When Google shut down Stadia in January, it also wound down third-party access to the underlying cloud gaming technology. Google's Jack Buser tells Axios' Stephen Totilo his company is no longer offering Immersive Stream for Games as it was "tied to Stadia itself." A provider can't simply pick up the pieces, to put it another way.
Only a handful of brands ever used Immersive Stream, and then mainly as a promotional tool. AT&T let mobile subscribers play Batman: Arkham Knight and Control, while Capcom offered a Resident Evil Village demo that saved curious gamers the hassle of a download. Even Peloton used the tech to bring a fitness game, Lanebreak, to its stationary bikes.
Google's Jack Buser told me: "We are not offering that streaming option, because it was tied to Stadia itself. So, unfortunately, when we decided to not move forward with Stadia, that sort of [business-to-business] offering could no longer be offered as well."
— Stephen Totilo (@stephentotilo) March 8, 2023
We've asked Google for comment. The company isn't completely ignoring cloud gaming, but it's now relegating itself to support. As the firm's Jack Buser tells Axios in an interview, the focus now is on supporting others' Destiny-style live service games by providing a server platform, data management and analytics. Developers may not need to invest as much in online infrastructure, or worry about scaling as their player bases grow. Niantic, Ubisoft and Unity are among the existing customers.
The Immersive Stream shutdown isn't surprising. While it didn't require Stadia's heavily subscription-driven model it suffered from the same limitations as many game streaming services. You needed a fast, stable internet connection, and you still had to contend with increased lag and reduced visual quality compared to a locally-stored game. That limited the appeal, particularly for gamers with sufficiently powerful PCs and consoles.
At the same time, the closure limits the industry's choices. There's no longer a true turnkey cloud gaming option. Companies either have to build their own platforms or bring their games to existing services like GeForce Now. As such, it might be a while before you see more AT&T- or Capcom-style forays.