Stadia’s Sudden Shutdown Staff, Developers, and Bungie

A Stadia controller sinks into a black and white shot of the ocean as people flee on lifeboats.

Photo: Hulton/Stringer/Kotaku Archive (Getty Images)

Few people thought that Google’s struggling streaming service Stadia could one day become a dominant player in the gaming industry, but hardly anyone expected it. stop so abruptly, including the company’s own employees. Stadia VP Phil Harrison, quickly becoming the reaper for new gaming initiatives, informed staff of the news around the same time everyone was learning about it from a public blog post. The work they had been doing up to that point suddenly became useless, while developers in the process of porting their games to Stadia still have no idea what’s next.

tangle tower was supposed to launch on Stadia in 2 days, and this post is the first I’ve heard of it being shut down,” Tom Vian, half of Cutting pliers SFB Games studio, tweeted yesterday. Other developers felt the same way. “We have a title coming out November 1,” Rebecca Heineman replied. “Now we hear about it.”

Studios have partner managers at Stadia to help with the game porting process, certification, and any other issues that may arise during the collaboration. Many had spoken to their counterparts as recently as this week and there was no indication that anything was wrong. “We had signed a deal and had been working on a Stadia/Stadia Pro release for arctic awakening in 2023,” said James Simpson, founder of GoldFire Studios Kotaku. “We have just had communication with [our partner manager] earlier in the week going through the next steps, so there was no indication that anything was changing.

Publisher No More Robots was in a similar situation. “We have a game over there called Steering simulator which was scheduled to release from Early Access in 2023, so our recent development for it on Stadia has obviously been unnecessary,” spokesperson Mike Rose wrote in an email. “We also had to launch soccer history on Stadia in November, which contains money that we are supposed to receive. We may still see this, but given that we literally can’t go out on Stadia anymore, I’m not holding my breath!”

One of the reasons developers likely didn’t receive any indication that they needed to stop working on Stadia projects was that even many Stadia employees had no idea what was to come. Shortly after yesterday’s public announcement, someone claiming to be a Google employee shared a screenshot on Reddit of an invitation to a meeting of Harrison. “We will have a Stadia team meeting today, September 29 at 8:30 am PT to share important updates with everyone,” he began. The big update happened to be that Google was killing off Stadia early next year, according to two current employees who wish to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press about company business.

“It’s a strange experience to start your working day and realize that the feature you’ve been working on for over 6 months and launching soon is no longer relevant,” Google engineer Peter Elst tweeted today. “If nothing else, it puts things in perspective, up and up.”

The abrupt and sloppy nature of the decision’s rollout is reminiscent of how Google shuttered its first-party Stadia game studios in early 2021. design phase to production. . The next day, he was shutting down and blaming Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda in part, Kotaku reported at the time.

Stadia VP tries to sell the world on Stadia during its GDC 2019 reveal.

Photo: justin sullivan (Getty Images)

This time around, the move appears to be part of Google’s company-wide belt-tightening amid a massive downturn in the tech world’s financial fortunes. Hiring and contracts were frozen earlier this year, and last week CEO Sundar Pichai tell the staff not to “equate pleasure with money”, as he defended cutting certain employee benefits despite billions in profits.

One of the victims of this new attitude has been the Pixelbook laptop, which The edge reported was supposed to continue just a few months ago. Now, Google’s ambitious foray into gaming appears to be another. “We knew Stadia was on the cutting board, but I guess we still had hope that it was so much of an investment that it was cheaper to maintain it, even without new games, than to kill it” , said a current employee. Kotaku.

Now, even some of the company’s biggest partners in gaming are scrambling to figure out what to do next. Destiny 2 has been one of Stadia’s first big hits, with Bungie making a big push to bring streaming gamers into the fold of its sprawling space MMO. Even the famous Halo However, the creator was apparently unprepared for the news. “We just learned of Stadia’s shutdown and have begun discussions about next steps for our players,” Bungie said. job on his support forum yesterday. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Some of the studio’s own developers have also taken to Twitter to talk about how useful the burgeoning streaming platform is in keeping the game continually updated, especially during covid. “It’s funny, most people think of Stadia as that gadget that nobody cared about,” tweeted activity designer Max Nichols. “But hundreds of us use it every day at Bungie as part of our internal game testing workflow.”

Destiny 2 and other games on Stadia will continue to be playable until the end date of January 18, 2023. Since yesterdaythere was more simultaneity Fate players on Stadia than Infinite Halo players on Steam. But not all games seamlessly transfer player save data from one platform to another, like Bungie’s MMO. Red Dead Redemption 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 gamers have already started begging the creators of these games, Rockstar and CD Projekt Red, to help them transfer their save files to PC or console. Both games were a key selling point for Stadia, and Bloomberg Previously reported that Google has shelled out tens of millions to secure these and other big blockbusters, the purchases of which it will now refund to all players.

The only people who don’t know if they’ll get their money are the developers who were still in the process of bringing their games to Stadia. The company had paid studios, especially independent manufacturers, to bring their releases to the platform. Some of the contracts were not ready to be paid before the actual launch of the games.

“To be honest, based on Google’s track record, we had moved pretty cautiously and luckily we hadn’t invested too much in the port other than wasting time planning how it would work against Steam or consoles, in working on integration tests and so on,” Simpson told Kotaku. “I guess that’s why they had trouble onboarding developers. It’s hard to fully commit to them if they don’t fully commit to us.

“We were literally preparing the version of the version to be submitted this week! Rose said. “So yeah, obviously pretty pissed off. We’ll see if someone from Google contacts us, but I have my doubts!”

Back when Stadia was first unveiled at GDC 2019, Kotaku Harrison asked if it was just another ambitious Google project that would be abandoned after a few years. “I understand the concern,” he said at the time. “But I think all you have to do is look at the level of investment we’ve made and continue to make in Stadia. This is by no means a trivial project. This is an effort very, very important business-to-business that not only involves my team but also YouTube, it’s all of our technical infrastructure and our network team, and that’s thousands of people who work in this business.

With Stadia shut down, it’s unclear what Harrison’s future at Google will be. An employee said Kotaku they hope that if he goes, he won’t be the only one to leave. “I don’t want to stay under the same management,” they said. “I think they have to be responsible for their mistakes.”

Google did not respond to a request for comment.