Google Stream could salvage Stadia

According to a new report, Google seems to be trying to save what's left of its failing Google Stadia gaming platform, and rebranding it might be the way to go. Soon-to-be called Google Stream, the company might be focusing on white-label deals that would utilize the Stadia software without attributing it directly to Google. It appears that Google may be working on such deals with Peloton, Capcom, and Bungie, although if the rumors are correct, there may be more brands involved.

Business Insider reports that Google Stadia didn't meet its goal to reach 1 million monthly active users by the end of 2020. It wasn't even close — Stadia was over 25% short of its mark. An unnamed Google employee was quoted as saying that there have been big problems with player retention, implying that users didn't stay subscribed for long enough to make Stadia profitable.

Google Stadia initially showed a lot of promise. Made as a cloud gaming service, Stadia lets its subscribers play any game from its catalog without requiring any high-end hardware. The games are streamed directly to the device. Users can subscribe to Stadia Pro to access the catalog or buy games directly and play them without downloading. While this sounds great on paper, in practice, Stadia failed to attract the attention Google had been hoping for.

No more blockbusters for Google Stadia?

Promising as it may have been, according to Business Insider, Google seems to have given up on expanding Stadia as a consumer platform. That doesn't necessarily mean that it will shut down completely. So far, even though Google has shut down Stadia's internal game studios (previously known as Stadia Games & Entertainment), the company plans to continue adding to the current game catalog — but it won't seek to provide the best and most expensive titles available on the market the way Steam and other such platforms try to do.

Patrick Seybold, a spokesperson for Google, told Business Insider: "We are still focused on bringing great games to Stadia in 2022. With 200+ titles currently available, we expect to have another 100+ games added to the platform this year." This implies that there is more to come for the platform, but inside sources make it clear that these won't be multi-million dollar deals for AAA blockbuster games. Instead, Google may focus on adding a steady stream of independent titles that don't cost as much to procure.

In the past, Google was not afraid to shell out money on new gaming titles. It spent a large sum of money, in the tens of millions of dollars, to secure games such as Red Dead Redemption 2. However, in the previous year, there has been no mention of new blockbusters coming to the platform.

The consumer platform has been left behind

Chris Burns/SlashGear

Seybold also subtly suggested that the company may have shifted its focus towards working directly with brands instead of expanding Google Stadia. He spoke of Google's partnership with AT&T and the distribution of Batman: Arkham Knight that was part of that deal. Whether Google intends to one day shut down Stadia completely or not, inside sources reveal that the Stadia division went through a lot of changes over the past year.

The Stadia team was moved to work directly under the subscription services department. One Google employee estimated that only about 20% of the team's focus remains on the future of the consumer platform, while the rest of the Stadia team may be working on white-label deals. This makes sense: Google may have failed to secure a steady customer base, but the tech behind Stadia does have a lot to offer, and the company seems eager to salvage that.

Google has already taken steps towards spreading the Stadia tech around in a B2B manner. In 2021, Google struck a deal with Peloton, planning to provide gaming experiences to the Peloton exercise bikes. One such game has already been released in a closed demo around the end of 2021, titled "Lanebreak."

What's next for Google Stadia?

As per Business Insider, Google has also been in talks with Bungie, and these negotiations have apparently progressed well. The developer behind "Destiny" was interested in making a streaming platform of its own, and Google Stadia may have been the key to that. However, as Sony recently acquired Bungie, these talks may come to an end — Sony has its own streaming partner in Microsoft. Google and Sony both didn't address this, but it's still early days.

Aside from the teaser that 100+ games will be coming to the Stadia in 2022, Google hasn't commented on the findings presented by Business Insider. One way or another, it's hard to dispute that Google Stadia hasn't managed to become the future of gaming that Phil Harrison, the VP of Stadia, once predicted it to be. Rebranding it to Google Stream — a throwback to the days when it was stealthily called Project Stream — might just be the best way to go. Perhaps this technology, which we were once very impressed by, will still find its home in other devices despite the fact that the subscription service fell short of the target.