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Stadia’s internal closure bets on industry shift to Cloud gaming

14 months after Stadia’s high-profile launch, Google is closing the company’s internal game development studio. Its once exclusive Cloud technology is now open to potential suitors.

It’s taken Google 14 months to realise it doesn’t want to be a game making company anymore.

Grandiose ambitions first revealed at the Game Developers Conference 2019 have never come close to fruition for Google’s Stadia. It originally teased its own Cloud-based console, a controller, and the promise of homegrown triple-A games on a huge scale, but a lukewarm reception and dwindling user base has seen it struggle to compete with industry leaders.

Execs have now finally conceded to biting off more than they could chew with all those initial promises, announcing that Google will no longer be making first-party titles and will instead prioritise solely on the platform’s streaming capabilities.

Google is keen to lend its expertise to any potential suitors in exchange for a slice of their profits moving forward, and we’re likely to see its technology implemented into more popular platforms like PlayStation or Xbox in the future.

If you’re not familiar with what Stadia actually is, you’re definitely not alone. Google created what it hoped would become the Netflix lookalike of gaming platforms. Through the magic of the Cloud – and minimal hardware – Google stated it would open up an endless catalogue of games to be played across any device with a decent internet connection.

To put it frankly, most of that never materialised. With poor sales and tepid buzz months into its launch, the platform was beset by technical glitches, a lack of content, and ridiculous prices. Those who had forked out for the blurb were left with what seemed like a beta or early access project.

Honestly, it’s a wonder Stadia persisted with its internal studio for so long, but finally Google is willing to fully open its streaming technology to third-party partners and ditch the idea of being an alternative to the big players.

A step back for Stadia

‘Creating best-in-class games from the ground up takes many years and significant investment, and the cost is going up exponentially,’ explained Stadia general manager Phil Harrison in a statement.

‘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.’

This means that Stadia will be without its own big-ticket titles to draw crowds, but the company will still continue under the new guise of a white-label Cloud service. Essentially, gamers are no longer the main focus and Google will instead be appealing directly to publishers interested in remote gaming or building Cloud subscription services.

Harrison describes Stadia’s future as being a ‘technology platform for industry partners.’ It stands to reason that Stadia’s transition may just quicken up an inevitable industry shift towards Cloud gaming.


How the industry stands to benefit

The prevailing message throughout Harrison’s statement is that Google no longer wishes to compete with gaming giants like Sony and Microsoft, but is extending an olive branch to offer up Stadia’s streaming tech as a package.

Given that Stadia has just axed its internal studios, you have to question whether industry big guns will be keen to attach themselves to a ‘sinking ship.’ But whether or not Stadia flopped in its execution, there’s no doubting that Google is currently presiding over some of the best and most promising Cloud technology in existence – now open to anyone willing to become a partner.

Unbridled accessibility is ultimately the dream for publishers and gamers alike, and though console based gaming will remain king for the foreseeable future, the continued growth of the industry will soon demand that we look towards Cloud services and away from hardware.

Firm on becoming ‘a long-term sustainable business that helps to grow the industry,’ Stadia may provide the means to ensure that publishers are in decent shape when that day comes.


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