Stadia's death spiral, according to the Google employee in charge of mopping up after its murder

A statement from a Google employee, Dov Zimring, has been released as a part of the FTC vs Microsoft court case (via 9to5Google). Only minorly redacted, the statement gives us a run down of Google's position leading up to Stadia's closure and why, ultimately, Stadia was in a death spiral long before its actual demise.

"For Stadia to succeed, both consumers and publishers needed to find sufficient value in the Stadia platform. Stadia conducted user experience research on the reasons why gamers choose one platform over another. That research showed that the primary reasons why gamers choose a game platform are (1) content catalog (breadth and depth) and (2) network effects (where their friends play).

...

"However, Stadia never had access to the extensive library of games available on Xbox, PlayStation, and Steam. More importantly, these competing services offered a wider selection of AAA games than Stadia," Zimring says.

According to the statement, Google would also offer to pay some, or all, of the costs associated with porting a game to Stadia's Linux-based streaming platform to try and get more games on the platform. Still, in Google's eyes, this wasn't enough to compete with easier platforms to develop for, such as Nvidia's GeForce Now.

Chozo,

The worst thing about Stadia was the squandered opportunities. Had Google actually put some effort into marketing it, it could have really succeeded. The tech behind it worked amazingly well. I played Destiny 2 on it from launch to the service's shutdown, and it was a fantastic experience. The latency was nowhere near as bad as people (who often never even tried the platform) would claim, and it was also the best place to play Cyberpunk 2077 at launch, as it was somehow the most stable version of the game. Streaming to YouTube worked very well, and some of the integrated features with YouTube (where viewers could interact with certain games) were also kinda groundbreaking.

But somehow, Google couldn't be bothered to advertise the product at all. They ran 1 Super Bowl commercial which didn't make a whole lot of sense to the average viewer, and then basically zero marketing after that. They refused to inform the public about what the product is or how it worked or what stood it apart from its competition, which led to bad-faith reviews and rumors being spread about the platform, ultimately leading to most people who knew about Stadia being wildly misinformed on it.

It's such a shame. I absolutely loved Stadia. It fit my needs perfectly. None of the other streaming platforms I've tried have even come close, even today.

mushroom,

I was intrigued but I didn’t want to invest in it because of Google’s history of killing great products.

They have some great tools for their cloud platform but at this point, I wouldn’t go all in on any new product of theirs.

ZOSTED,

Yeah a product like that needs a Big Personality to be a sort of spokesperson for it. To go around and do the press circuit, and be the face of the product. Get memed, etc.

My guess is it was just a bunch of well meaning nerds behind this one, and no one wanted to actually go out there and bat for it.

ezchili,

I always loved the “hardware running 24/7” e-waste part of it

I owned a ps4 that I must have played 60 hours on for spiderman and horizon and now it’s never going to be used anymore

Would’ve loved a streaming platform that doesn’t cost a whole console in a year in subscription fees + makes you pay for the games

llii,

But you don’t need PS+ for Spider-Man and Horizon? And you could buy and sell the console + games after playing the two games you wanted to play on the platform.

It’s not as convenient as just streaming the games, but it is possible.

ezchili,

I don’t know what ps+ is so I’d say no

Maybe for multiplayer

vaultdweller013,

I wouldnt call a PS4 e-waste, if the PS2 is anything to go by it will end up cycling about for a long time in some shape or form. Seriously PS2 parts are a solid mix of old new stock, newly manufactured parts, or spares taken from scrapped dead consoles.

ezchili,

Even for ps2 I don’t know what percentage of it ends up seeing some regular use

It’s a narrow long tail

vaultdweller013,

Regular use is irrelevant so long as it doesnt end up in a land fill, what matters is that they get some continued use and survive in solid enough numbers.

EnglishMobster, (edited )

PS2 was before the days of internet-based games.

Now a lot of games expect an Internet connection and a store to download things from. When those are gone, the PS4 will be scrap.

vaultdweller013,

Eh, I will still be able to play the base game of say far cry 4 or assassins creed black flag. I have the disks, and even then you could always buy the versions that have all the dlc. Nobody talks about the fable 1 dlc but they existed.

Unless its a multiplayer focused game there will always be games to play on it, even if ya dont get the DLC.

Chozo,

Would’ve loved a streaming platform that doesn’t cost a whole console in a year in subscription fees + makes you pay for the games

Stadia's subscription service wouldn't have cost more than a console for several years. It was only $10/month, and also not required to play the games or use multiplayer.

