Sudden shutdown of Stadia Blind staff, developers and Bungie

The Stadia controller dives into a black and white photo of the ocean as people run in lifeboats.

A photo: Halton Archive/Stringer/Kotaku (Getty Images)

Few thought that Google’s troubled streaming service, Stadia, could ever become the dominant player in the gaming industry, but almost no one expected it to. turned off so abruptlyincluding the company’s own employees. Quickly becoming the grim reaper of new gaming initiatives, Stadia VP Phil Harrison briefed staff on the news around the same time everyone else learned about it via a public blog post. The work they’ve been doing up to this point has suddenly become irrelevant, and developers porting their games to Stadia still don’t know what’s next.

Tangle Tower was supposed to launch on Stadia in 2 days, and this article was the first I heard about its closure.” — Tom Vian, half sniper clips studio SFB Games, tweeted yesterday. Other developers also felt left out. “We have a title that will be released on November 1st,” Rebecca Hyneman replied. “Now we hear about it.”

Studios have partner managers in Stadia who help with the process of transferring games, certifying them, and resolving any other issues that may arise during the cooperation. Many spoke to their colleagues as recently as this week and there was no hint that anything was wrong. “We have signed an agreement and have been working on a release on Stadia/Stadia Pro for Arctic awakening in 2023,” said GoldFire Studios founder James Simpson. Kotaku. “We just spoke with [our partner manager] the following steps were taken earlier this week, so there was no indication that anything had changed.”

Publisher No More Robots found itself in a similar situation. “We have a game called Robbery simulator which was due out of early access in 2023, so our recent development for Stadia was clearly pointless,” spokesman Mike Rose wrote in an email. “We also had to run History of football on Stadia in November, and it’s tied to the money we should get. We may still see it, but given that we literally can’t release on Stadia anymore, I’m not holding my breath!”

One of the reasons developers probably didn’t get instructed to stop working on Stadia projects was because even many Stadia employees had no idea what was in store for them. Shortly after yesterday’s public announcement, someone claiming to be a Google employee shared a screenshot on Reddit an invitation to a meeting from Harrison. “Today, September 29 at 8:30 AM PT, we’re having a Stadia team meeting to share some important updates with everyone,” the opening read. The big update is that Google will kill Stadia by early next year, according to two current employees who wished to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak to the press about the company’s business.

“It’s a weird experience when you start your work day and realize that a feature you’ve been working on for over 6 months and launching soon is no longer relevant,” Google engineer Peter Elst. tweeted Today. “At least it keeps things in perspective, forward and up.”

The sudden and casual nature of the solution’s rollout is reminiscent of how Google shut down its own Stadia game studios in early 2021. Harrison once praised the work of several teams that were waiting to take their projects from concept to production. . Next, he shut it all down and partly blamed the move on Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda. Kotaku reported at the time.

Stadia VP is trying to sell Stadia to the world at the GDC 2019 presentation.

A photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

This time, the decision appears to be part of a company-wide belt-tightening amid a massive downturn in the financial health of the tech world. Hiring and contracts were frozen earlier this year, and last week CEO Sundar Pichai told the staff not “equate fun with money” as he advocated cutting some employee benefits despite billions in profits.

One victim of this new attitude was the Pixelbook, which edge informed planned to continue a few months ago. Now, Google’s ambitious foray into gaming seems different. “We knew Stadia was on the cutting board, but I think we still had hopes that it was so much of an investment that it was cheaper to keep it alive, even without new games, than it was to kill it,” one current employee said. . Kotaku.

Now even some of the company’s biggest partners in the gaming world are trying to figure out what to do next. Destiny 2 was one of the first major Stadia players, and Bungie is making a big effort to bring streaming players into its sprawling space MMO. Even famous Halo However, the creator was clearly not ready for this news. “We’ve just learned of Stadia’s closure and have begun discussions about the next steps for our players.” — Bungie. published yesterday on the support forum. They did not respond to a request for comment.

Some of the studio’s in-house developers also took to Twitter to talk about how helpful the growing streaming platform has been in keeping the game up to date, especially during times of covid. “It’s funny how most of the world sees Stadia as a gimmick that no one thought of” tweeted event designer Max Nichols. “But hundreds of us use it every day at Bungie as part of our internal playtest workflow.”

Destiny 2 and other games on Stadia will continue to be available until the closing date of January 18, 2023. As of yesterdaythere were more concurrent Fate players on Stadia than Halo Infinite players on Steam. But not every game seamlessly transfers player save data from one platform to another like Bungie’s MMO. Red Dead Redemption 2 as well as Cyberpunk 2077 players have already started asking 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. Bloomberg previously reported that Google has shelled out tens of millions to secure these and other major blockbusters, purchases of which will now be refunded to all players.

The only people who aren’t sure if they’ll get their money are the developers who were still in the process of porting their games to Stadia. The company paid studios, especially indie producers, to put their releases on the platform. Some of the contracts were not to be paid until after the games were launched.

“Honestly, based on Google’s track record, we’ve been moving forward quite cautiously and thankfully haven’t invested too much into the port, other than wasted time planning how it will perform compared to Steam or consoles by working through integration tests. . and so on,” Simpson told Kotaku. “I guess that’s why they struggled to attract developers. It’s hard to be fully committed to them if they are not fully committed to us.”

“We were literally preparing a release build for shipping this week!” Rose said. “So yeah, obviously he got really pissed off. We’ll see if anyone from Google gets in touch with us, but I doubt it!”

Back when Stadia was first revealed at GDC 2019, Kotaku asked Harrison if it was just another ambitious Google project that would be abandoned in 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 have made and continue to make in Stadia. This is by no means a trivial project. It’s a very, very important cross-company effort that’s not just about my team, but all of YouTube, our entire technical infrastructure and networking team. It represents the thousands of people who work in this business.”

Now that Stadia is shutting down, it’s unclear what Harrison’s future at Google will be. One employee said Kotaku they hope that if he leaves, then not only he will leave. “I don’t want to stay under the same leadership,” they said. “I think they should be held accountable for their mistakes.”

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

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