Stadia, Google’s struggling game streaming service, was not expected to become a major role in the industry, but nearly no one, even Google’s own workers, anticipated its sudden shutdown. Vice President of Stadia Phil Harrison, who is quickly becoming the gaming industry’s version of the Grim Reaper, broke the news to employees at approximately the same time the public learned of the news from a blog post. Developers in the midst of adapting their games for Stadia have no idea what to do next, despite the fact that everything they had been working on up until that point was abruptly rendered obsolete.
Tom Vian, one-half of the Snipperclips studio SFB Games, tweeted yesterday, “Tangle Tower was supposed to launch on Stadia in 2 days’ time, and this story was the first I heard about it closing down.” The other programmers all felt like they’d been hit with a sucker punch. ‘We have a title coming out on November 1st,’ Rebecca Heineman said in response. We just found out about this.”
Stadia provides studios with partner managers to aid in game porting, certification, and troubleshooting. They had been in contact with their colleagues as recently as this week, and there had been no indication of trouble. Arctic Awakening was scheduled for release on Stadia and Stadia Pro in 2023, according to GoldFire Studios CEO James Simpson’s comments to Kotaku. Nothing seemed to be different from when we last spoke with [our partner manager] earlier in the week when we were discussing future steps.
No More Robots, a publishing company, experienced a similar predicament. The company’s representative, Mike Rose, explained in an email that “we have a game on there called Heist Simulator” that was scheduled to leave Early Access in 2023, making “current development for that on Stadia patently meaningless. Additionally, we were supposed to begin receiving payment upon the November release of Soccer Story on Stadia. It’s possible it will still happen, but I’m not holding my breath in light of the fact that we can no longer officially release on Stadia.
Since many Stadia workers were unaware of what was going on, it is likely that developers were not given any warnings to halt working on Stadia projects. Someone pretending to work at Google posted a screenshot of a meeting invite from Harrison on Reddit shortly after yesterday’s public announcement. Announcing a meeting for the Stadia team on September 29 at 8:30 AM PT to “discuss some vital updates with everyone,” the message began. According to two current employees who desire to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak to the press about company business, the major update was that Google was canceling Stadia by the beginning of next year.
As one Google worker put it today on Twitter, “it’s a surreal experience starting your work day and learning the product you’ve been working on for 6+ months and were launching soon is no longer relevant.” “If it accomplishes nothing else, it helps to put things in perspective; we must press on.”
The decision dissemination was as haphazard and hasty as Google’s early 2021 shutdown of its Stadia first-party game studios. Harrison had been complimenting the efforts of several teams for a whole week while they waited for their projects to advance from the concept stage into production. The next day, Kotaku reported, he had shut it down, partially blaming Microsoft’s purchase of Bethesda.
The current decision appears to be part of Google’s company-wide belt-tightening in response to the severe decline in the tech industry’s financial fortunes. Earlier this year, the company halted all new hires and contracts, and just last week, CEO Sundar Pichai defended reducing some employee perks by saying that employees shouldn’t “equate fun with money.” This is despite the fact that the company is making billions of dollars in profit annually.
One product that didn’t survive this shift in philosophy was the Pixelbook laptop, which, according to The Verge, was supposed to keep being produced as recently as a few months ago. It now looks that Google’s venture into gaming is another bold attempt to expand its reach. “We knew Stadia was on the chopping block, but I guess we still had expectations that it was so much investment that it was cheaper to keep it alive, even with no new titles, than to cancel it,” one current employee told Kotaku.
Many of the company’s gaming industry partners are at a loss as to how to proceed at this point. Bungie made a concerted effort to pull streaming players into the fold of its massive space MMO Destiny 2; this was one of Stadia’s first big grabs. However, it seems that not even Halo’s famous inventor was ready for the news. Bungie announced yesterday on their support site, “We recently learned about Stadia ceasing down and have begun conversations regarding next measures for our players.” Despite our requests for comment, we received no response from them.
On Twitter, several of the studio’s own programmers discussed how the growing streaming platform had been important in ensuring that the game was constantly updated, particularly during covid. It’s interesting, most of the world sees Stadia as that gimmick that nobody bothered with, tweeted activity designer Max Nichols. At Bungie, though, hundreds of people rely on it daily as part of the company’s playtesting process.
The Stadia termination date of January 18, 2023, will not affect the accessibility of Destiny 2 or any other games on the platform. Yesterday, there were more people playing Destiny at once on Stadia than Halo Infinite did on Steam. However, not all cross-platform compatibility works as well as Bungie’s MMO. Players of Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 and CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 have begun pleading with the developers to allow them to export their save games to play on PCs and consoles. Bloomberg previously reported that Google spent tens of millions to secure those and other big blockbuster games and that it will now reimburse those purchases to all gamers. Both games were major selling points for Stadia.
Developers who were in the process of porting their games to Stadia are the only ones who are uncertain about receiving payment. The business had been offering financial incentives to film studios, notably smaller indie production companies, in order to attract their movies to the service. Some of the agreements were contingent on the release of the games in question.
Simpson told Kotaku, “To be honest, given on Google’s previous record, we’d been going forward quite cautiously and, thankfully, hadn’t put too much into the port outside of lost time on planning how it would operate compared to Steam or consoles, working through integration tests, and so on.” I can see why they had trouble bringing on board developers if this was the case. If they aren’t willing to commit entirely to us, it’s hard to do so.
This week, we were actually getting ready to submit the release build. According to Rose. In other words, I’m fairly irate. The only way to find out is to wait and see whether Google contacts us, although I have my doubts.
Kotaku asked Harrison at the time if Stadia was just another ambitious Google project that would be abandoned in a few years when it was first announced at GDC 2019. I get your worries, he stated at the time. I mean, all you have to do is look at how much money we’ve put into Stadia and how much more we’re planning to put in. In no way is this a simple task. Not only has my team been involved, but so has everyone else at YouTube and in our technical infrastructure and networking department. Thousands of people have put much time and effort into making this company successful.
Now that Stadia has been discontinued, Harrison’s future at Google is uncertain. One worker expressed to Kotaku their desire that, should he depart, he would not be the only one to do so. They said things like, “I don’t want to continue under the same leadership.” They ought to take responsibility for their actions, in my opinion.