Google's Stadia Pivots To Being Some White Label Game Streaming Platform For Others To Use

from the maybe-they-can-make-it-good dept

The saga of Google’s Stadia product has been long, winding, and mostly disappointing. The initial launch of Google’s platform, billed as a Netflix-style video game streaming service, was underwhelming and plagued with Obamacare-like rollout issues, failed promises, underperforming adoption rates, and a paltry catalogue of games on the platform. Other than that, the launch of Stadia went off without a hitch.

But the problems continued. The in-house development studio Google setup to make games for Stadia was nixxed without ever having produced a single game, support for the platform suddenly became a non-thing due to staffing cuts, and more Stadia staff headed for greener pastures.

With all of that, you might think that Stadia has been destined for a grave next to Google Plus. And maybe that’s still the case, but it seems Google is going to take the long way to get there if it is, as the company has made some vague noises about Stadia no longer being a platform for gamers to stream games on directly, but rather a platform for other companies to try to make, you know, actually successful.

Rather than continuing to push Stadia as a consumer-facing, branded service, Google seems to want to pivot the service to what would essentially be “Google Cloud Gaming Platform.” This would be a back-end, white-label service that could power other companies’ products, just like a million other Google Cloud products, like database hosting and push messaging. Google said it believes a back-end service “is the best path to building Stadia into a long-term, sustainable business.”

Or they could have… you know… fixed it. But, frankly, a white-label platform as described above is more Google’s traditional speed. Still, there are obvious questions about all of this. If other companies can make Stadia work as a game streaming service, why couldn’t Google itself? Is this really just a function of Google’s inability to properly partner with game publishers to make this all work, or is the issue the underlying technology itself? This really is all going to work like a VoIP provider layering a useful platform on top of GCP?

We’re apparently going to get some answers to that thanks to — wait for it — AT&T.

This all brings us to this Batman game presented by AT&T Wireless. The site notes that “for the first time ever,” you can now play the 2015 game Batman: Arkham Knight with “beta streaming on your computer. No downloads or waiting.” AT&T’s game-streaming service requires a Chrome-based browser and sounds a whole lot like Google Stadia. This is the same thought 9to5Google had when it investigated the game and found hints that it connects to Google’s services and mentions of Stadia’s “cloudcast” codename.

AT&T later confirmed that, yes, it is using Stadia to power this streamed game. Streaming the game requires an AT&T wireless account, which itself raises all kinds of questions. What does any of this have to do with mobile wireless? Will AT&T game streaming, using Google’s Stadia, be exempted from AT&T’s data caps (hat tip Karl Bode)? Why is Google setting up a situation where actual paying Stadia customers can’t play this Batman game… but AT&T subscribers can?

Regardless, it appears that the future of Stadia, if there is one, is far from the public facing, direct to customer game streaming service it was announced to be. Instead, it will be some invisible background platform, more akin to a game engine than anything remotely resembling Netflix.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Google's Stadia Pivots To Being Some White Label Game Streaming Platform For Others To Use”

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12 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

"Or they could have… you know… fixed it."

That’s doubtful at this point. The problem isn’t the tech, it’s the games library and install base. Those are very difficult to compete with when all your competitors are entrenched household names in the industry.

I say this often on these stories, but if Stadia were a few years ahead of the competition it could have worked, even with the terrible pricing policy. But, when competitors have either far cheaper games, or subscriptions that allow access to larger libraries – often of newer games – Google have a hell of a lot of catching up to do. It makes sense to cut their losses and act as a backend solution, sticking to their strengths while others do the licensing, end user support, etc.

"Why is Google setting up a situation where actual paying Stadia customers can’t play this Batman game… but AT&T subscribers can?"

