Google I/O 2021 is off to a bang. The developer conference kicked off with a two-hour keynote speech that ushered in the future of Google. We saw some eye-popping developments in machine learning, more inclusive design considerations, and much more across Google’s suite of products.
There was one notable absence at the party: Stadia. Google’s gaming service didn’t get any new announcements during the platform-spanning keynote. In fact, the word Stadia wasn’t mentioned once.
On one hand, that’s not too surprising. Google I/O isn’t exactly a consumer-facing event; it’s a conference that’s focused on large-scale tech innovations. It would have been a little strange to see Google showing off Resident Evil Village footage in-between announcements about its commitment to inclusivity and privacy.
Even still, it’s a little odd to not hear the service mentioned at all considering Google’s lofty goals for cloud gaming. When the service was first revealed, it got a full half-hour spotlight that emphasized how the tech made gaming more accessible. Stadia even got a big deep dive during the 2019 I/O event, demoing the technology. For a time, Google was positioning it as part of its vision for the future.
This year, Stadia only appears on the I/O schedule once as part of an AMA for the app creation tool Flutter. Stadia itself won’t be onstage beyond that this year according to Google, but much is in store for the future of Stadia, including new games and quality of life improvements. Stadia is also coming to Chromecast with Google TV soon, so there’s a lot in the pipeline. It just doesn’t appear that Google has bigger picture developments to share with us, at least for now.
Additionally, with E3 coming up, it’s possible that Google is saving any news for that event where it could speak to gamers directly, rather than tech-heads. There’s also the chance that there’s just not much to be done in terms of high-level innovation. At this point, the name of the game is stability with Stadia. Getting it to the point where anyone can play, regardless of their internet access is a foundational goal for all cloud gaming services. Perhaps the nuance of how gaming servers work is just a little too granular for this kind of event.
With that knowledge in mind, it still raises questions about how serious Google is about supporting Stadia long-term. Recently, the company reportedly fired around 150 developers as Stadia shifted away from in-house games. Since then, there hasn’t been too much big news about Google’s plans, save for Resident Evil Village launching on the platform.
Google appears to be at a crossroads with Stadia. As cloud gaming becomes more competitive thanks to established gaming companies like Microsoft, Stadia still needs to find its niche or a selling point that really sells its innovation. For the current moment, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything significant enough happening behind the scenes to merit a mention at Google’s biggest showcase of the year.
Perhaps we’ll see those details emerge at E3 in just a few weeks.