Two new reports from Bloomberg and Wired have shed light on some of Google’s failures in building its Stadia cloud gaming service. The reports come just a few weeks after Google announced it would be shutting down its in-house Stadia game development studios.
One key issue, according to Wired, is that Google may not have put as much investment in its internal studios as its much-hyped plans for Stadia may have suggested. Stadia chief Phil Harrison announced Google’s Stadia Games and Entertainment studios at the Game Developers Conference in 2019, when Google made its first big splash with Stadia. However, according to Wired, “it would be months until Google would actually hire the bulk of” the studio’s developers. Google’s goal was to hire 2,000 people over the course of five years to make Stadia games, Wired reported.
When Stadia first launched, my colleague Sean Hollister said it was “still just a beta” right in the headline. And apparently, Stadia developers agreed: “Stadia employees shared the concern that the technology felt like a beta at launch,” according to Wired. Although Stadia worked — in that it could stream games from the cloud to a PC or phone — it was still missing many features that were shown off in its pre-launch marketing.
Two sources also told Wired that Stadia “did not meet internal expectations in 2020.” That’s backed up by Bloomberg, which reported Google missed Stadia targets for “sales of controllers and monthly active users by hundreds of thousands.”
If you’ve been following Stadia, that may not be all that surprising — my colleague Tom Warren found Stadia to be a lonely place back in May — but it seems even promotions for free Stadia Premiere kits weren’t enough to help Google meet its goals for Stadia.
Google also attempted to attract users to Stadia by making deals with publishers for ports of tentpole games like Red Dead Redemption 2 in the tens of millions of dollars, reports Bloomberg. And according to Jason Schreier, the author of the Bloomberg story, Google apparently spent tens of millions per port.
Just to reiterate the absurdity of this thing: Sources say Google spent tens of millions of dollars — the budgets of some major games — PER Stadia port.
Publishers like Ubisoft and Take-Two were raking it in
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) February 26, 2021
I highly encourage you to read both Wired and Bloomberg’s reports about Stadia’s struggles. For now, Stadia will continue to exist as a platform, even though Google won’t be making games for it.
In a blog about the studio closures, Harrison also said that Google has an “increased focus on using our technology platform for industry partners,” which could suggest that Google may offer Stadia as a white-label cloud gaming service to other companies. But with studio closures and these two reports, it’s hard not to feel that the writing’s on the wall for Google Stadia.