Well, I hadn’t quite expected to run into this news. According to The Keyword, Stadia is “winding down” its internal game development studios, which go by the name “Stadia Games & Entertainment”, in order to focus on its third-party partnerships. Before we go any further, it’s important to note that Stadia itself is alive and well and that Stadia Games & Entertainment (SG&E) is just Google’s first-party, in-house effort to create games for their own platform.
Though it’s hard to peg down which games were developed by the SG&E team, they are as follows: None. That’s right, we haven’t seen even one title come out of Google in the two years that its studios have been operational because, well, “Creating best-in-class games from the ground up takes many years and significant investment, and the cost is going up exponentially.”
They have, however, published several titles on behalf of other developers. GYLT, Orcs Must Die! 3, Submerged: Hidden Depths, and Outcasters all made their way to the platform with help from Google, but none of them aside from Outcasters seem to have had much hype surrounding them. Google’s decision is understandable, and it even makes sense when you think about how much time and effort they have put into building Stadia’s infrastructure.
Stadia’s Vice President and GM, Phil Harrison said that moving forward, the company would refocus its efforts on helping game developers take advantage of their technology and deliver games directly to players. To do this, they will continue to offer development hardware, technical assistance and even funding through their Stadia Maker’s program. All games that they had planned to personally develop beyond 2021 have been canceled, and most of the team is being shuffled around to get new roles in other departments at Google. With all of that covered, what exactly does this mean for Stadia gamers? Is this the end already? Nope.
“We see an important opportunity to work with partners seeking a gaming solution all built on Stadia’s advanced technical infrastructure and platform tools,” Harrison wrote in a blog post today. “We believe this is the best path to building Stadia into a long-term, sustainable business that helps grow the industry.”Phil Harrison
With over 400 games coming from third-parties over the next few years – something that was recently announced, most likely with today’s news in mind – the Stadia team has big plans for the future, and you’ll be able to continue buying and playing games like it’s another Tuesday. In fact, “GraceFromGoogle” took the time to reiterate this on Reddit. Because SG&E pretty much did nothing for Stadia from a consumer-facing perspective, nothing changes.
I personally don’t believe that the end is neigh for Stadia as a platform, and unlike ‘Killed by Google’, I think that the “Google Graveyard” is a myth. Any and all innovations created by Google are always put toward the next venture. What I’m saying is that the company is basically one big ever-evolving product consisting of many moving parts and while this approach is not great for end-users in the short term, it is something that I’ve accepted is better in the long term. Regardless, they’ve stated several times that they have intentions to stick with Stadia for the long haul and I have to believe that they continue to reiterate this despite internally seeing SG&E go downhill from its inception.
Over the past year, media consumption is at an all-time high. We’re all still largely stuck in our homes, and Stadia has had a chance to really take advantage of that. Whether or not you believe they have done everything they can to make the most of that time, shuttering its own internal studios seems like a strategic move. One thing’s for certain though – it’s definitely not a good look.
Here’s my take – Google has a habit of attempting to do things itself, only to realize that despite its weight in the market, it should leave some things to the pros who have over a hundred years of experience, and should instead focus on its strength – partnerships and support. I think that an opportunity to mature comes in the form of not trying to have a slice of every pie if they don’t think they can do it long term. The bottom line is that I don’t know if they truly believed they could have developed exclusive titles to the finish line or if they just wanted to play with the idea. If it’s the latter, they ought to keep in mind how it affects their public image and plan future endeavors accordingly.
Exclusive titles are often secured for a platform in order to sell more hardware consoles, and to bring in new, dedicated gamers, but if Stadia has no exclusives and you can play all of its games on other platforms, you’ll have to decide for yourself if you’re loyal to Google for games, or for its technology. I’m personally of the opinion that its cloud-native features could be unique enough for me to want to see how the gaming landscape is transformed by them – regardless of whether or not Google creates the games that utilize them.
If it’s no longer making its own titles though, other developers may lose confidence in Google’s vision and bail. I think what’s going to happen, however, is that they may approach all prospective developers, reassure them of its vision to support them, and turn this into a win. I can’t state enough how much I believe they’re playing their cards really well here. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. All I’m saying is that you shouldn’t get ahead of yourself, or feed the trolls which are already popping up on social media and in the news proclaiming that “Stadia is dead!”
Stadia is here to stay, and based on its desire to “help game developers and publishers take advantage of its platform technology and deliver games directly to players,” I’m wondering if perhaps it has plans to offer its infrastructure outside of Stadia.com as a part of that plan. Imagine buying a game on Ubisoft’s or Square Enix’s website, for example, and clicking on the ‘Play’ button right there to launch it without leaving that page! The wording here could be implying that Google has plans to let publishers and developers leverage its tech directly, but we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. In the meantime, go enjoy your Stadia Pro titles for February!