Struggles of Stadia’s Gaming Division

A brief summary outlining the issues Google faced

Google’s Stadia was launched in November 19, 2019. Its intent was to break the console-dominated industry, both with a new cloud based server featuring a giant library of games and an in-house game studio (Stadia Games and Entertainment) to develop original titles. Google had approached third-party studios with open cheque books, such as Ubisoft and Rockstar Games to release titles on the service. At launch, the aforementioned studios would release Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption II respectively.

Both Wired and Bloomberg reveal that despite these titles, users were expecting a full catalogue that mixed new with classic games. Instead Stadia released to a ‘Beta’ quality lineup, with fewer than 30 titles. When the game lineup grew, most were older titles that were readily available on consoles or PC. Jason Schreier (of Bloomberg) notes that users also had to pay expensive prices for an individual title, rather than getting a Netflix-type deal whereby all titles were free as part of the paid subscription.

Critics noted Stadia’s biggest flaw was the lack of in-house developed titles. With billions behind the Google machine, there were expectations that Google would allow its developers to tap into their resources and deliver original games. Schreier writes that video game consoles live and die by their platform. Wired reported sources close to Stadia that ‘Google wasn’t funding games to sell games; it was funding games to sell Stadia’. The investment into its internal studios, according to Wired, suggests it was lower than what the hype had implied.

Ultimately, Google had treated its gaming division as a commodity industry rather than a creative one. It soon realised the difficulties of game development, and how it differs to the tech giant’s other software products. Google installed their own development process that suited their software products into its game studios in order to create synergy across the corporate structure. It failed to realise games required creative vision, which can span years of development to complete, instead chased quick return quarterly profits. A tech giant who has succeeded in gaming, Microsoft, understood to separate its Xbox gaming division from other corporate sectors and tailor it to its own particularities and needs.

Both reports indicate that the studio constantly missed targets and did not meet sales expectations for 2020. On February 1 2021, Google announced it was closing its gaming division, but will continue to support Stadia.