Come January, Google will be shutting down its Stadia cloud gaming service. In some ways, the move isn’t much of a surprise — as my colleagues have pointed out, there’s been doubt about whether Google was in it for the long haul with Stadia basically ever since it was announced in March 2019.
If you’ve been listening to what the company said about the service, though, you’d be forgiven for being blindsided. Up until the very end, Google insisted there’s a wonderful future for Stadia, and that players should keep signing up for and using the service, despite rumors that it was about to go bust. Now that Stadia’s officially being shut down, let’s take a look at the times Google promised us this wouldn’t happen.
October 2019 — “It is a long term view that Google is taking”
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Jade Raymond, who at the time was Google’s head of Stadia Games & Entertainment, said that the company was taking “a long term view” with Stadia, noting that it could take several years to come up with “a huge new IP that’s going to fully leverage the cloud.” She did, however, promise that “it won’t be four years before gamers get to see the new exclusive, exciting content. There will be some coming out every year, and more and more each year.”
Surely, if the company was willing to admit this, that meant it understood that getting cloud gaming off the ground would be a long-term commitment, right? Spoiler: Raymond would leave Google just over a year later when it shut down Stadia Games & Entertainment
Other studios working with Google seemed to believe the company was in it for the long haul. Gwen Frey, the developer of Google Stadia launch title Kine, told GamesIndustry.biz in November: “I don’t even think they want to have a super-strong launch. I get the sense that they want to scale slowly and see where this goes.”
Frey did, however, talk about how others in the industry were worried about Stadia going away. “The biggest complaint most developers have with Stadia is the fear is Google is just going to cancel it,” she said. She didn’t really seem to share that concern, though; “working in tech, you have to be willing to make bold moves and try things that could fail,” she said. “It’s not like Google cancels every fucking thing they make.”
November 2020 — Aiming its sights at 2023
In an interview with MobileSyrup, Stadia’s former director of games Jack Buser (you might sense a pattern here) said that Google had a “roadmap of about 400 games in development right now from 200 developers.” When talking about how the company was planning its release schedule, he said: “we’re thinking about 2022 right now — that’s our focus. 2023 is really kind of where we’re aiming our sights.”
He then continued to say that Google was “unequivocally” in it for the long haul, and that it was looking “many years out into the future.” Honestly, I recommend taking a few minutes to just go read the entire interview. It’s interesting but a little sad in retrospect.
February 2021 — “this is the best path to building Stadia into a long-term, sustainable business”
Things were looking pretty grim for Stadia as a cloud gaming service in early 2021; Google had just shut down its in-house game studios, and its announcement really made it seem like Google was going to focus on Stadia as a white-label service for companies, rather than trying to make it better for gamers.
Despite that, the company insisted that it would “remain committed to Stadia as a platform.” Writing about the shutdown, Stadia general manager Phil Harrison said: “we believe this is the best path to building Stadia into a long-term, sustainable business that helps grow the industry.”
July 2021 — “A limited time incentive program”
In a bid to attract developers, Google adjusted the cut it took from sales on games launched on Stadia through the end of 2023. Now, there almost certainly won’t be a single game launching on the service in 2023.
September 2021 — “gaming is an incredibly important vertical at Google.”
After Stadia lost games industry veteran Jade Raymond with the shuttering of Stadia Games and Entertainment, another experienced executive was seemingly moved off the project. Jack Buser, Stadia’s Director for Games, moved to become Google Cloud’s head of Gaming Solutions.
The company’s statement treated this as a good thing for Stadia: “Jack’s new role will allow us to better bring customers the best of Google across our Cloud services, Stadia, YouTube, and more,” it said, not forgetting to mention that “gaming is an incredibly important vertical at Google.”
November 2021 — “a bright future for cloud gaming”
As Stadia turned two, Google made it even less expensive to join the service. The company seemingly wanted to avoid the perception that it was a fire sale, though, so although it didn’t have a roadmap for Stadia’s future, it did say that it was “eager to continue working on bringing the best games and new features to our community of players so that we can help build a bright future for cloud gaming.” It also promised to continue adding experimental features, and to expand the types of games that were on the service.
February 2022 — seven months before the shutdown announcement
After a Business Insider report that Stadia had been demoted inside Google and that most of the work had moved towards white-labeling, Google spokesperson Patrick Seybold told The Verge: “While we won’t be commenting on any rumors or speculation regarding other industry partners, we are still focused on bringing great games to Stadia in 2022. With 200+ titles currently available, we expect to have another 100+ games added to the platform this year, and currently have 50 games available to claim in Stadia Pro.”
The Stadia Twitter account also said that “the Stadia team is working really hard on a great future for Stadia and cloud gaming” and promised, “more feature goodness coming to Stadia too - stuff we can’t talk about just yet.”
March 2022 - “2022 and beyond”
At its Google for Games Developer Summit, the company announced several new features for Stadia and thanked partners and players for their “ongoing support.” One of the features was “click-to-play trials,” which were basically instant demos. The company said it was coming to all Stadia titles in “2022 and beyond.”
To be fair, January 2023 is technically beyond 2022.
July 2022 — two months before the announcement
After the popular (and now suspended) KilledByGoogle account tweeted that Google was “beginning their exit plan” for Stadia and planning on shutting it down “by the end of summer,” Google spokesperson Justin Rende told The Verge that “This rumor is false.” (Emphasis his.) We were also told to “expect more news from Stadia in the coming weeks and months.”
The Stadia Twitter account also posted a tweet making fun of the KilledByGoogle one and told concerned fans that “Stadia is not shutting down.”
September 26th, 2022 — three days before the announcement
Stadia tweeted about a new game “coming soon to Stadia.” I doubt that.