from the exit-stadia-left dept
The troubling signs for Google’s video game streaming platform Stadia continue. While I have to admit that I had really high hopes for Stadia, nothing about this has been smooth from launch to its current state of, well, who the hell knows what is going to happen to it. From a poor initial reception to questions about failed promises on performance, the conversation about Stadia quickly focused on the platform not offering much in the way of an actual game catalogue to play. Less than a year later, Google made this problem even worse by disbanding its own in-house game developers, leading to more fallout when Stadia could suddenly not support its own internally developed game.
And, as I mentioned above, the issues continue. Stadia’s product head, John Justice, has left Google entirely.
Another executive has left Google Stadia, and this time it’s John Justice, vice president and product head of Stadia at Google. Along with Phil Harrison, Justice was the face of the project, frequently giving interviews and talking to the press. Justice hasn’t updated his LinkedIn profile yet, but following a report from The Information, Google told 9to5Google, “We can confirm John is no longer with Google, and we wish him well on his next step.”
This latest departure is just another sign that Google’s game-streaming service is circling the drain. A Bloomberg report from February revealed that the service missed Google’s internal sales estimates by “hundreds of thousands” of users. Shortly before the release of that report, Google shut down its in-house game studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment, after less than two years of operation, citing the high cost of operating it. This move led to Stadia’s other high-profile departure, the exit of Assassin’s Creed co-creator Jade Raymond.
On some levels, this all feels a bit silly. Google has enormous resources from which to draw and game streaming is certainly going to become a massive force in the future of the gaming industry. It appears to certainly be the case that Google flubbed the Stadia launch and let that flub linger. But there is zero reason why Google should let this “circle the drain” if that is in fact what they’re doing. Instead, it would be nice if, for once, Google did the un-Google thing and bulwarked a project like this with more resources, seeing it to fruition.
And, to be fair to Google, perhaps they do have a coherent plan for Stadia. They lightly hinted as much in a blog post recently.
After shutting down its game studio, Google seemed to hint at a change of strategy for Stadia. Google’s blog post said the company is looking for a “path to building Stadia into a long-term, sustainable business that helps grow the industry,” which indicates that the current strategy of selling games to customers was not a “sustainable business.” The post highlighted Google’s “platform technology” that could help studios deliver games “directly” from publishers (as opposed to through the Stadia store?) and that Google saw this as “an important opportunity to work with partners seeking a gaming solution all built on Stadia’s advanced technical infrastructure and platform tools.”
If I’m reading that word salad correctly, this is hinting that Stadia might be less the gaming industry’s version of Netflix and more about building a platform that works with game developers so that they can offer cloud-gaming experiences directly to customers. Perhaps that’s the right way to go, though I still can’t see why a service like Stadia, were it actually running properly and populated with a good catalogue of games, can’t work.
In fact, it seems somewhat obvious that that’s the future, though it may not be a future run by Google.