After fourteen months, Google decided it shouldn’t a game company no more. Where there was once its own cloud-based console, its own controller and the promise of local triple-A games, it no longer wants to build its own games From today.
Although a Google spokesperson insists that the company continues to be “committed to Stadia as a platform,” it is becoming increasingly likely that the platform is not a service that you sign into Google to buy and rent cloud games.
Stadia CEO Phil Harrison announced that Google closed the company’s game studios in a memo today, and I think the exact wording of that memo is extremely informative. Read it for yourself. I’ll wait.
Back? Good. Did you see the part about how Stadia is now a platform for Google’s partners? It’s pretty hard to miss: Harrison is no less than addressing it five times in four paragraphs. With the exception of the last paragraph, “partners” – not players – come first.
This suggests that Google has recognized an important truth: Stadia, like so many other Google companies, is ideally one where you are not the customer. The paying customers, if Google can get them, are game makers themselves and possibly ISPs who want to deliver a cable-like game package along with their cable-like show packages.
Today Harrison defines Stadia as a “technology platform for industrial partners” – which suggests that he is talking about turning Stadia into a white label cloud gaming service.
If you’ve followed the cloud gaming realm, you know that white labeling isn’t a new idea – this is how cloud gaming platforms worked from the start. The pitch for OG Game Streaming Service Gaikai, Years before Sony put it in the shape of PlayStation Nowwas to sell companies like Electronic Arts on hosting racks with dedicated servers that would broadcast free, out-of-the-box demos of their games from the cloud.
(Phil Harrison knows this; he was on Gaikai’s advisory board. Jack Buser, Stadia’s director of business development, ran Sony’s PlayStation Now.)
Nvidia sold what it called “GeForce Grid” servers to do the same, some of which ended up being marked white by companies like Ubitus Stream Assassin’s Creed games to the Nintendo Switch and Final Fantasy games for iPhones and Chromecastsincluding screens. Several cellular operators in Asia currently offer versions with white markings from GeForce Now too.
There is nothing wrong with white labeling per se. Done right, it can even unlock one of the most magical things about cloud gaming: the ability to try a game right away, no matter where you are. While companies like Google already claim that games are “immediately available”, they mean “after you sign up, sign up and sometimes buy a game”. This is partly due to the complex network of licensing agreements that cloud services game makers have to sign. But if game makers were responsible for their own games, they might feel different. Again, they could give you Gaikai-like instant access game demos where you could tap a YouTube ad for a game and indeed start playing without friction.
However, moving to a white labeling model would likely spell the end of one of Stadia’s greatest advantages over other cloud streaming platforms. Stadia promised that at some point you would be able to use the full power of several Cloud servers offer gameplay and graphics never possible with a single game system in your home. However, it is incredibly unlikely that Activision Blizzard or Electronic Arts would develop a game that would require multiple Stadia servers for a service marked in white – the risk of being banned would simply be too high.
It’s a bloody shame we’ll never see the “cloud only” game concepts that could have made Stadia exciting for people who already own / plan to buy game consoles and PCs. https://t.co/urmgKJVE9f
– Dan Stapleton (@DanStapleton) February 1, 2021
I’ve interviewed a number of leading cloud gamers, but Google was the first to give more than a reference to this type of multi-server platform – it actually promised to develop these games. poach former leads Behind Assassin’s Creed and God of War Franchise company To make it possible. Google had an incentive to do the same, as it needed killer apps to sell you with a Stadia subscription, but other publishers already have a huge install base of partner consoles waiting for the games they create.
Exclusive cloud-first games were One of the things that sets Google apart from Amazon Luna, Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Sony’s PlayStation Now and the rest. Well, not so much. Google still has the best streaming quality and impressive latency to lure partners in, but it requires them to port games to Linux now.
Today’s message, if I read it correctly, is an olive branch for those game makers who were previously not really committed to Stadia. “Come partner with us; We no longer intend to compete with you. “At the same time, it is diplomatically formulated not to upset existing Stadia players. Potential partners do not want to be bound by a public failure – this is what Stadia could look like if Google shut down the game service now.
But ask yourself: Given Google’s track record Eliminate niche projectsHow much longer do you think Google will continue to offer and promote a cloud gaming service for consumers, and the current interest in Stadia (versus next-gen consoles)?
Google has never released Stadia sales or subscriber numbers so we can’t say for sure how many people have ever seriously tried, but I wonder if today’s announcement tells us everything we need to know. Google just started Cyberpunk 2077 – the hottest game of the year – on stadiums and we called Cyberpunk 2077 A moment when it comes to service. Cyberpunk Anything was possible in Stadia, including solid performance at a time when next-gen consoles and GPUs were nowhere to be found and last generation consoles struggled to play the game at all, Plus one free hardware kit when you bought the game. Checked Google Cyberpunk’s Selling, grimacing and wondering if a future game made by Google could be better?
Harrison’s blog post is partially titled “Focusing on the Future of Stadia as a Platform”. That is exactly what Google seems to be doing. Consumers trying to decide where to buy their next game may also want to focus on the future of Stadia as a platform.