Quick summary from Google Stadia: It didn’t go great.
Google’s AAA cloud gaming service, which launched in 2019 with mediocre ratings, has since seriously overtaken Google’s sales and usage estimates by hundreds of thousands of users. The company closed its first-party studio, Stadia Games & Entertainment (SG&E), before it could ever develop a game, a week after CEO Phil Harrison gave the division a positive progress report. Several key executives have left the struggling division, such as: Assassin’s Creed co-creator and SG&E leader Jade Raymond, Stadia’s VP and lead product, John Justice, and Engineering Lead Justin Uberti.
When Google killed off the games division at the start of the year, an accompanying blog post hinted that major changes would be coming to Google’s strategy: “In 2021, we will expand our efforts to help game developers and publishers take advantage of our platform technology and deliver games directly to their players.”
Rather than keep pushing Stadia as a consumer-facing branded service, Google seems to want to repurpose the service into what would essentially be “Google Cloud Gaming Platform.” This would be a back-end, white-label service that could power other companies’ products, as well as a million other Google Cloud products, such as database hosting and push notifications. Google said it believes a back-end service is “the best way to build Stadia into a sustainable business for the long term.”
All this brings us to this Batman game presented by AT&T Wireless. The site notes that you can play the 2015 game “for the first time ever” Batman: Arkham Knight with “beta streaming on your computer. No downloads or waiting.” AT&T’s game streaming service requires a Chrome-based browser and is very similar to Google Stadia. This is the same thought 9to5Google had when it researched the game and found hints that it connects to Google’s services and mentions of Stadia’s “cloudcast” codename.
“Yes, this is made possible by the Stadia technology,” AT&T confirmed to Ars. The company said that “AT&T is working with gaming technologists like Google to help usher in the next era of gaming.”
Stream Batman requires an AT&T Wireless subscription and it’s unclear why a mobile ISP licenses a game streaming service. AT&T owns WarnerMedia, which owns DC Comics, which owns Batman, so you can see the business lineage here, but why the mobile link? You can’t even stream the game on a phone; you’ll need to use a PC, which probably won’t work over AT&T’s wireless network. So this seems to be purely an experiment, without any revenue.
The future of Stadia as a back-end provider makes the service invisible. The 9to5Google report states that the Stadia brand is not visible anywhere on AT&T’s product page. If you’re still sticking to the Stadia-as-a-consumer-service model, this is the first time Arkham Knight has walked on the service. So while you can’t play the game on “Stadia,” there’s a chance it’ll be released to consumer service (if it’s still there) when AT&T decides the exclusive distribution is over.