29 July 2022. User BlueFireDemon44 chats to Google Stadia on Twitter: “Incredible that I really have to ask this. Are you closing down soon?” In response, Stadia says the service is “not shutting down”. Fast forward two months and it turns out Google Stadia is, in fact, shutting down after all.
The company announced the news in a tweet that referred to “an important update on Stadia”, in the sense one might make an important update to a computer by hurling it into a trash compactor. In a blog post, the company explained that Google Stadia was built on strong tech foundations, but had never gained traction with users.
It’s a mystery as to why that might be the case. After all, Google Stadia didn’t have the odds stacked against it. The service managed to exist during a global pandemic, which forced countless people to stay home for weeks and fish around for entertainment, while looking online and finding global hardware shortages gave them as much chance of securing choice consoles as Luton Town F.C. have of winning next year’s FA Cup Final.
Stuff’s Google Stadia review provided a hint as to the key problem, when our very own Matt Tate said: “Whether Google will remain committed to its latest side hustle in the long-term is anyone’s guess.” Which sounds remarkably prescient until you realise what happened to Google Stadia is textbook Google.
The company’s history is littered with products that have been unceremoniously killed. You might argue – rightly – that many of those deaths were barely blips on a radar. And in other cases, technology was bolted on to other services, allowing it to live on, much like a zombie glued to your face. But from a reputational standpoint, the message is Google too often has the attention span of a distracted gnat and should be treated accordingly.
Is it any wonder gamers were wary about Stadia? The first thought many had wasn’t “man, this tech looks fantastic” – it was guessing during which month, a year or two into the future, the axe would fall. Now, we have to again wonder how this will impact on Google, when we’re at the point where its reputation for killing a service just ended up killing a service.
You’d hope Stadia’s misfortune would cause the company to take stock. But this month also saw Google set fire to its Pixelbook plans, having a few months earlier announced it had suddenly got interested in tablets again. (This by way of the Pixel Tablet that presumably has Apple terrified in much the same way one might be terrified of an extremely cute puppy.)
Whether you’re a disgruntled Stadia user, or a developer angry that you were last to know, you might have heard irritating folks smugly noting that it’s all your own fault, really. If something is not part of Google’s ‘core’ offering, you just shouldn’t get involved. But even then, I wonder.
This year, Android’s paucity of updates look like they’d arrived from a company thoroughly bored of having to deal with an operating system. And my own personal experience of Gmail has degraded to the point that it’s unusable. I still use Docs because I have to. But at this point it wouldn’t shock me if Google one morning pulled the plug on that too, while inexplicably simultaneously announcing it was getting back into RSS.
Still, things could be worse. We should probably be grateful Google grew bored of Boston Dynamics. At least now it’s not in a position to unleash terrifying robots that patrol the streets, forcing us to use whatever fleeting hardware or software concept that’s captivated the company this week.