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Google’s Stadia Problem? A Video Game Unit That’s Not Googley Enough

The tech giant likes to test and tweak. Stadia promised to change the industry and failed to deliver. From a report: Google’s streaming video game service Stadia had ambitious plans to disrupt the gaming industry, which is dominated by consoles. The tech giant had planned to pack Stadia with original content, announcing two years ago that it was hiring hundreds of game developers and starting studios in Los Angeles and Montreal. But those teams barely had time to get started before they were dismissed earlier this month as Google shut down in-house game development. From the beginning, Google’s approach to video games wasn’t very Google-like. The Alphabet company tends to launch bare-bones products and test them as they grow. With Stadia, it came out big. Flashy press conferences and ad campaigns promised high-quality games with innovative features playable on Android smartphones or on the TV through Chromecast. Gamers would have access to a library of exclusive titles and well-known favorites like Assassin’s Creed without having to dish out $500 for Sony Corp’s PlayStation or Microsoft’s Xbox.

So when Stadia launched in 2019, gamers were expecting the complete package, not the beta model. While the cloud streaming technology was there, playing to Google’s strengths, the library of games was underwhelming and many of the promised features nonexistent. Other platforms offer hundreds of games a year, but Stadia offers fewer than 80, according to Mat Piscatella, an analyst at the NPD Group, which tracks video game sales data. Players also didn’t like Stadia’s business model, which required customers to buy games individually rather than subscribe to an all-you-can-play service a la Netflix or the Xbox’s Game Pass. Paying as much as $60 for a single game, for it only to exist on Google’s servers rather than on your own PC, seemed a stretch to some. After all the hype, gamers were disappointed. Stadia missed its targets for sales of controllers and monthly active users by hundreds of thousands, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. A Google spokesperson declined to comment for this story. “I think it would be fair to say the messaging leading up to and around the launch was inconsistent,” with the final product, Piscatella says. Further reading: Stadia Leadership Praised Development Studios For ‘Great Progress’ Just One Week Before Laying Them All Off.

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