That’s… unlikely to be Google’s fault. WB published the game, and are owned by AT&T. If Google want to be a white label solution here, they can’t really exercise full control over what’s being played on the system, and it makes sense for AT&T to use a title they own, especially one that’s already been optimised for streaming on other platforms. As for why they won’t licence it to Google? Who knows, but my first thought is that while it’s in beta they might not want people directly comparing different implementations of Stadia backends.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, there were 3 major problems with Stadia at launch – the game library was limited and slightly dated, you had to buy games separately even if you already owned them (and at full price to boot), and there were already better competing products on the horizon.

The tech might be fine (I’ve not used it myself so can’t say), but as a viable commercial venture it was pretty much dead as soon as competitors announced their products, so it’s definitely better for them to switch to back-end white label provisioning. If the timing was better it might have stood a chance, but the business model stopped being viable the moment that MS announced that xCloud would be part of Game Pass and NVidia announced library imports.

Ninja says:

The idea is awesome. Imagine playing a game with quality settings cranked up to "insanely high" with only a computer and connection that can stream 4k image? No need to maintain expensive configurations while getting all the benefits sounds like a very good idea financially-wise. No need to worry about scalpers, chip shortage, game pricing? And I’d go even further, imagine being able to use heavy software for image editing, CAD, GIS etc etc. There is potential in Stadia. I just think Google isn’t up to the challenge.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There’s potential, but I wouldn’t say it’s "awesome". It’s one more step toward anti-ownership culture. Players will perpetually rent, never owning anything, and anything that becomes controversial can be thrown down the memory-hole. And while the game companies will still claim copyright, the public will never see the benefit they’re owed: it will technically become "public domain", but nobody will have the code or assets, so in a century everything will just be gone.

Nevermind that it’s idiotic to promote this idea such that it’s dependent on the US broadband market, after having given up on Google Fiber which might have fixed it (first by giving up on the open-access idea, later by abandoning almost all expansion plans). A smart company might have started in South Korea instead.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The main problem is that google is fine technically, but doesn’t offer a good value or catalog putting them in 4th or 5th place in a two horse race. I think there is plenty of room to argue which is a better service Playstation now, or Xbox cloud gaming, but they are inarguably the sector leaders. In a distant 3rd place is Nvidia’s Geforce now service and after that are the also rans like Shadow PC, and Stadia.

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s streaming game services on Sony and Xbox consoles I think Google simply found it very expensive to provide staff and to license games to stream and how many people want to stream games anyway Sony and Microsoft are not the music industry and apple in 2000.
They are not going to allow Google acess to their ip for a low price games pass on Xbox is a great success download a wide range of games play them for a low monthly fee
And of course many Americans have only slow broadband with fixed data caps
Games are now 100 to 200gig in size
It maybe what will happen streaming services will take off in 10 years time
It took years for music digital services to take off
after apple invented itunes
Even with millions of users Google has shut down many services when it lost interest
Streaming maybe like Vr which has only about 1 per cent market in the gaming sector

realitymonster says:

As a dev, Stadia could be very useful to me

I work in games, and I work at a big studio. Last year, when we were trying to ship, some of the bugs that I was getting were only reproducible on Stadia builds.

Okay, so, debugging on Stadia was a bit of a nightmare. We don’t have tools and processes set up to do that very easily.

But PLAYING the game was amazing. Like, running the game on Chrome on my Mac Mini was smoother and looked better than running the dev build on my PC at work.

The toolchain is a major issue, IMO, though I haven’t actually gotten a chance to work on it in depth since last year. (What you basically needed to do is have a running and working game, and then bring it to Stadia. You couldn’t run the Unreal/Unity/In-house toolset and build a game from scratch, AFAIK. I could be wrong; maybe that’s better now.)

But now that working from home is common and many people aren’t going to want to change that, I think Google should also set themselves up as a way to do AAA game development with full fidelity without needing as much on-site hardware. Right now I run RDP to a PC in the office, and if it hard locks, I need to find someone at the office to go find it and power-cycle it.

Long story short, Stadia works way better than I ever expected, and it could be a great tool for devs.

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