The cloud gaming landscape is a little quieter now with the final shutdown of Google Stadia. I loved Stadia, but I was always wary of its business model, and I think the lesson to be learned is that the Xbox Cloud Gaming model is definitely the way forward.
Stadia pre-dated what was first known as Project xCloud, but it’s also the first to depart the space. Deep down many of us who loved the platform knew that this day was almost inevitable, given Google’s tendency to cancel products. But it doesn’t make it feel any better.
Cloud gaming fans have a perfect alternative though from Xbox, and to some degree NVIDIA. Digital ownership of something always carries more risk than having a physical object, but I think the way Microsoft has built Xbox Cloud Gaming around a subscription is definitely the right way to go.
Renting games vs buying them on the cloud
Google has refunded everyone who bought games on Stadia, which is fine, but those games are now lost forever. Some developers allowed transferral of game save data and even ownership over to PC, but those that didn’t it’s just gone.
And this is the number one drawback to buying a game that you can’t even download and keep a local copy of. On Steam, if a game is delisted but you own it, you can still play it. You can download it and keep it on your hard drive, or just access it from your library when you like. That was never possible with Stadia and its model.
With Xbox Cloud Gaming that risk goes away. Games come in and out all the time, but you never own them. Just the same way you never own the content you watch on Netflix. You pay a fee every month to rent access to those games. So while it might be sad when a title you love disappears from the service, you haven’t really lost out. It was never yours.
So in the same way that we stream all our music and video content in 2023, Xbox Cloud Gaming provides the same model but for your games. As the shutdown of Stadia has proved, this is clearly a better model for the consumer, and more cost-effective at the same time.
GeForce Now from NVIDIA is a little different, in so much as it only gives you a place in the cloud to play games you already own on Steam, Epic, or Ubisoft’s store. This is a different model, but still better than Stadia’s because you’re not buying anything from NVIDIA. You’re simply renting a kick-ass PC in the cloud to play them on. Again, much better than the Stadia model.
You don’t lose your progress with Xbox Cloud Gaming
Progress in your games is the other big advantage of Xbox Cloud Gaming. With Stadia, it was ultimately down to the developers to work out a solution if a game didn’t have cross-save capabilities, such as Destiny 2. On Xbox, it’s not even a thing.
Cloud saves are default, allowing you to seamlessly switch between cloud and console, and sometimes PC, without ever having to worry about losing your progress or your achievements. When a game leaves Xbox Cloud Gaming, if you buy it to play on an Xbox console, you can pick right up where you left off.
The same is true on GeForce Now, of course, assuming the games support cloud saving wherever you’re playing them. Fire it up on PC and away you go.
I’m not going to tell my son about all the progress he’s lost now Stadia has ended. Or rather, I’m hoping he’s going to forget now he plays on Xbox.
Worries over cloud-first gaming
Stadia was the first big attempt at having a cloud-only experience and it’s fair to say it went horribly wrong. Whether you pin the blame at Google’s door or not, it obviously hasn’t been a success, despite how good the platform was.
In a previous role elsewhere I wrote a piece detailing how thanks to the rise of cloud gaming I was seriously considering never buying a new graphics card again. Between Stadia, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and GeForce Now I had most of my favorites covered and could play from any device. Why would I need a dedicated gaming PC?
Unfortunately, this whole experience has now left a sour taste and I have my concerns about putting too many eggs in the cloud gaming basket. Xbox is established, and I lose nothing by playing on the cloud there. Likewise with GeForce Now, if NVIDIA pulls the plug I at least still have my games.
Stadia was bold and exciting and I, like so many others, really wanted it to succeed. But it didn’t and I don’t think we’ll be seeing anything else like it now for some time. Maybe we’re just not ready to go all in on the cloud yet.
And that’s why I would urge anyone who does want to experience cloud gaming to go with Xbox. It’s great value and you’re well covered if for any reason Microsoft decided to pull the plug. It’s the one with the least outlay and the least risk of losing anything. It’s the right model and it’s the one I’m behind the most now.
Xbox Cloud Gaming is a part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and gives you access to hundreds of Xbox console games across smartphones, tablets, PCs, and even TVs via built-in controller support and touch controls.