Just 14 months after Stadia's high-profile launch, Google is embarking on a major rethink of its streaming service strategy, which will see it close down all internal game development and begin providing its tech to third-party publishers.
Stadia general manager Phil Harrison confirmed the closure of the company's two internal game studios, based in Montreal and Los Angeles, in a new blog post, signalling an end to its console-like ambitions of creating flagship Stadia-exclusive titles to drive adoption of the platform.
"Creating best-in-class games from the ground up takes many years and significant investment, and the cost is going up exponentially," explained Harrison of the decision. "Given our focus on building on the proven technology of Stadia as well as deepening our business partnerships, we've decided that we will not be investing further in bringing exclusive content from our internal development team SG&E, beyond any near-term planned games."
Google says "most" developers affected by the studio closures will be given new roles in the company (Kotaku reports around 150 jobs will likely be impacted), but says Jade Raymond - who joined as head of Stadia Games & Entertainment following her departure from EA's Montreal-based Motive studio in 2018 - "has decided to leave Google to pursue other opportunities".
Despite these changes, Stadia's game streaming service will continue to operate, albeit without its own big ticket titles to draw in the crowds. Additionally, Google is planning to shop its Stadia tech around for use by other video game companies looking to offer their own streaming platforms. "We believe this is the best path to building Stadia into a long-term, sustainable business that helps grow the industry," writes Harrison.
Stadia, of course, got off to a rocky start when it launched in November 2019, amid skepticism of its subscription-based business model, missing features, and accusations of broken early promises. And while the arrival of its basic free tier last April seemed like it might improve the streaming service's fortunes, it soon faced stiff competition from Microsoft and Amazon.
Whether Google's strategic refocussing will be enough to assure Stadia's continued existence in the long term remains to be seen.