Google Stadia has had its fair share of problems throughout its short history as a gaming device. Now, a new report details the problems behind the scenes — some of which likely contributed to the game streaming console's mediocre launch.
Gamers first got their hands on Google Stadia back in late November. The "game streaming" part of the service ran pretty well by all accounts, with one small problem: there wasn't a whole lot to actually play on the service.
That was certainly a problem Google was aware of, and that's why it spent a fair amount of money to draw in big-name publishers. That, however, was not quite enough to solve the problem.
Big Name Games Were Not Enough
Google Stadia has some surprisingly-new games available at launch (or pretty close to it). Ubisoft was a heavy contributor to the platform, and other big-name games like Cyberpunk 2077, Destiny 2, and Red Dead Redemption 2 eventually found their way to the platform. What's particularly surprising, however, is the price that Google paid to bring these titles into its ecosystem.
A new report from Bloomberg's Jason Schreier explains just how bad it was — it was spending tens of millions per game for some of these additions to its library. Google certainly has the money to burn, but it might not have been the most efficient use of resources.
Pay $20 million to Ubisoft to port Assassin's Creed and The Division— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) February 26, 2021
Pay $1 million to 20 small developers to each build something cool, betting that at least one of them will be a hit like Stardew Valley or Valheim
That money might have been better spent in other ways. As Jason Schreier notes, $10 or $20 million split between a bunch of indie developers getting $1 million apiece might have had better chances of producing a hit Stadia exclusive along the lines of Stardew Valley or Valheim.
Stadia didn't just drop the ball on subcontracting — it also had its own internal development studios. Unfortunately, these in-house developers were simply not given enough time to get the job done.
All of these issues with games resulted in the game streaming service missing its sales targets by hundreds of thousands of units — not really the best sign for a new service entering a market with some seriously tough competition.
Google Stadia Didn't Follow the Google Formula
Another key issue highlighted in Schreier's report was a misallocation of the one critical resource that there's never enough of: time.
Google, more often than not, is quite keen on playing the long game. One oft-cited example is that of Gmail — it may be one of the world's most popular e-mail services today, but it spent the better part of five years in beta testing. Gmail invites were akin to the golden ticket for Willy Wonka's factory, opening the doors to a magical land free of onerous inbox storage requirements and other problems. I myself was fortunate enough to get one of these invites and I handed out the small portion I received with genuine glee.
"Watching users ‘in the wild’ as they use our products is the best way to find out what works, then we can act on that feedback. It’s much better to learn these things early and be able to respond than to go too far down the wrong path." – YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Google's 8 Pillars of Innovation
Stadia, however, was under severe pressure to launch and launch fast. You only get one first impression and I think it's safe to say that Stadia had a rough launch, but developers on the platform were nonetheless optimistic. Given enough time, many of them felt that they could create some exclusive content.
Unfortunately, that was not to be. Google closed its internal Stadia development studios earlier this month. Assassin's Creed veteran Jade Raymond led her team for less than two years. Any experienced AAA game developer can tell you that is simply not enough time to get anything done. Heck, even experienced indie developers would have a tough time putting out a small-scale game in two years — Stardew Valley, for example, was in development for the better part of four and a half years.
Google Stadia has undeniably had a troubled launch. That said, Google hasn't quite given up just yet — it stated its commitment to bring more games onto the platform in the coming months and years. Only time will tell whether or not these efforts will be enough to keep the platform alive.
What do you think of Google Stadia's performance over its first year? Do you think Google can still make its game streaming service successful? Let us know in the comments below!