Google Makes Stadia’s Enterprise-Fueled Future Official
Google’s interest in cloud gaming is evolving. At the company’s Games Developer Summit, the technology underlying Stadia has become an enterprise cloud product called Immersive Stream for Games. It’s not the best name, but that’s typical of products in the Google Cloud portfolio. Third-parties will be able to license the tech to stream games to their customers, giving Google somewhere else to focus its gaming efforts after the consumer-facing service failed to meet expectations. Google made the announcement during its Games for Developers Summit, we’ve embedded the video at the appropriate time below:
We got our first hint of what white label Stadia streaming could look like last year when AT&T began offering a cloud version of Batman: Arkham Knight. There’s no Stadia or Google branding anywhere — we won’t know who’s using Immersive Stream without inspecting web traffic. AT&T executive Jay Cary was on hand to confirm the company would launch more titles on the streaming service soon, and its initial test with Arkham Knight got “thousands” of AT&T customers playing. There’s already a form for developers to fill out if they want more information about licensing Immersive Stream.
This is a big turnaround for Google. It announced Stadia with much fanfare in 2019, promising innovative experiences that take advantage of Stadia’s unique capabilities. However, Google killed its Stadia Games & Entertainment studio after less than two years, and before it could release any original games. At the same time, the supply of popular games from other developers on Stadia has slowed to a trickle.
Previous reports allege that Stadia has missed numerous growth milestones, and Google has decided to shift focus from the consumer platform to enterprise. Thus, Immersive Stream for Games. Google never even bothered to deny the substance of the reports, saying simply that it’s still committed to adding new games to Stadia with the help of its partners. One way Google hopes to boost interest in Stadia is by making it easier to try. A new account-free demo is coming soon, offering up to five games with limited-time trials. So far, Risk of Rain 2 is the only one available (see above).
Although, wouldn’t some of those partners prefer to just run their own streaming storefront with Google’s technology backing it? Immersive Stream may end up cannibalizing Stadia, which is already limping along with few AAA releases on the schedule. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Game Pass service is soaring to new heights with the acquisitions of Zenimax (Bethesda) and Activision-Blizzard. Perhaps Google didn’t think first-party content would matter as much in the era of cloud gaming, but Microsoft’s actions tell a different story. It’s one that might not end happily ever after for Stadia.