In two years, Google hasn't shown a single significant advantage in cloud gaming.
Earlier this month, a Business Insider reported ongoing problems with Google's ailing streaming platform. Google is apparently putting the consumer product on the back burner as it seeks to white-label the Stadia technology as a service to enhance other companies' cloud offerings.
A lot has happened between the 2018 Project Stream beta, the official Stadia launch in 2019, and today. Google is arguably leading the second wave of cloud gaming after the early debuts of services like PS Now and OnLive. However, now there is more competition and market needs are emerging. Google tried to argue that it could give cloud gaming a market advantage, but the company's vision hasn't materialized. As of today, Stadia is languishing and has little chance of success.
Of course, no company wants to call its own project a failure. But now might be a good time for Google to pause for a moment and ask, "What exactly are we doing here?" Why do you want to be in the cloud gaming market? What advantages do you have over your competitors and how do you intend to maintain them in the long term?
There are no good answers to these questions.
Stadia doesn't have the scale that Google would have suggested
Going back to Stadia's original announcement at Game Developers Conference 2019, let's see how some of Google's original claims played out. Google's GDC presentation emphasized the company's cloud expertise but overlooked how that expertise would help it conquer the cloud gaming space.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai opened the Stadia ad by touting the global reach of Google's cloud, saying:
Google is a huge cloud computing company with servers all over the world. So Stadia is available worldwide, right?
Not quite. Stadia is certainly not available in "200+ countries". It's available in just 22 countries, or about 10 percent of the scale that Google has strongly indicated it might be working on.
Until recently, Stadia's home within Google was the hardware division, with project lead Phil Harrison reporting to Rick Osterloh, Google's senior vice president of hardware. Actually, Google is pretty bad at competing internationally and each Google hardware product is limited to about 20 countries. It's strange that Stadia, a cloud service, ended up in the hardware division, but Google decided to put it there. The company really wants people to use its Chromecast game controller and media players, so Stadia is limited to the small list of countries where Google is willing to sell hardware. (If you compare Google's hardware country list to Stadia's country list, they're essentially the same.)
To be fair, international business is tough. Can any of Google's competitors match Stadia's 22-country distribution list?
Nvidia's GeForce Now is available in 82 countries. Xbox Cloud Gaming, still referred to as "Beta," is available in 26 countries. Google is in third place. PlayStation Now, the most neglected service on our list (despite rumored to be due for a major update), works in 19 countries. Google has at least overtaken Amazon Luna. This service is still in "Early Access" by invitation only and is available in one country, the United States.