Despite Google promising a revolution in how video games are played, the Stadia cloud game service hasn’t quite reached the heights expected, and it seems the publisher of one of the biggest video game franchises in the world agrees.
Roughly a million players have tried out Stadia since it launched to great fanfare back in November of this year. Most of these can be attributed to the free tier Google pushed out in response to the coronavirus pandemic as a virtuous gesture to ease the lockdown for gamers.
For many, there's a disconnect between what Google promised and the reality of the service. Promised 4K/60fps performance was replaced by upscaled lower resolutions, latency remains an issue despite Google promising PR-vetted 'negative latency', and the portfolio of games is mediocre at best.
Now, Strauss Zelnik, the CEO of Take-Two Interactive, the company that publishes Rockstar Games acclaimed Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption series, says that Google vastly over-promised what Stadia could offer players.
Speaking during the Bernstein Annual Strategic Decisions Conference last week, Strauss explained that "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." And this, despite Take-Two standing among the first few publishers to champion Google's new platform by porting some of its flagship releases such as Red Dead Redemption 2, Borderlands 3, and NBA 2K20 for the launch of Stadia.
Strauss continues, "Anytime you broaden distribution, you potentially broaden your audience, which is why we supported the release of Stadia with three titles initially and will continue to support high-quality streaming services as long as the business model makes sense. Over time I believe streaming will work...the belief that streaming was going to be transformative was based on a view that there were loads of people who really had an interest in interactive entertainment, really wanted to pay for it, but just didn't want to have a console. I'm not sure that turned out to be the case."
While there's still time for Google to reverse the fortune of the flagging Stadia - it certainly has the coffers to do so - a disapproving finger-wagging from arguably one of the biggest publishers in the industry will undoubtedly be a blow.
That said, Take-Two Interactive still plans to bring several titles to Stadia in the foreseeable future, including PGA Tour 2K21, and a duo of Mafia definitive editions. Whether Take-Two's initial support will taper off after these few releases remains to be seen.
Google has promised a slew of new titles - 100 this year alone - and has steadily incorporated new features, most recently support for play on the Chrome browser, but it feels a little too late as players appear to have already formulated their opinions on the service.
With Google's track-record of shelving projects that fail to live up to expectations, we can't discount the tech giant confining Stadia to the annals of failed experiments before long.