Stadia may not have blossomed into the cloud gaming service that Google had hoped, but the technology behind it may live on by powering other services.
Google Stadia was supposed to be a gamer’s dream: You could play games on any device without experiencing lag thanks to the power of Google’s cloud. But after several hiccups, Google is shifting the focus of its Stadia division to a new back-end service called Google Stream, according to Insider. The company has been working on securing deals with partners like Capcom and Bungie, both of which Google pitched on its cloud technology to run their games within the browser. (With Sony buying Bungie, that may now be off the table.)
Google is also apparently courting Peloton, which has had its share of recent troubles and could probably use a marketable partnership to take the pressure off its dwindling bike sales. Peloton is reportedly working on a game for its bikes called Lanebreak, which uses Google’s cloud services as the backend. The Peloton bikes also run a version of Google’s Android OS.
In a statement, Google spokesperson Patrick Seybold told Insider: “We announced our intentions of helping publishers and partners deliver games directly to gamers last year, and have been working toward that.” Seybold added that while Google wouldn’t comment on rumors and speculation, it is “still focused on bringing great games to Stadia in 2022.”
Technically, Stadia isn’t dead. You can still log on, pay for a monthly subscription or buy an entire game outright, and start playing with a PlayStation, Xbox, or Stadia controller and a supported Android device or Chromecast Ultra. But there is no longer a Google-led team of game developers since the company shuttered its Stadia Games and Entertainment internal game studios last February.
Google has at least one deal with AT&T in the works similar to what it pitched to Bungie and Capcom, though it doesn’t use Google Stream branding. AT&T customers can stream the game Batman: Arkham Knight directly through their web browser, which uses Google’s technology on the backend.
Google is clearly trying to salvage what is left of Stadia by embedding its technology into existing products and platforms instead of pursuing consumers directly. Former and current Google employees told Insider they’d estimated only 20% of Stadia’s business is consumer-related. The other bulk is focused on “proof-of-concept work for Google Stream” and the types of deals mentioned above.
After the Insider report broke, Google tweeted out a statement to Stadia followers:
While this news is likely to bum out Stadia subscribers, it’s not entirely surprising that Google would head in this direction. Its cloud is where it makes a bulk of its money and where it’s putting a ton of resources. The company’s Q4 2021 earnings put Google’s cloud revenue growth at 45%, though it also lost $890 million.
Regardless of the new direction of Google Stream, there are still some Stadia employees holding out hope on the inside. “There are plenty of people internally who would love to keep it going,” an anonymous Google employee told Insider. “But they’re not the ones writing the checks.”