As videogame technology advanced with the power of the internet, it became possible for the developers to enable their customers to play games without needing for them to have physical copies of the game media on their consoles or computers. Thus began cloud gaming services, with Sony’s PlayStation Now (for PS3 and succeeding consoles) and Nvidia with GeForce NOW on desktops and laptops. Google, the internet giant, saw these developments and decided to throw its hat into the cloud gaming ring with the Stadia platform, launched in 2019. While the platform had some highlights like its superb streaming performance for CD Projekt’s action-RPG “Cyberpunk 2077,” the overall experience was lackluster.
It thus comes as no surprise when, as reported by The Verge, that Google had axed its in-house development division for exclusive games and third-party publishing on the Stadia. Stadia Games and Development was established only in March 2019, a few months before the Stadia platform’s debut in November that same year. It was supposed to develop games especially made to play on Stadia, plus publish titles from third parties. But nothing substantial came from this outfit, and a change in Google’s direction for Stadia pretty much ensured its closure.
As a result of the Stadia Games and Development closure, 150 employees of said division have been affected. Worse, game development chief Jade Raymond, formerly of Ubisoft and Electronic Arts, will be leaving Google completely.
Without its own in-house team, Google is refocusing the Stadia cloud services as a place where existing (veteran) game developers can port their videogames for cloud streaming play. A statement from Google VP and Stadia GM Phil Harrison notes the many years and major financial investment that goes into creating games, particularly the ones going into current and next-gen consoles now. Harrison says, “Given our focus on building on the proven technology of Stadia as well as deepening our business partnerships, we’ve decided that we will not be investing further in bringing exclusive content from our internal development team SG&E, beyond any near-term planned games.”
Despite assurances that Google Stadia will remain active (with free tier and $9.99 Pro subscription), gamers who have given the platform a chance cannot help but be disappointed that there will be no videogames forthcoming. Industry observers are of the opinion that Google may be shutting down its own game-making ambitions to entice more big-name developers to try their titles on Stadia, now that they have no first-party competition. In doing so the once-promising cloud gaming service has become all but a clone of all other cloud platforms that cater to existing consoles and PCs.
Image courtesy of PC Gamer