Well, I can’t say I didn’t see this coming: today in a blog post Google Stadia Vice President and GM Phil Harrison announced the company will close its internal development team Stadia Games and Entertainment (SG&E), and will pivot to expanding Stadia as a technology platform for other publishers and partners to utilize. This comes after a long year in which the video game streaming service faced ever increasing and stiffer competition from the likes of Nvidia, Microsoft, and even Amazon. Turns out trying to sell your cloud-based ecosystem as a console-competitor wasn’t the smartest move.
In the blog post, Harrison clarifies what this change of course means for the company. Essentially, they will no longer try and develop games for Stadia, since “Creating best-in-class games from the ground up takes many years and significant investment, and the cost is going up exponentially.” Instead, Google will continue to build on Stadia’s infrastructure and technology, working with their partners to assist them with their streaming needs. Because of this, Jade Raymond – co-creator of the Assassin’s Creed franchise who joined on with Stadia Games and Entertainment back in 2019 – is leaving the company. Additionally, according to Kotaku (who broke the story before Google’s official announcement) over 150 developers will be affected by the closure of SG&E.
Phil Harrison had this to say on Google Stadia’s transition: “In 2021, we’re expanding our efforts to help game developers and publishers take advantage of our platform technology and deliver games directly to their players. We see an important opportunity to work with partners seeking a gaming solution all built on Stadia’s advanced technical infrastructure and platform tools. We believe this is the best path to building Stadia into a long-term, sustainable business that helps grow the industry.”
Current Stadia users can still access their games on Stadia and Stadia Pro, and Harrison claims new third party titles will still come to the platform in the future. How those games will be purchased remains to be seen, but for Stadia’s sake I hope Google no longer tries to sell cloud-only copies of games, at least for full MSRP. Services like Microsoft’s xCloud and Nvidia’s GeForce Now are successful because they are tied into existing ecosystems, and operate off a subscription. If either goes up in virtual smoke fans won’t lose access to their games or saves, which can’t be said for titles bought exclusively on Stadia. We’ll see where Google takes Stadia in 2021, but I personally fear this change of heart may be too little too late.