Google Stadia, the tech giant’s video game streaming platform which launched in 2019, is shutting down its internal game development studios and refocusing on offering its tech platform to third-party publishers, the company announced Monday.
As first reported by Kotaku, Google will close its two Stadia Games & Entertainment studios located in Los Angeles and Montreal. The closure will impact approximately 150 employees, one source told Kotaku. Google says it will try to find new roles at the company for those impacted.
“With the recent successful launch of Cyberpunk 2077 on Stadia, gameplay on all types of devices, including iOS, growing our slate of YouTube integrations, and our global expansions, it’s clear that Stadia’s technology has been proven and works at scale,” Google’s vice president of Stadia and GM Phil Harrison said in a statement. “Having games streamed to any screen is the future of this industry, and we’ll continue to invest in Stadia and its underlying platform to provide the best cloud gaming experience for our partners and the gaming community. This has been the vision of Stadia since the beginning.”
Jade Raymond, the noted producer who helped bring Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise to life, is also departing from her role as head of game development at Google.
What does this mean for Stadia subscribers? Google states that players can still access their games on Stadia (or the $10-a-month Stadia Pro), and that third-party games will continue to release on the service. It’s unclear how many third-party games Google plans on hosting on Stadia.
A key pillar of Google’s new strategy is offering up Stadia’s game streaming technology to other interested companies. Google’s head of Stadia operations, Phil Harrison, will lead that initiative.
Google Stadia launched with some serious hype, but a rocky start plagued by technical issues and a thin library of games proved to be the service’s downfall. Ironically, Cyberpunk 2077’s Stadia version proved to be one of the more reliable platforms to play the notoriously buggy open-world RPG on.
Google also undercut its own Stadia Pro subscription plan by eventually offering a free version of the service in April 2020. Though Google gradually chipped away at its list of missing features and conveniences, its distinct lack of first-party games proved to remain a concern. In IGN’s own review, we saw absolutely no reason to subscribe to Stadia Pro while the free service remained equally viable. Stadia also saw stiff competition from Microsoft’s XCloud service, which similarly streamed a wide variety of games to almost any device provided the internet connection was strong enough. A common concern among Stadia skeptics was whether or not Google would invest long enough in the service for it to realize its potential, a fear that seems justified now.
Despite Google’s seemingly immense influence on the world of technology, the company appeared to lack the resources or ship any major game. One source familiar with Stadia’s first-party work told Kotaku: “Google was a terrible place to make games. Imagine Amazon, but under-resourced.”
Joseph Knoop is a writer/producer for IGN.