Google to shut down game development studios as tech giants struggle to break into gaming

(Stadium images)

Google and Amazon both have enough tools and resources that they would need to claim the market. The problem is, the two of them seem to just want to win by showing up, and that’s not something you can do in video games.

It’s been a tough few days for the gaming arms of tech giants, who are suffering setbacks in their attempts to break into the industry.

Bloomberg took a look at the internal culture of Amazon Game Studios last week. The goal was to explore why, in the words of Amazon employees, Amazon’s game development efforts have failed. Eight years later, with billions of dollars spent, Amazon has little to show for its efforts, and the answer seems to boil down to mismanagement at the executive level.

A few days later on Monday morning, Google announced its sudden withdrawal from the game development business.

Despite a high-profile launch and the hiring of a wide range of industry talent for his Stadia project, Google’s Phil Harrison today wrote that the company would stop investing in proprietary content and shut down its two studios. internal development. The reasons for the decision, according to Harrison, include the high capital costs and the time requirement to “make the best games from scratch.”

Stadia was the first strictly cloud-based gaming service to hit the market. As a subscription service, offered with a bespoke gamepad, Stadia could be used with a web browser or Chromecast device to allow gamers to run high definition video games directly from Google’s cloud servers. . On paper, any device with a strong internet connection and a screen could be used to play the latest games at the highest settings.

What held Stadia back, however, was that it initially shipped without all of its promised features, such as YouTube integration, and a pricing plan where players bought their games individually at or near retail price. Full-service subscribers, Stadia Pro, would get free games every month as well as access to a variety of flash sales. This was controversial when the service launched – no one is really keen on paying to ‘own’ a product that only lasts as long as Google chooses to support it – and competing services have gotten away with it. party, like Amazon’s Luna and Microsoft’s Project. xCloud.

Going forward, Google’s plans for Stadia appear to treat it only as a publishing platform. “In 2021, we’re expanding our efforts to help game developers and publishers take advantage of our platform’s technology and deliver games directly to their players,” Harrison wrote. “We see a significant opportunity to work with partners in the search for a gaming solution that is fully based on the advanced technical infrastructure and platform tools from Stadia. “

Stadia Games & Entertainment (SG&E) had an unknown number of projects in development. While a few of those closest to completion could still make their Stadia debuts, rumor has it that anything that fell outside of a potential 2021 release window has been unceremoniously canceled.

SG&E’s two studios were located in Los Angeles and Montreal. The Montreal studio is the result of Google’s acquisition of a newly founded independent developer, Typhoon, at the end of 2019; Typhoon’s only game before the merger with Google was the highly regarded independent “Metroidvania” Journey to the wild planet. In an unfortunate coincidence, Journey actually previewed on Stadia today.

Overall, the closure of SG&E would affect approximately 150 employees. As part of the announcement, Harrison said “most” of this team will move to new internal roles within Google and be supported by the company in the process.

One of Stadia’s most prominent developers, however, is quitting Google altogether. Jade Raymond, who rose to fame in the industry in the 2000s as the producer of the first two games of Ubisoft’s mega-popular Assassin’s Creed franchise, joined Google in early 2019 as head of Stadia’s Games and Entertainment department. Harrison noted in his blog post that Raymond has left to “pursue other opportunities” following the impending closure of SG&E.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the writing is on the wall for Stadia itself, but it’s hard not to think of the infamous “Google Graveyard”. The company had made a lot of big moves in the run-up to Stadia’s official release, including hiring big names like Raymond. Harrison himself is a well-known face in the industry, as a former member of Sony’s PlayStation team and Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment department.

With this kind of in-game experience, one would have expected Google to realize that if it were ever to create “top-notch games” for the Stadia, it would cost money and take more time. two years before I started to see results. Unless there were some significant internal issues that Google did not disclose, ending development efforts so quickly is like giving up a football game after the first quarter. In conjunction with the generally unfinished state of Stadia’s launch at the end of 2019, it portrays an image of Google not doing, or choosing not to do, what it would actually need to do to be competitive in the world. modern games industry.

It’s not necessarily the end of the road for Stadia, however. Harrison is still leading the project at Google, and Stadia is expected to continue to exist for the time being, now specifically as a third-party game publisher. For current Stadia and Stadia Pro consumers, it’s business as usual.

“We are committed to the future of cloud gaming and will continue to do our part to move this industry forward,” Harrison wrote. “Our goal remains focused on creating the best possible platform for gamers and the best technology for our partners, bringing these experiences to life for people around the world. “

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