Google announced that it will close the cloud gaming service Stadia early next year. This move by Google aims at further cutting costs to save expenses. The Stadia cloud game project was launched in 2019 and runs on smartphones and the Chrome browser. Phil Harrison, Google’s vice president, wrote in a blog post: “While Stadia’s consumer-facing streaming game is built on a strong foundation of technology, it hasn’t achieved the user traction we expected, and we must not. Without making the tough decision, start a gradual shutdown of our streaming service Stadia. The team will be assigned to other parts of the company”. This is coming after an initial denial that the Stadia is not shutting down.
For Google, Stadia represents an opportunity to put its cloud streaming technology to work and enable massive immersive gaming experiences, Harrison said. The Stadia page shows that Stadia servers will be shut down on January 18. Previously, the company wanted Stadia to compete with other gaming services such as Sony’s PlayStation Plus cloud streaming, Amazon’s Luna and Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming.
The closure of Stadia is the latest cost-cutting move by Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai. He has since stated his desire to make the company 20 per cent more efficient. Alphabet shares have fallen 34% this year after the company reported disappointing revenue and profit figures in July. Pichai’s efforts to improve efficiency could include cutting product lines and headcount. This is because the company is currently struggling with a host of economic and growth slowdowns.
Google Stadia cloud game is not alone
Google recently cancelled the next-generation Pixelbook laptop. The company also slashed the budget for its in-house incubator, Area 120. Google has shut down a long list of projects in the past, including its social network Google+, its RSS reader, and its Internet balloon service, Loon.
Google Stadia cloud game has faced rumours of a shutdown almost since launch. Last year, Google claims it is disbanding the Stadia Games and Entertainment team responsible for developing original games. There was speculation at the time that the service could be cut more broadly. At the same time, the number of games released on the platform has also decreased.
Google “never fully committed to Stadia,” said Joost van Dreunen, a lecturer in games business at New York University’s Stern School of Business, and said closing Stadia was inevitable.
He explained: “From the very first announcement, the whole effort was doomed because the big tech companies were terrible at gaming. Despite its impressive infrastructure and deep pockets, Stadia’s offerings overall lack personality. It will never gain the necessary traction, and there is not enough reason to keep companies spending more.”
Google to refund Stadia players
Google has promised to refund players all Stadia hardware purchased through the Google Play Store, as well as all games and add-ons purchased in the Stadia Store. The company said it expects to complete most of the refunds by mid-January. Players will continue to have access to their games and will be able to play until January 18th next year. The company will continue to support other gaming services and will help developers build and distribute gaming apps on Google Play and Google Play Games. Harrison said the technology used for Stadia will not go to waste. “We see potential opportunities to apply this technology to other areas of Google, such as YouTube, Google Play and augmented reality (AR) projects, and possibly to our industry partners,” he wrote.
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Developers say they have no idea of the plan to shut down Google Stadia
The sudden announcement of the Google Stadia cloud game project is a rude shock to many people. Although this is a huge surprise, it is also a reasonable move. Though there are some good games on Stadia, it is not cost-effective. There are several issues with the platform including video compression and input lag. There are other issues like full payment for games on the platform and additional subscription fees to play games at 4K resolution. Cutting products is now a regular for Google. In fact, there is even a website dedicated to honouring products that Google axe. Perhaps this boldness is one reason Google is now worth more than a trillion dollars. However, it is not a good thing for some consumers and game developers.
While there will be refunds, Stadia users will lose access to their games. They will also lose their corresponding game progress saves. At the same time, game developers who make Stadia versions of their games are wasting their time. According to PC Gamer, there are many Stadia version game developers on Twitter who have just learned that Stadia is about to shut down.
Huge disappointment for developers
Here’s how the gaming industry reacted to the news:
Joe Blackburn, Game Director of Destiny 2, said: “The developers at Stadia have created a development platform that has allowed us to continue creating and evaluating Destiny 2 at home over the past few years. I believe today is very interesting for many people. Tough, thank you for helping us make the game.”
Aadit Doshi, senior game programmer at Rocksteady, the developer of the Batman: Arkham series, said: “It’s fair to say that Google Stadia has had a terrible dilemma over the past 3 years and had to deal with it. The global pandemic has forced people to move online. Shortages of graphics cards and game consoles, lead to high demand for alternatives. If only they could come to market at a better time.”
Brandon Sheffield, a Necrosoft studio, said that while many people take this as a joke, Google Stadia’s developer revenue share is “the best of all cloud gaming services”. The news that their game, Hyper Gunsport, is coming to the platform in November and will recoup their development costs. However, they are now entering at a very difficult time.
Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic, said he thinks Google Stadia has made a very solid and positive effort and has supported a lot of developers. He thought it a pity that the service was shut down.
Game developer and consultant Rami Ismail said: “Part of me is saddened by Google’s amazing move with Stadia. When Google first pitched the project to me, long before it was released, they had a lot of cool ideas. But Conservative tactics, lack of trust in developers, and absolute underinvestment — it’s Google that killed it.”
Mike Rose, studio director of No More Robots, which recently launched the business simulation game, Let’s Build a Zoo, echoed his shock, saying, “Oh my God…we’re going to have a game on Stadia in November. Who wants to guess if Google will refuse to pay the money they owe us because of this?”