Google has reportedly “deprioritised” its consumer-facing game streaming platform Stadia and now has a “reduced interest” in negotiating blockbuster titles for the service, having largely shifted its focus to selling the services’ underlying technology to third-parties.
Stadia’s misfortunes are well-documented; despite initial praise for the service’s streaming capabilities at launch in 2019, a slow, problematic roll-out meant Google failed to capitalise on initial consumer interest. The extent of Stadia’s failings started to became clear when the company announced it was closing its first-party game development studios less that 14 months after launch, with subsequent reports claiming the streaming platform was missing its targets for monthly active users by hundreds of thousands.
A new report by Business Insider has shed a little more light on Google’s early struggles with Stadia, citing sources claiming user retention was a “real problem”, while Google found it difficult to lure big-name developers to the platform – both due to it offering rates “so low that it wasn’t even part of the conversation” and as a result of increasing industry consolidation, with Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda said to have “scared the crap out of Google executives”.
Although Google continued to insist Stadia was “alive and well” as 2021 continued – and launched a variety of initiatives to bolster support for the service, including time-limited demos and revenue schemes for developers – a new report by Business Insider claims the company has now “deprioritised” the service internally and has diminishing interest in securing blockbuster third-party titles to boost its library. Less than 20% of the Stadia team is now said to be working on the consumer platform, with the remainder focused on tech sales.
Signs of a change of strategy for Stadia first emerged alongside news of Google’s game studio closures last year, when the company announced it would begin selling its technology to third-parties. Business Insider says this is now leadership’s main priority for the Stadia division, and that the vast majority of the team is focussed on securing white-labels deals for its tech, under the new name Google Stream.
As part of these new ambitions, Google is said to have discussed supplying its technology to Capcom, enabling the publisher to stream demo titles from its own website, and had reportedly made “considerable headway” with Bungie regarding a similar back-end deal. However, Business Insider’s sources says it’s unclear how Sony’s recent acquisition of Bungie will affect these plans.
As for what all this will ultimately mean for the Stadia consumer platform, that’s currently unclear. In a statement to Business Insider, Google said it is “still focused on bringing great games to Stadia in 2022”, noting that it will be bolstering the platform’s current 200-strong games line up with another 100 games this year. But how long can this support last? One source told Business Insider, “There are plenty of people internally who would love to keep [Stadia] going, so they are working really hard to make sure it doesn’t die, but they’re not the ones writing the checks.”