It would've taken over 4 years for Stadia Pro's subscription costs to reach the price of a PS5, not even including a PS+ subscription. And during that time, you'd have been able to claim ~150 free games. Realistically, Stadia had the potential to be more economic than buying a console.

Astroturfed,

I got one, was super disappointed with the functionality and didn’t like it at all. Returned it in less than a week. I got it after it’d already been steeply discounted and was so glad I hated it and got a refund when they killed it…

EnglishMobster,

I would have tried it if I could trust Google to maintain a commitment to something for longer than a couple years (at best).

droans,

It was doomed from the start for that very reason. Why would people spend $60 on games if they didn’t think they would be able to play them in a year?

Chozo,

Because the TOS stated, from the platform's launch, that they'd refund all your purchases in the event of a service shutdown. Which they did.

Stadia ended up being a savings account for my PS5, which I bought with my Stadia refunds.

theparadox,

After committing to several Google services only to have them shut down I wasn’t willing to risk it again.

Did they refund the subscription fee? If I knew they’d refund it all, I might not have cancelled my pro preorder.

I was willing to potentially be let down again but once I heard you had to buy almost all your own games (again, if you already own them) to play them on the service I cancelled. I was aware that they’d give you Destiny (a game I have zero interest in, especially with a controller) for free. I didn’t seem worth sinking money into the service.

booly,

The subscription fee was for a gamepass-like access to a catalog of free games, so they didn’t refund that. The subscription fee also wasn’t required for playing purchased games (although it was required for 4K quality).

especially with a controller

I mostly used keyboard and mouse with the service, since the games I like to play tend to work better with keyboard and mouse. I had a dinky underpowered laptop but was playing AAA PC-oriented games through the browser interface. It was great.

I’m on GeForce Now these days but I find that it doesn’t work quite as seamlessly as Stadia did.

theparadox,

It was not advertised as a game-pass like catalog when I was cancelling my preorder. I literally cancelled because it wasn’t that. It was Destiny and 4k 60Hz with TBD games coming in later months.

I only had a gaming computer and a Shield TV so Stadia would have been pointless for me unless it was in the living room with a controller and some interesting games.

adrian783,

what about people’s save files though?

Astronautical,

Oh those are lost to time lol

Chozo,

Nope, you could still same them via Google Takeout.

Chozo,

I pulled them all from Google Takeout. Most of them are unusable unless I figure out how to convert them to a state that can be read by other platforms, but at least I still have them, for such a day.

sznio,

But somehow, Google couldn’t be bothered to advertise the product at all. They ran 1 Super Bowl commercial which didn’t make a whole lot of sense to the average viewer, and then basically zero marketing after that.

Google is really bad at marketing despite being an advertising company. Most of the products they’ve launched then shut down I just never heard of, despite finding the ideas behind them really enticing after the fact.

Chozo,

Google is really bad at marketing despite being an advertising company.

They're an ad server, not an ad producer. They don't make ads of their own, they distribute other's ads.

Small distinction, but helps to explain why Google is terrible at marketing their products.

MooseBoys,

The tech behind it worked amazingly well.

In my experience it was pretty shit. While visiting family in Minnesota, I got a better experience using Steam remote play to my desktop in Seattle than I did using Stadia, both in terms of latency and visual quality. I’m sure it would have been better living in California or New York, where you’re closer to a datacenter. But Doom Eternal was just unplayable for me.

Dr_Cog,
@Dr_Cog@mander.xyz avatar

Despite Google being heavily invested in the advertising space, they have always been terrible at advertising their own products. It almost seems like the top brass don’t actually care about their non-search products at all.

Running_Out_Of_Plans,

Google couldn’t be bothered to advertise the product at all. Except, apparently, to me specifically. I must have seen the same handful of Stadia advertisements literally 100+ times while watching YouTube. I got very sick of it after a certain point.

merc,

It’s interesting that this comes out during the FTC vs Microsoft case.

As much as Google shot itself in the foot, as usual, this also shows the anti-competitive landscape in gaming. One of the biggest issues Google had was convincing AAA studios to develop games for their “console”. Meanwhile, Microsoft is solving that by buying studios like Zenimax, Mojang, and soon Actiblizz. If you own the studio, they’re guaranteed to develop for your console, and they may choose not to develop for any competitor’s consoles.

mindbleach,

Big air quotes on “choose.”

tankplanker,

But it has always been that way, with first party titles and exclusives , even purchasing studios like Rare or Psygnosis, its not like a brand new situation that developed right after Google announced Stadia.

