The year is 1999 and Garth Brooks was a country music superstar. Adding to his long list of accolades were nominations for, and winning of, the American Music Awards best Male Artist and Academy Country Music Artist of the Decade. Success comes with the burden of keeping it fresh. Performers often look for new and different ways to be creative.
The rumor - Garth was approached by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds from Paramount Pictures to do a movie titled “The Lamb”. The story would center around a fan’s quest to prove the mysterious death of an Australian rock star named Chris Gaines was murder, not suicide. Garth would play the part of Gaines.
With the intent to rev up interest in the movie, an album titled “Chris Gaines Greatest Hits” was produced and subsequently released on September 28th. Although the launch was a bit rocky, it reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 charts and the single “Lost in You” peaked at No. 5 on US Billboard Hot 100.
So far, so good - right?
Not so much. The movie was still nothing more than a creative idea and there was little chance of keeping the intrigue alive while the movie was filmed. His country western base wanted the old Garth back and they became restless and disatified. The resentment began to fester and the brand started to sour as he became the subject of a lot of bad press. Twelve months later folks had moved on and the Chris Gaines persona was nothing more than dust under the rug. In 2001 Garth released his 8th album titled “Scarecrow” which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Life had returned to normal.
Google was also yearning for something more in 2018. It wanted to disrupt the multi billion dollar gaming industry by hosting games in the cloud. To that end they initiated Project Stream, a technical test to solve some of the challenges of streaming. As a proof of concept, they partnered with Ubisoft to stream their soon-to-be released Assassin’s Creed Odyssey® to a laptop or desktop Chrome browser and enlisted a limited number of participants to play at no charge for the duration of the 100 day test period.
The gaming technology of that day consisted of desktop computers equipped with AMD or nVideo graphic cards, the xBox one, and the Sony Playstation 4. The gaming consoles used AMD CPU/GPU hardware and the Google cloud gaming server appears to have mimicked that design.
Feedback from testers was generally positive and they indicated they were often unable to discern a difference in the play of Assassin’s Creed between Project Stream and a PC.
So far, so good - right?
Not so much. On March 19th at the Game Developers Conference, Google announced Stadia with Stadia VP/GM Phil Harrison and Google CEO Sundar Pichai on stage. But - the details on how this all was going to work were missing and only one other game title, DOOM Eternal, was announced as being available on the service.
At that very moment someone needed to pull the handbrake. But they didn’t, and everything that transpired afterwards brought us to where we are today.
Just like the Garth Brooks Chris Gains saga, Google did not communicate how the dots would connect which led to confusion and misinterpretation. The big players were analyzing the potential impacts to their business and how fraud would be avoided. The smaller players were discussing competing against the headliners.
To make matters worse, Google opened Stadia Games and Entertainment studio led by industry veterans Shannon Studstill, as studio director, and Jade Raymond as VP.
I don’t know the intent, but the message was Google was also going to compete with its developers and partners by creating its own titles.
A couple of paragraphs from Phil Harrison’s September 29th blog post reads as follows.
For many years, Google has invested across multiple aspects of the gaming industry. We help developers build and distribute gaming apps on Google Play and Google Play Games. Gaming creators are reaching audiences around the world on YouTube through videos, live streaming and Shorts. And our cloud streaming technology delivers immersive gameplay at massive scale.
A few years ago, we also launched a consumer gaming service, Stadia. And while Stadia's approach to streaming games for consumers was built on a strong technology foundation, it hasn't gained the traction with users that we expected so we’ve made the difficult decision to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service.
We’re grateful to the dedicated Stadia players that have been with us from the start. We will be refunding all Stadia hardware purchases made through the Google Store, and all game and add-on content purchases made through the Stadia store. Players will continue to have access to their games library and play through January 18, 2023 so they can complete final play sessions. We expect to have the majority of refunds completed by mid-January, 2023. We have more details for players on this process on our Help Center.
The sad reality is Stadia could have been the success many hoped for. Now the void is quickly being filled by others. Samsung just announced they will be offering TVs with built-in gaming capabilities provided by the nVidia cloud gaming service GeForce Now. In what must have been a bittersweet decision, Google announced support for Gaming Chromebooks by Asus, Acer, and Lenovo which also leverages the GeForce cloud.