Google recently informed its loyal (if small) fanbase that as of January 18th, 2023, the Stadia service will be removed from existence and the games purchased will no longer be available.
Subscribers are also no longer able to purchase any new games and can simply wind down those that they have in their library before the life support is turned off.
It may not be the most shocking news as most predicted its downfall before it was even launched but for me it is a bittersweet moment, as I was an early adopter.
Full of Potential
In the run-up to 2020, I thought I would take a risk and adopt a product early. New decade, what could go wrong...and despite the consideration, that product was Google Stadia and the company had a history of pulling the plug on projects, I wanted to give it a go. After all, the streaming of video games felt then, and still does, like the future of the industry.
To have access to my library from anywhere in the world, at any time and from any device, was compelling. Gone would be the installation costs of purchasing a new console every few years, ensuring that your TV was compatible, and purchasing a whole new set of games. Everything would be in one place.
No need to rebuy your back catalogue; one library from now until the day you die.
The dream was born and whilst I had my doubts, I wanted to keep an open mind and stay positive, yet history has once again proven itself correct.
A Consistent Plug
Aside from the consideration that Google Stadia launched a few months ahead of a pandemic, I don't believe that was the main reason why people did not adopt it.
Trust is a huge issue with Google. Not merely within the privacy and the sharing of data but in terms of people buying into a new device or way of doing things, only to have the rug pulled from underneath them. It's not a nice feeling as with the Cloud, we expect to only purchase new experiences. We don't want to have to start again and that is exactly what I need to do now.
Games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider, to which I had every intention of going back, will now need to be purchased through PS Now or Steam, an idea that did not occur to me at the time of purchase. I wanted my Stadia library to overtake that of my PlayStation and provide an additional option, rather than buying a PS5.
The investment in a SteamDeck has filled this void, with a PlayStation 5 now baking it up. Not the combination I was hoping for but the odds were simply stacked too highly against Google Stadia, and a lifetime of abandoned projects versus years of user loyalty was too much to overcome.
The PlayStation Loyalty
I grew up playing the PlayStation and the GameCube. I have purchased every PlayStation console since the original and yet I was hoping for a break. To take a breather from Sony and try something new, yet as I had spent years building a library of games, have friends with the console, and know the infrastructure well, it would be harder than I considered to break free.
The loyalty I feel to Sony feels two-way, but I know as soon as I no longer have money to purchase games they would drop me like a fly, but still, it doesn't matter. Years of button-bashing, sneaking, and shooting zombies via the x, square, circle, and triangle mean that I am loyal.
Sony has millions of subscribers around the world and has spent more than 25 years in the market, which means that I know they are going nowhere soon, and that stability adds to my loyalty. In a world of uncertainty, I can count on them, a reassuring thought since taking chances with Google has not paid off due to their lack of loyalty towards their fans.
It is a sad day to say that I can't trust Google as I have a Google account and a Pixel phone, but they have little trust in this sector and won't be back anytime soon.
Most likely, Sony and Microsoft will be in talks with them about incorporating learning and elements into their own streaming services. Watching Google go first they can tweak and make changes, safe in the knowledge that their fans will be loyal and give further chances to the next project they bring to market.
An Unexpected Refund
Every cloud has a silver lining and Google will be reimbursing fans for the cost of the controller and games they have purchased through the store. Though it's nice to receive, it does rather reinforce that this was a research project and now they are paying us for our time.
I'm not going to complain but it simply feels sad that we have been treated this way. Not like a new group of gamers that could have gone against the curve, but as a research group that is being paid for its time.
A Final Thought
Google Stadia is no more and I am sad, yet I know that many out there will simply tweet their 'told you so' messages. While that is irritating because no one likes a gloater, Google needs to take some responsibility here and stop removing these projects as quickly as they are cast out into the world. It makes people hesitant about the next purchase that they will make.
Sony and Microsoft have spent years establishing credibility and have the consoles to prove it. We trust them as they are big players in the market. We will spend hundreds of pounds as we know they will be here in five years' time.
Many players are loyal like me and whilst we may stray, they know that most likely, we will always come home.
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