This time last year, Google’s marketing edifice sprung to life, extolling the virtues of its upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service.
Google promised a lot: 4k, 60 FPS, HDR, ‘negative latency,’ a global network of data centers, the long-touted cloud gaming revolution finally manifesting itself, and more.
According to the tech giant, Stadia would take the gaming world by storm.
Despite easily one of the more bizarre launch trailers we’ve ever seen and palpable excitement, Stadia flopped at launch. Too few games compounded by limited functionality or straight-up missing features: Stadia didn’t resonate with gamers.
The notion that Google oversold Stadia quickly gained traction, even among early adopters who lamented the lack of updates and meager roster of games. 4K turned out to be up-scaled wizardry in some cases. Most of the available games had released on other platforms over a year earlier in some cases, notably Assassin’s Ceed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2.
Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive’s CEO, Strauss Zelnick, echoed the sentiment recently .
The launch of Stadia has been slow. I think there was some overpromising on what the technology could deliver and some consumer disappointment as a result.
Stadia has had some wins, though. Doom Eternal launched on Google’s service alongside other major platforms. A steady flow of games has bolstered the Stadia offering in recent months. Google introduced a free browser-based tier in the Spring – ostensibly under the guise of a charitable gesture to ease the monotony of pandemic lockdown – that pushed the user base past the one million milestone.
Nevertheless, Stadia has yet to entrench itself as a viable platform, one of the big boys alongside PC, and the trifecta of console giants – PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo. And it doesn’t look like matters will improve anytime soon.
Today, news surfaced that CD Projekt Red’s upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 won’t be available on Google’s platform at launch .
Cyberpunk 2077’s arrival on Stadia won’t be a matter of days after other platforms, but potentially months, according to a press release sharing the news. CD Projekt Red vaguely noted ‘by the end of the year.’ Interestingly, CD Projekt Red has since erased all traces of the press release from its site .
Cyberpunk 2077 will be released on 17 September 2020 for the PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. By the end of the year the game will also make its debut on Google Stadia.
CD Projekt Red hasn’t explained the logic behind this launch arrangement.
If we set aside technical hurdles that might have held water when Stadia first launched, the only explanation that rings credible must be that the Polish developer is prioritizing pushing out other versions of the game. And, understandably so.
The overwhelming majority of people who ultimately play the game will do so on the console and PC versions. Why devote precious home-straight resources on a Stadia version for only a tiny percentage of Cyberpunk 2077’s overall player base? Prioritize the money makers and turn to Stadia once the dust has settled a little seems to be the strategy.
This perception of Stadia as a secondary concern is one we may very well have to get used to, barring some miraculous turn around in fortune in the months ahead.
Aside from Cyberpunk 2077, the roll call of games with confirmed Stadia launches looks anemic as the most prominent publishers remain reluctant to jump in.
Ubisoft has been Stadia’s saving grace in a way, throwing the full potential on its upcoming AAA release schedule behind the platform and promising a Stadia launch for Watch Dogs Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla among others.
These are big titles and nothing to scoff at, but with no release date for either, it will be a while before we know whether they will suffer the similar delayed launch as Cyberpunk 2077.
If Google is serious about Stadia’s future, it will need to limit these types of staggered launches. The question is whether developers are willing to put in the work to ensure simultaneous launches given Stadia’s story so far.