If Google had done even any research, I would have started by looking at the PS1 launch and how Sony broke into a market then dominated by Nintendo and Sega with their exclusives, they would have secured a multi year pipeline of AAA titles before launch.

This is a mess Google could have completely avoided with some basic research and discussion with the remaining independent studios. Instead they launched and assumed that they could fix this shit later, rather than making an informed decision on if they actually had a real chance.

merc,

its not like a brand new situation that developed right after Google announced Stadia

No, but it’s telling that one of the world’s richest companies ran into this problem. It’s pretty typical of Google to be arrogant and not understand the market they were trying to break into. Also typical of them to give up when it turned out to be a hard problem to solve. But, still, they chose to give up rather than make what (for them) would have been a reasonably small investment to buy a few AAA studios.

It seems to me that to have been successful in this attempt they would have either had to become a major console manufacturer with their own exclusives (maybe not a market they wanted to be in) or to be the junior partner working with another console manufacturer, where they controlled the server side and the other company controlled the client-facing and studio-facing side. But, Google rarely does partnerships like that. You’re right that it really seems like they didn’t go into it with their eyes open. They seemed to just arrogantly assume that their technological superiority would be enough to disrupt consoles without having to do what everybody else did.

tankplanker,

But this is a situation of their own making, anybody even remotely cognizant of how Sony and Microsoft entered the market, even Steam has lessons to share, would have been aware that they needed that pipeline of AAAs, and exactly how expensive AAA titles are to make. Its usually public record how much one of the manufacturers paid to buy studios as well, the order of magnitude of cash needed to properly enter the market are hardly secret.

Either they thought they could bully their way into getting them or they thought they didn’t need them, which is even worse, way way worse. They could have spent the money the others are in this space but didn’t, this is the main reason this fell on its arse. They can moan all they like about the price of admission but they could have afforded to pay it if they wanted or lobbied to change it before hand rather than wasting a few billions on this.

It will be very interesting at the level Apple pitch their new gaming service if the rumors are true. Do they go after the mobile lite eco system that Netflix is cobbling together or do they go all in?

StarServal,
@StarServal@kbin.social avatar

Wow, this is news to exactly nobody.

GeneralEmergency,

Not exactly a unique situation to Stadia. Look at any failed console and lack of games is a prominent reason given why.

Not to mention the issues raised from a cloud service streaming platform that plagued previous attempts. I’m honestly surprised Stadia lasted as long as it did.

mushroom,

Which is why steam went whole hog into proton development for the steam deck. It’s brilliant strategy. Suddenly their game catalog is immediately available on the device. So users can play games they already own and will have access to hundreds of others day one.

DarkGamer,
@DarkGamer@kbin.social avatar

Because everything ran locally at a datacenter, the real killer app of Stadia would have been a super-massively multiplayer game. There wouldn't be any problems with latency between game states, (any lag would be between the server and the console.) Imagine massive wars or mediaeval battles with thousands of participants. They never developed games that took advantage of what was unique about the platform.

merc,

AFAIK, MMOs keep all the game state on the servers already. The difference is that what they send to the client is key deltas to the game state, which the client then renders. Stadia type services instead render that on the datacenter side and send the client images.

With their expertise at networking and so-on, Google might have been able to get a slight advantage in server-to-server communication, but it wouldn’t have enabled anything on a whole different scale, AFAIK.

IMO, their real advantage was that they could have dealt with platform switching in a seamless way. So, take an addictive turn-by-turn game like Civilization. Right now someone might play 20 turns before work, then commute in, think about it all day, then jump back in when they get home. With Stadia, they could have let you keep playing on your cell phone as you take the train into work. Play a few turns on a smoke break. Maybe play on a web browser on your work computer if it’s a slow day. Then play again on your commute home, then play on the TV at home, but if someone wanted to watch a show, you could either go up and play on a PC, or pull out your phone, or play on a laptop…

DarkGamer,
@DarkGamer@kbin.social avatar

Larger massive multiplayer capability was one of the features Google was touting upon Stadia's launch:

Over time, Buser [Google’s director of games] says we should not only see additional exclusive games on Stadia, but also cross-platform games doing things on Stadia “that would be impossible to do on a console or PC.” Instead of dividing up virtual worlds into tiny "shards" where only 100 or 150 players can occupy the same space at a time because of the limitations of individual servers, he says Google’s internal network can support living, breathing virtual worlds filled with thousands of simultaneous players.
https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/6/18654632/google-stadia-price-release-date-games-bethesda-ea-doom-ubisoft-e3-2019

merc,

Sure, they claimed that, but it’s telling that nobody ever took them up on that.

