In 2001, Microsoft decided to throw their hat in the gaming console wars with the Xbox. This was unheard of for multiple reasons. This was a time period when it seemed like the Japanese have already cornered the console gaming market, with Sony, Sega and Nintendo reigning supreme. A lot of gamers, including myself, had their doubts as well with Microsoft’s new system. I mean, what do they know about the gaming market? Well, flash forward to today, Microsoft’s Xbox gaming platforms are still riding strong in general. The Xbox has garnered quite a hardcore fanbase now.
Even with that caveat, I was still pretty sure Google Stadia was doomed to fail when it was announced.
If you really think about it, Google’s story regarding entering into the wild world of computer gaming follows Microsoft’s story. This was a global corporate juggernaut with all the money in the world to financially back a new project. This was also a company with very little knowledge about games. So, why did Microsoft get it right and why did it seem, even right from the outset, Google Stadia was done for?
The first hint that Google Stadia wasn’t going to last long was, well, Google’s own history with creating and supporting their own products. There are the lesser known pieces of tech like the Nexus Q audio player and loads of software misfires like Google Talk, Google Desktop and Google+. There are also the more high-profile failures such as Google Glass and Google TV. So they already have a long list of both hardware and software failures already.
Then again, the same thing can be said for Microsoft as well. The software giant has had a multitude of flops as well. From Microsoft ME, Windows Phone and the Zune, Microsoft knows the sting of failure. So why did the Xbox succeed? Well, for one thing, Microsoft was a whole lot more dedicated to competing in the console gaming wars than just being a participant.
Microsoft spent millions developing a console that was more powerful than any of the other systems out in the market. In fact, Microsoft had an uphill battle when it came to manufacturing the system because a lot of Japanese technology companies didn’t want to help the American company to create a system that would fight a Japanese product. You know why the original Xbox controller is “lovably” known as The Duke? That’s because Microsoft initially went to a Japanese company and wanted help in designing a circuit board as compact as the one found in the PlayStation 2. The Japanese company refused. Which is why they had to find a way to fit their original bulky circuit board in that hunk of plastic.
It’s actually quite remarkable how much time and effort Microsoft put into the original Xbox. They had to do it with little to no help from the veterans of the gaming console market and the persevered. They also spent a whole mess of millions again making sure they got some first-party games to go with the launch of the Xbox. They really tried their darndest to fill the Xbox with some must have games. Games that you could only play on the Xbox. There were titles like Project Gotham Racing and Dead or Alive 3. And, of course, that little game known as Halo: Combat Evolved. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
Did Google put even half that much effort into making sure the Stadia had the games you could only get on the Stadia? Honestly, I can’t even think of a single exclusive that the Google Stadia had that would make it worth subscribing to the service. Sure, you did get a lot of big names like the Assassin’s Creeds and the latest Far Cry. But these were games you could get elsewhere. Why get a Stadia when you can play those games and other games like the Sony exclusive God of War or the Xbox Exclusive Halo Infinite?
Also, while Microsoft has had some spectacular failures when it came to marketing hardware, they didn’t have that kind of history when they were working with the Xbox. In fact, I believe the Xbox is Microsoft’s first foray into making any hardware! They’ve had software flops before and have huge disappointing hardware products like the Zune afterwards. But the Xbox was the first non-software thing they made. And seeing how big a success it was, I’m guessing it kind of emboldened them to try making other hardware products… like the Zune. So you might be able to blame the Xbox as to why Microsoft thought it was a good idea to make that hunk of plastic.
Another huge nail in the coffin for Google Stadia is they went solely for cloud gaming. For a lot of old-school folks such as myself, we’ve always wanted the idea of owning a physical copy of the game we purchased. At the very least, we would want to make sure we can play the games that we want anytime, which includes when we don’t have an Internet connection. So the idea of having to stream games was pretty much a dealbreaker for people with this mindset. Granted, cloud gaming might be the wave of the future but a lot of us think Google tried to ride that wave too soon.
Even though Internet speeds have gotten extremely fast the past decade or so, it isn’t all that reliable or consistent. There will still be some time when you’ll get that intermittent connection or lag at one point or another. For a lot of gamers, having consistent framerates is still a big deal, so imagine all the ruckus we’d have when a game keeps on lagging because we have to wait for the stream to catch up to what’s happening in the game several times. I do think Google’s heart was in the right place and they were quite forward thinking when they opted for cloud gaming. They probably have the necessary infrastructure and they wouldn’t need to put together some new fangled and pricey gaming console as well. But we’re still ways far from cloud gaming being stable enough for a long gaming session.
Even Microsoft and other companies are now dabbling with cloud gaming, it’s still not the only way you can play games on their systems. You can still download them or get a physical copy of the games. You’re not reliant on the Internet to play. You can say Microsoft has been playing it safe for going old-school but, hey! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
In the long run, I do think Google Stadia is a failed experiment but only because their heart wasn’t into it. They tried to start out strong and they initially had plans to have some first-party games in the future. They then disbanded all their gaming studios and that was already a sign that the fat lady was about to start singing. It was too ambitious of a project to just do half-heartedly, which is the direct opposite of what Microsoft did with the Xbox. Maybe if they really put some effort and plan Stadia launch well with some killer exclusive games, we all might be singing Google’s praises. But that didn’t happen.
So, RIP Google Stadia. We hardly knew ya.
What other reasons do you think the Google Stadia failed? Let me know in the comments section below!