consuming advertising business. In my mind Google had not *earned* the right to muscle aside decades-old gaming platforms and brands, companies who believe passionately in the value of gaming. I suppose, however, that that is how many people felt about Microsoft back in 2001 when the Xbox business was launched, haha. In any case, I will not be sad to see Stadia go by the wayside if that's what happens, and I feel much the same way about Amazon to be honest. Time will tell if the core gaming brands can navigate the shift to streaming.
  • I'm shocked! /sarcasm 🤣... almost everyone saw this coming a mile away. Regardless, it's a sad day for competition as we need competition to push innovation.
  • Google Stadia was never trendy. They failed to reach out to streamers who are the most influential partners.
  • I'm not sure xCloud is falling behind, just because they're not making announcements or showing a PC app. For one thing, there's still a pandemic out there. (And a severe shortage of the SOC chip going into the XBOX game streaming side.) Second, a part of the value of the Zenimax buy is *their* game streaming tech. And third, the infrastructure isn't broadly available for quality game streaming everywhere. It's way early in the, ahem, game. First inning, if you will. Finally, comparing Stadia and Nvidia streaming to xCloud is an Apple to Oranges matter because they are standalone commercial products with "build it and they will come" approach to building a developer community. MS already has the developer communities (plural) and the content library the others are struggling to build. Yes, they have the tech, but tech without content is tech without (significant amounts) of customers. Pretty to look at, useful for the reviewers with high quality low latency connections in big cities. Go out into the real world and see what actual gamers have. MS has the content and is acquiring the customers (18M to date, adding a million a month). xCloud as it exists is a placeholder right now. Truthfully, it is in an open Gamma testing phase which is indispensable for a service highly dependent on something totally beyond their control: retail broadband quality. And because xCloud won't be streaming solely PC games but also console games, a full deployment is dependent on getting the ANACONDA based servers online. Working off XBOX One S tech on thst side is limiting them. What we're seeing is a classic VHS vs Beta match up: to this day folks insist Beta had the better tech, which may or not be true but it is indisputable VHS had the better product at the *consumer* level. It aligned better with shoppers usage patterns and correctly identified the core market of time-shifters. So it is with game streaming: yes, NVidia has better tech today, but it has no significant dedicated developer community in place. And they started with a war with the developers who might want to support them. Placating those reduced one of the advantages of their initial offering: not having to re-buy a game you already have. That is a problem all services have, bar one; the developers see the standalone streaming services as a diferent platform from PC and from the consoles. And they get their money from selling games per platform. If you bought SKYRIM on Console and want to play it on PC, you have to buy it again. Ditto for NVIDIA and Luna and especially for STADIA. That is not soon changing. It is less true for Gamepass and is one advantage of tying xCloud to Gamepass. And streaming console games as well as PC games gives xCloud an advantage the other services won't have. How much that impacts adoption is TBD but it makes xCloud a very different creature. Which is why a PC client is low priority: consumers can already download the PC games from Gamepass. No broadband issues there. TL:DR - it's not *just* about tech but about the full package consumers get. Anyway, going back to STADIA, Google's best exit strategy is selling to Sony.
    Right now Sony is relying at least in part on MS tech. That partnership is not...ideal. They will need an independent streaming product eventually. Like MS they have the developer community and a library, albeit only on console and where the current generation XBOX SOC was designed with streaming servers in mind Sony's PS5 SOC is strictly a console product. And Sony's content is almost exclusively on console; they have only recently started doing PC versions of some games with mixed results. Keeping up woth xCloud means they need PC game streaming tech. Maybe tbat's what they get out of their partnership with MS, maybe not. But adding STADIA would get them into PC GAME streaming faster.
    A thought. As for Ms Raymond and the other orphaned developers: MS is hiring. 😇
  • "As Stadia gets really good, Google does what it does best and pulls the rug out from under it" While this sound like oxymoronic statement, I think Google will disagree with that portion that says "As Stadia gets really good" because if they were that good, they should be making money to not warrant pulling the rug out of under it. It is possible you are referring to just playing the game, but that cannot be the total experience of "gets really good", games lineup, first party and exclusives in today's gaming world make "get really good" ask Nintendo, MSFT and Sony.
  • More than ever.
    After all the flack MS took over its lineup of first party titles for XB1 they took that lesson to heart.
    One thing GamePass won't lack for is compelling exclusives, whether shooters or *especially* WRPGs.
    Casual mobile type games? Still working those.
    They need to bring back KAMEO, too.
  • By the way, STADIA isn't Google's only problem product: they finally released their Cloud numbers.
    Ouch.
    They lose three bucks for every one they bring in.
    Something is not right there.
  • Whether or not this attempt at online gaming does eventually go away only time will tell. But online gaming will be the way we game at SOME point in the future. Maybe Google can have piece of that pie along with Amazon. Microsoft are going to be there and so will Sony. Physical media and having a box for the graphics are sooo 2020.