Google’s internal network may be good, but it’s not going to be an order of magnitude better than you can get in any other datacenter. If getting thousands of people into the same virtual space were just a matter of networking, an MMO would have already done it.

A shard is going to be storing the position, orientation and velocity of key entities (players, vehicles, etc.) in memory. If accessed frequently enough they’ll be in the processor’s cache. There’s no way the speed of accessing that data can compare with networking speeds.

That doesn’t mean there couldn’t have been some kinds of innovations. Say a game like Star Citizen where there are space battles. In theory you could store the position and orientation of everything inside a ship in one shard and the position and orientation of ships themselves in a second shard. Since people inside the ship aren’t going to be interacting directly with things outside the ship except via the ship, you could maybe afford a bit of latency and inaccuracy there. But, if you’re just talking about a thousand-on-thousand melee, I think the latency between shards would be too great.

EnglishMobster,

You’d only be able to play with people local to you, in the same Stadia datacenter. If Stadia wanted to minimize latency, they would increase the number of datacenters (thus making fewer people per instance).

DrQuint, (edited )

I will never, ever, understand why Stadia was something thay had to be “ported into” at such high cost. Specially for games that were ALREADY working on Linux. Like, what the fuck was the hold up. I read up stories that it was basically like porting to a fourth console and that just sounded outrageously stupid in my head.

Whatever tech stack they had, they could have made it way more profitable by making it generic windows boxes that partially run your library elsewhere. I dunno if there’s some hubris or some licensing bullshit behind it, but fact is, if I want to do this on GeForce Now, I can do it, no questions asked, and as the costumer, that’s the beginning and end of my concerns.

redcalcium, (edited )

Google engineers always choose the hardest route to solve problems. Why wouldn’t they? If your products are going to be shutdown in a few years anyway, might as well have a glowing resume from working on those products (resume-driven development).

Think about it, every time Google made a product with sensible tech stacks, those products were actually started outside Google and later bought by Google (Android, YouTube, etc). If Google made Android from scratch, there is no way they’ll use java and Linux, they’ll invent a new language and made their own kernel instead (just like fuchsia os which might be canned soon).

anemomylos,
@anemomylos@kbin.social avatar
  • Kotlin: "are you talking to me?"
hesusingthespiritbomb,

Kotlin was made by Jetbrains and later adopted by Google.

sznio,

But Kotlin is actually an improvement over Java.

Golang thoooooo

atocci,

TIL Fuchsia hasn't been killed quite yet.

smeg,

Does it actually even exist? I feel like I’ve been getting whispered rumours about it for years and years, but never anything sold!

atocci,

Yes! Nest Hub devices run it

smeg,

Oh wow, I’ll have to have a read up

merc,

might as well have a glowing resume from working on those products (resume-driven development).

This is so true. Getting promoted requires showing impact. If you use off-the-shelf tools (that happen to be easily maintainable) that’s not an impressive impact. If you invent a new language (and make up a convincing reason it was necessary) and so-on, that’s really impressive and you can get promoted. The minefield you leave behind that makes maintaining your solution so difficult is just another opportunity for someone else to get promoted.

Zeth0s, (edited )

Only Microsoft can run decently windows in a decently big data centers. Because they can tweak it, as they do for Xbox os as well. For everyone else scaling windows server VMs or containers is a pain, because windows is a bad, poorly optimized, resources-hungry OS developed with main goal to make hardware obsolete every 3-5 years.

I don’t know what nvidia is doing, but when I use it at my friends’ places, lags are painful.

Linux was the right call in theory, in practice gaming industry is pretty broken on the PC side with its lock on windows, as we see on every new AAA port… Let’s hope valve can save it, but I doubt.

smeg,

I don’t think the people downvoting you have ever experienced the pain of dealing with Windows in a cloud environment

Pxtl, (edited )
@Pxtl@lemmy.ca avatar

No, we’re downvoting because of conspiracy theories about planned obsolescense.

Yes, it’s disappointing how hardware requirements climb for minimal appreciable improvement, but Hanlon’s Razor applies.

