Google unveiled Stadia in 2019 with the promise of a platform that would rival traditional game consoles. Barely a year later, he begins to back down from this promise. Google has already shut down its games studio and has already said it would rather just license Stadia technology to other companies. Now it looks like the first product of this approach has arrived. AT&T Wireless customers can stream Batman: Arkham Knight for free, but not through the Stadia app or website.
For anyone who lives under a rock and missed out on Google Stadia’s awkward journey, the service is similar to GeForce Now or Xbox Game Pass (nÃ©e xCloud). A server renders the game and streams the video to your device. Your control inputs flow back to the server, allowing you to play the game. Latency under ideal conditions can be quite close to local play that you won’t notice in most games. Of course, the conditions are often far from ideal. Still, some of these services can work surprisingly well, depending on where you live, how strong your internet connection is, etc.
Google seems to have realized too late that building a powerful infrastructure to run Stadia was the easiest part. Designing AAA games is difficult, expensive, and takes years. Google wasn’t in that, so Stadia Games & Entertainment was canned. At the same time, he said licensing the technology was “the best way to make Stadia a long-term sustainable business.” The AT&T deal could be the first in a long series in this vein, allowing a company to provide streaming games without developing its own system. Why AT&T chose a Batman game from 2015 is unclear, but it Is own Warner Media, which in turn owns the DC comics.
Anyone can play a limited selection of Stadia content for free, but the Batman game is only available to AT&T subscribers. Just head to the landing page, enter your account information and you can start playing instantly. There is no Stadia branding on AT & T’s landing page, so most people will never know it uses Google technology. Ars Technica confirmed with AT&T that the free game stream is powered by Stadia. However, you might notice something weird if you go to the Stadia site: there is no listing for Batman: Arkham Knight.
So Google ported Arkham Knight to Stadia, but it’s not generally available, which is disappointing. It may arrive in the Stadia store at a later date, but there is no guarantee. We could see more of these exclusive streaming deals, but that seems like a bad strategy to me if Google cares about Stadia as a consumer product, and maybe it doesn’t! Current game offerings are low, and making new games for Stadia that won’t bolster store content almost guarantees that things will only get worse.