Few thought that Google’s troubled streaming service, Stadia, would ever become a dominant player in the gaming industry, but hardly anyone expected it to happen. shutting down so abruptly, including the company’s own employees. Stadia VP Phil Harrison, fast becoming the grim reaper of new game initiatives, briefed staff on the news around the same time everyone heard about it via a public blog post. The work they’d done up to that point suddenly became irrelevant, while developers in the process of porting their games to Stadia still have no idea what’s coming next.
“Tangle Tower was due to launch on Stadia in two days, and this article was the first I heard of it being discontinued, “Tom Vian, one half of clipping clips studio SFB games, tweeted yesterday. Other developers felt the same way. “We have a title coming out November 1st,” Rebecca Heineman replied. “Now we hear about this.”
Studios has partner managers at Stadia to assist with game transfer, certification, and any other issues that may arise during the collaboration. Many had spoken to their counterparts this week and there was no indication that anything was wrong. “We had signed a deal and had been working on a release on Stadia/Stadia Pro for Arctic awakening in 2023,” GoldFire Studios founder James Simpson told Kotaku. “We just got in touch with [our partner manager] We went through some next steps earlier in the week, so there was no indication that anything was changing.”
Publisher No More Robots found itself in a similar situation. “We have a game there called Robbery Simulator which was due to come out of Early Access in 2023, so our recent development for that on Stadia has clearly been futile,” spokesperson Mike Rose wrote in an email. “We also planned to launch football story on Stadia in November, and that involves money that we should receive. We may still see that, but since we literally can’t release on Stadia anymore, I’m not holding my breath!”
One of the reasons developers probably didn’t get an indication to stop working on Stadia projects was that even many Stadia employees had no idea what was about to happen. Shortly after yesterday’s public announcement, someone claiming to be a Google employee shared a screenshot on Reddit of an invitation to a meeting from Harrison. “We have a Stadia team meeting today, Sept. 29 at 8:30 a.m. PT to share important updates with everyone,” it began. The major update turned out to be that Google was killing Stadia early next year, according to two current employees who wish to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to talk to the press about company affairs.
“It’s a weird experience to start your workday and realize that the feature you’ve been working on for over 6 months and which was soon to be launched is no longer relevant,” Google engineer Peter Elst tweeted Today. “If nothing else, it puts things in perspective, forward and upward.”
The abrupt and sloppy nature of the rollout of the decision is a reminder of how Google closed its Stadia first-party game studios in early 2021. For a week, Harrison praised the work of multiple teams as they waited to take their projects from concept to production. The next moment, he shut everything down, blaming the move in part on Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda, Kotaku reported at the time.
This time, the decision appears to be part of Google’s company-wide belt tightening amid a massive downturn in the tech world’s financial fortunes. Hires and contracts were frozen earlier this year, and last week CEO Sundar Pichai told the staff not to “equate pleasure with money” while defending that certain employee benefits were reduced despite billions in profits.
A victim of this new attitude was the Pixelbook laptop, which The edge reported was scheduled to continue as recently as a few months ago. Now, Google’s ambitious foray into gaming appears to be another. “We knew Stadia was on the cutting board, but I think we still hoped it was so much of an investment that it was cheaper to keep it running, even without new games, than it was to kill it,” a current employee told me. . Kotaku.
Now, even some of the company’s biggest partners in the gaming world are struggling to figure out what to do next. Lot 2 used to be one of Stadia’s first big hits, with Bungie taking a big step to bring streaming players into the lap of its sprawling MMO space. Even the famous Halo creator was apparently unprepared for the news, however. “We just learned that Stadia has been closed and talks have begun about the next steps for our players,” Bungie said. Posted yesterday on the support forum. It did not respond to a request for comment.
Some of the studio’s in-house developers also took to Twitter to talk about how helpful the burgeoning streaming platform had been in keeping the game constantly updated, especially during covid. “It’s funny, most of the world sees Stadia as that gimmick that nobody cared about,” tweeted activity designer Max Nichols. “But hundreds of us use it every day at Bungie as part of our internal playtest workflow.”
Lot 2 and other games on Stadia will remain playable until the closing date on January 18, 2023. Since yesterdaythere were more simultaneous destiny players on Stadia dan Halo Infinite players on Steam. But not every game seamlessly transfers players’ saved data from one platform to another, like Bungie’s MMO. Red Dead Redemption 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 players have already started begging the makers of those games, Rockstar and CD Projekt Red, to help them transfer their save files to PC or console. Both games were a major selling point for Stadia, and Bloomberg previously reported that Google spent tens of millions to secure those and other big blockbusters, whose purchases will now be refunded to all players.
The only people who aren’t sure if they’ll get their money’s worth are the developers who were still in the process of bringing their games to Stadia. The company paid studios, especially indie makers, to bring their releases to the platform. Some contracts would not be paid out until the games actually launched.
“To be fair, based on Google’s track record, we had moved forward fairly cautiously and luckily hadn’t invested too much in the port beyond the time lost planning how it would work compared to Steam or consoles, by going through integration tests and so on,” Simpson told Kotaku. “I think this is why they struggled to get developers on board. It’s hard to commit to them fully if they don’t want to commit to us fully.”
“We were literally preparing the release build for submission this week!” said Rose. “So yeah, pretty pissed off of course. We’ll see if anyone from Google contacts us, but I’m not sure!”
When Stadia was first unveiled at GDC 2019, Kotaku asked Harrison if it was just another ambitious Google project that would be discontinued after a few years. “I understand the concern,” he said at the time. “But I think you just need to look at the level of investment we’ve made and continue to do in Stadia. This is by no means a trivial project. This is a very, very important multi-company effort, not just for my team, but also for YouTube, for our technical infrastructure and our network team, it represents thousands of people working on this business.”
With Stadia shutting down, it’s unclear what Harrison’s future will be at Google. An employee told Kotaku they hope that if he goes, he’s not the only one leaving. “I don’t want to stay under the same leadership,” they said. “I think they should be responsible for their mistakes.”
Google did not respond to a request for comment.