Zeth0s, (edited )

It is not a conspiracy though. Planned obsolescence is a well known real thing. There is a reason unix computers last on average longer than windows computers, and Linux is the stereotypical OS for old pcs.

If people are downvoting for this, they should learn how computers and operating systems work

Zeth0s, (edited )

Don’t worry, I was expecting the downvotes. This place is full of angry windows fan boys that believe they are tech expert because they watch ltt and can install a skyrim mod. Less than reddit luckily

Astroturfed,

The thing was clearly designed to force you into paying a subscription fee. You can’t let people have something they could possibly easily use and play games that aren’t on your subscription if your entire purpose is to milk a monthly subscription from the users. Google, fuck you capitalism woohoo.

canis_majoris,
@canis_majoris@lemmy.ca avatar

One of the main issues with Stadia is that they didn’t even do the basics. I saw basically no marketing, and on top of that, I heard all kinds of rumors about the business model that were entirely false. They made no effort to combat the misinformation. It was never the case that you literally had to purchase the game on top of the subscription fees, but that was like the number one issue brought up in every discussion.

Facebones,

It’s been how long now? TIL that was false. 🤷

canis_majoris,
@canis_majoris@lemmy.ca avatar

I know, right? Service has been down almost an entire year.

Facebones,

The “pay for sub then buy games on top of that” was 100% how I heard it worked and NEVER heard anything different from anywhere.

That’s kinda nuts.

conciselyverbose,

It was basically true.

There was a bad experience version you could use without a subscription to games you purchased outright, and they included "free" games with your subscription, but to get a reasonable experience you had to pay for both.

Chozo,

The subscription was only necessary if you wanted to play in 4K or wanted "free" monthly games. Everything else worked just fine without the sub, with no change to performance.

conciselyverbose,

The subscription was absolutely required for performance not to be a complete dumpster fire.

The free tier wasn't mediocre. It was unplayable.

HarkMahlberg, (edited )
@HarkMahlberg@kbin.social avatar

From everything I can see, you did have to buy games on Stadia. They would give you a free game a month, but if that wasn't the game you wanted to play, you had to buy it. The base version of Stadia was free, but the Pro version gave you a discount on games - it did not make them free.

This is the official support forum and there are many Q&A's about purchasing games:

https://community.stadia.com/t5/Payments-Billing/Can-t-buy-games-in-the-Store-OR-HDT-01/m-p/52482

Got my Stadia Pro account with a credit card...

... If you have an Android device, you can also try via the Stadia app to purchase games (once purchased, you can play them everywhere, on mobile, TV or PC).

Stamau123,

So it wasn’t bullshit? Well in the end the environment was confusing, as thus it died

conciselyverbose,

The "wrong" part was that you could theoretically play games you owned without the subscription active.

But it was downgraded heavily enough that it wasn't really worth doing.

Astroturfed,

I couldn’t figure out how to do anything with one without paying the subscription. The interface was horrible and clearly designed to force you into subscribing before you could even use the thing.

Molecular0079,

It was never the case that you literally had to purchase the game on top of the subscription fees

It depends on the game. There were a bunch of games under “Stadia Play” that came along with the subscription, GamePass style. And then there were games you had to outright purchase.

Trihilis,

The main problem with stadia was Google. I knew it was doomed from the start and that’s why I never bothered with it. I actually know a lot of people that didn’t bother with it because it was from Google. It’s basically a self fulfilling prophecy at this point that most of their shit ends up on the Google graveyard.

A lot of people actually don’t trust Google anymore since they’ve already been screwed over many times by them.

LiveLGNProsper,

I just went to PS5 when the shut it down easy peasy and that was the last straw for me I deleted my Google account and all google services.

canis_majoris,
@canis_majoris@lemmy.ca avatar

I stuck with Gamepass because I am a PC gamer. I toyed with PSN but the PS5 controller was not natively recognized by the client at the time I was testing it, which is dumb as fuck. Steam will pick up the controller and use their drivers for most games, but the PSN service just didn’t work with the PS5 controller natively.

LiveLGNProsper, (edited )

Yeah I used to play on PC too but some of the AAA titles had terrible ports that required more performance in my opinion than needed and it was cheaper to switch to ps5 there is no perfect solution I guess lol but the ps5 can play those titles with damn good graphics and not drop many frames but on my PC framrate just sucked and I got sick of windows bull shit as well.

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