Google unveiled Stadia in March 2019 to great fanfare, and with a promise to revolutionize gaming. Streamed gaming was hardly a new idea at the time, but Google had the money and the muscle to make it happen, not to mention a first-party game studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment, headed up by Ubisoft and EA veteran Jade Raymond.
Less than two years later, though, that plan to build first-party Stadia games fell apart: Google closed its internal studios before they'd managed to release a game, and Raymond left the company as a result. Stadia will continue to operate as a platform with the same free and subscription-based plans as always, but Google "will not be investing further" in internal game development, Stadia boss Phil Harrison said.
A new Wired report looking into the failure of Stadia's internal studios suggests that the outcome was almost inevitable, due largely to a lack of experience and understanding at Google of the differences between developing technology and developing games.
"Google is really an engineering and technology business," a Stadia source told the site. "Making content—it requires types of roles that don't typically exist at Google."
From our perspective, Stadia was in a decidedly underwhelming state at launch, and sources told the Wired that there were serious internal issues, too. Developers were directed to focus on showcasing Stadia technology rather than the games themselves, and a hiring freeze was implemented in April 2020 before the then-new Stadia studio in California was even fully staffed, which one source said developers took "as a lack of commitment from Google to make content." Over time, some aspects of the process improved, like access to development tools and performance reviews that were more game-oriented, but headcounts never grew beyond that point.
Despite those obstacles, Harrison said in late January that Stadia Games and Entertainment had made "great progress building a diverse and talented team and establishing a strong line up of Stadia exclusive games." But, as reported earlier this month, it pulled the plug on the whole thing just five days later.
The report notes that Google's Stadia experience is in many ways similar to that of Amazon, another company that has failed to make a dent in the videogame business despite having virtually unlimited resources to throw at it. Two sources said Google would have been better off emulating the Microsoft approach: Buy studios, give them money, and leave them alone.
"I saw that the only way this could work is if Google accepts that we take it step-by-step," one said. "If Google is really interested in carving its place in this market, then it would be fine with losing money at the beginning to establish their presence."
The full report into the demise of Stadia Games and Entertainment goes into considerably more detail on the matter—you can read it at Wired.