Stadia Games & Entertainment is being shut down as announced by Phil Harrison in a shock Google Blog post yesterday. I’ve been excited for the possibilities of true cloud first AAA games for years, and when Google initially announced Stadia back at GDC 2019, they seemed to share that vision, building studios from the ground up to take advantage of the power of the cloud! Things that would only be possible without the shackles of a single console size box in your home, with Stadia and the cloud, developers could utilise several GPU’s to render worlds in unparalleled detail, AI that was a generational leap above anything we have today powered by Google’s world leading Artificial Intelligence technology. Games so large, they wouldn’t fit on a traditional 1TB home console SSD. All this and more suddenly seemed possible thanks to Stadia. With yesterday’s announcement by Phil Harrison, it feels like that dream has died.
I’ve said from the very beginning that Stadia should have launched with an exclusive title that showcased the platform to the world like Mario 64 did for the N64, Halo did for the original Xbox and Wii Sports did for the Wii. It’s always felt like that the Google engineers have built some truly magical game streaming tech, but nobody thought about the actual games until it was too late.
The most jarring quote from the announcement to me is: “Creating best-in-class games from the ground up takes many years and significant investment, and the cost is going up exponentially.” Now you don’t have to be an industry veteran to know that; it was obvious from the start that first party games would take a lot of time, effort and money. To suddenly use this as an excuse to shut down the studios just over 1 year after your platform has launched seems absolutely insane.
Around the launch of Stadia, Google were keen to stress that they were in this for the long haul, often mentioning the new Stadia Games & Entertainment studios as proof of their long term commitment to the platform. With this announcement, it feels like everything has changed. Stadia Games & Entertainment being shut down before we even get to see so much as a trailer, let alone an actual game has released feels like a real kick in the teeth and I can only hope that the staff caught up in all of this are able to find new roles (Phil Harrison states that Google is committed to working with this talented team to find new roles and support them).
If Google themselves aren’t interested in supporting Stadia with their own first party games, why should any other devs consider bring their game to the platform and why should consumers support the platform by spending their own money on games? Stadia Games & Entertainment could and should have been the beacon of light, the true boundary pushing games that showcase what’s possible on the platform, just like the Nexus program did for Android and the Chromebook Pixel did for Chrome OS.
Even more concerning for me as a long term Google fan is the damage that these type of closures have not only on Stadia, but as Google as a whole. In the early 2010’s Google product announcements were filled with excitement, now a decade later they’re more often than not filled with questions about how long they’ll last, as consumer trust has been eroded over years of discontinued products/closed services, and this is a real shame.
As a huge fan of Google Glass, the original Chromebook Pixel, Nexus tablets, Inbox, Google Play Music, YouTube Gaming and Hangouts, I’m way too familiar with this feeling of Google not being able to commit to things that aren’t an overnight success. Now as a consumer, I’m questioning how long we have until Google begin to wind down Nest (they have already discontinued Nest Secure), how long until the Google Home/Nest Audio/Hub is no longer a focus for the company?