It was not even two years ago that Google announced their Stadia game streaming service in March of 2019 following about a year of collecting some of the best talent in the games industry to work at their new in-house studio dubbed Stadia Games & Entertainment or SG&E, which was headed by industry veteran Jade Raymond. Well that studio has now more or less been shuttered as today Google announced a refocus for their Stadia service and studio head Jade Raymond has been confirmed to have left the company to “pursue other opportunities." They describe the closing of SG&E as a “winding down" and while they won’t be investing further into the studio creating original content for Stadia there still may be some releases of “near-term planned games" that were already in the works.
As for the new focus of Stadia, Google says that since the launch of the service in November of 2019 their technology has been proven at scale to be able to deliver games to players instantly through the cloud, and that “Having games streamed to any screen is the future of this industry." So rather than continue investing into the very expensive and very volatile world of creating high-end gaming content, they’ll instead be focusing on investing in the Stadia platform itself and helping third party developers and publishers bring their content to Stadia.
Of course, Google has a history of shutting down their own services, even when some of those services seem to be really popular and/or profitable. The dark cloud hanging over Stadia since its launch has always been “Yeah it seems cool, but Google could pull the rug out at any moment, and I’m not comfortable investing in something that might just vanish into thin air." It’s a fair argument, and many are signaling today’s news as the beginning of the end of Stadia that everyone knew was coming since the start. I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but I know that shuttering an internal studio full of talented people isn’t something you do when things are going great.
I’m not going to lie, I like Stadia and would love for it to succeed, but I’ve felt similarly about it myself. While I own a couple of games on Stadia and I’m really pleased with how well the service works on iOS, there’s just no way I’d invest heavily into buying or even re-buying games at typically full retail price on the Stadia store when they are tied explicitly to that service, and their Pro subscription offering just isn’t compelling enough for me to want to pay for it compared to stuff like Xbox Game Pass or even the Nvidia GeForce Now service where I can get a similar experience to Stadia but with games that I already own and don’t have to buy again.
I agree with Google that their Stadia tech is on point and very impressive, so hopefully this change in direction will lead them to finding somewhere useful to put all that tech to work in a more meaningful way than what we’ve seen from the Stadia service thus far. As for current Stadia customers, today’s news doesn’t change much, it just means that any planned original Stadia content won’t be coming out. Google says that “You can continue playing all your games on Stadia and Stadia Pro, and we’ll continue to bring new titles from third parties to the platform."