• Jennifer Barnick

If Google's Stadia Fails, will I lose my Games? (And Should We Start Asking for More Ownership)

Stadia Exhibition

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

On November 19, 2019, Google launched its Cloud-based gaming service called Stadia. During the pre-launch promotion of Stadia, the cloud service was often touted as the "Netflix" of video games. As the pre-launch and early post-launch reviews came out, it was clear that was Stadia not "the Netflix of video games." For the pro-version, one had to pay $10 a month simply to be able to purchase video games a la cart from the service. Other problems plagued Stadia; however, they were problems that any cloud service would have to face in that high-speed internet and people's ability to handle enormous amounts of data would still cause a lot of problems with gaming. For many, stuttering and a low resolution was a problem when using Stadia. Another issue arose with Google's Stadia. Early in 2019, with the launch reviews piling up on YouTube, Twitter and Reddit, another question arose: "If Google decided to dump Stadia, what would happen to my games?" Several articles in 2019 after the launch of Stadia were written with direct quotes from Stadia developers addressing the problem with buying full price for games in Stadia that might disappear if Stadia disappears.

"Google will support a feature called 'takeout' which allows players to download the metadata and game saves on local hardware. But once Google Stadia shuts down, you might not be able to play your games anymore. 'Might' being the keyword here. The problem is that we don't know what happens and Google's answer never clearly gives a 'yes' or a 'no.'" (Google Avoids the Question: What Happens to My Games if Stadia Shuts? By Sarmad Lillah, July 19, 2019, segmentnext.com)

"Concerns about game ownership and ongoing support for games are not exclusive to Stadia. The servers for older console and PC games are often shut down over time as developers shift their focus to newer titles. While physical media remains important in the gaming industry, digital is taking up a bigger piece of the pie as time goes on." (What Happens If Google Stadia Shuts Down?" Developer Answers by Eddie Makuch, July 19, 2019, gamespot.com)

The clearest response from Google to the ownership question of one's games in 2019 was, don't worry, Stadia is here to stay—we are investing a great deal into this platform—so this question is just your fear talking. In one article, a Google developer spoke about his initial fear of family pictures and movies leaving a physical form and going up to the cloud. But then he realized the cloud was safe and awesome…and you guys should too. (I'm paraphrasing, but it's very close to what he said.)

I think it is fair to say that as a community goes, no one is more tech-savvy than the gaming community, and they were not as pleased by Google's Trust the Cloud speak. Because, in truth, nobody was having an issue with cloud technology, they were having an issue with trusting Google's commitment to Stadia. It only took a few threads on Reddit to see the countless examples of Google axing a product that they had claimed to be excited about and all in. The gamer community knew the history of tech like wise, tribal elders. They could sing songs regarding the long list of Google dumping projects.

Now, flash forward to July 10, 2020. Stadia has been out for just over a year, and it has been a year since most of the articles and threads were written regarding the concern of what happens to one's games if Stadia fails. Leo Sun from The Motley Fool, a highly respected investing magazine and financial news outlet, posts this article: "Microsoft’s xCloud Launch Could Render Google’s Stadia Obsolete.” (fool.com) Technology is always a race—already serious competitors who have addressed many of the problems of Stadia have arrived. Microsoft’s xCloud has addressed some of Stadia’s problems. (GeForce Now is also proving to be a competitor to Stadia.) Here was one of the article’s most damning quotes: “A recent article from The Verge, entitled ‘Google Stadia is a Lonely Place,’ also noticed the Stadia version of the popular battle royale game PUBG was populated with bots instead of human players. Those reports, along with Google’s well-documented habit of aggressively launching new products but abandoning them shortly afterward, suggest Stadia could be in serious trouble.”

The issue of game ownership and losing a game library worth hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars if a platform failed, is something that should be debated. Cloud technology is here to stay, and increasingly ownership will be a hotter issue. I now pay yearly subscription fees for a great deal of the software that I had previously owned via a one-time purchase at my local computer store. Video games are a strange animal in that they are part movie, part book, and part computer program. So, we want the advantages of keeping them in the cloud, but we also want to collect and own a library of games, as pulling out your favorite game (book or movie) when you were in another place in life (like high school) is an important and rewarding part of owning something outright. Those video games you have piling up in your family room or bedroom are not going to disappear if Google Stadia does. I believe the issue of ownership should be debated. The gaming world is notorious for its feisty debates and demands on the gaming industry. Certainly, if cloud technology can be invented, ownership and technology for allowing ownership like with physical objects can be developed.

Jennifer Barnick

Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.”

Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.

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