Sep 30, 2022 - Technology

Google Stadia’s shutdown sends blindsided developers scrambling

Photo of  a person's hands as they are holding a black game controller. A blurred-out TV can be seen in the background

Photo: Olly Curtis/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Developers working on games for Google’s Stadia service, heard the streaming platform was shutting down when the news broke yesterday, according to public accounts and sources speaking to Axios.

Why it matters: Google’s abrupt move has sent developers scrambling, and raised numerous questions about the fate of Stadia’s games and the money spent to make them.

What they’re saying: “I’m like, uh, this is news to me,” game developer Rebecca Heineman told Axios, recalling their reaction when a colleague on a then forthcoming-Stadia game shared a link yesterday to an article saying the service was shutting down.

  • Heineman's Stadia rep later confirmed the news: “She was apologizing up and down about it.”
  • Other indie developers tweeted that they were caught off-guard too. Sony-owned Bungie, makers of Destiny 2, also stated yesterday that they hadn’t gotten a heads up.

Between the lines: The abrupt closure of Stadia’s online store and plans for a quick wind-down could cost game makers money, though Heineman said her Stadia rep, unprompted, brought up the topic of reimbursement.

  • “She asked me: How much money did I invest into making the game?” Heineman quickly tallied a five-figure sum for dev costs and expected profits for what was to be the November Stadia Pro release of Luxor Evolved. “She said, ‘I’ll work on that.’” (Heineman estimated the lost revenue would have been in the six figures if Luxor Evolved wasn't also planned for a release in 2023 on Xbox, PlayStation and Switch.)
  • It’s unclear if Google has an across-the-board plan to reimburse developers. A Stadia rep didn’t reply to Axios’ request about that and other aspects of the shutdown.
  • Since its launch in 2019, Stadia has paid some studios money up-front to bring their games to the service. More recently, developers have generated revenue through sales in the now-shuttered Stadia store or through payments from Google tied to playing time for games bundled into a Stadia Pro subscription.
  • On Twitter, developer Brandon Sheffield noted that they had banked on making playing time revenue from a Stadia version of their Hyper Gunsport game, but it’s now unclear if the game will even be released for the platform.

The disappearance of revenue isn’t the only issue. Games themselves could disappear, because Stadia is a strictly digital and server-based service. When Stadia goes offline in January, there will be no discs or devices to still play its games.

  • That preservation issue is central to a game such as Q-Games’ PixelJunk Raiders, which was launched exclusively on Stadia in 2021.
  • Q-Games’ CEO Dylan Cuthbert told Axios his studio is considering its options and isn’t constrained by any obligations to Google. “We’d love to find a way to bring it to other platforms in the future and as advocates of digital preservation, we hope that this is something we can achieve. We also have lots of exciting ideas for additional content and changes, so who knows what the future holds!”
  • The studio is seeking publishing partners for that effort.

What’s next: Stadia players are scrambling as well, trying to find ways to transfer their saved-game progress to versions of their games that are on other platforms.

  • Some are finding success with Google Takeout. Meanwhile, studios like Hitman makers Io Interactive say they’re looking into official save-transfer support.
  • A rep for Ubisoft, the Assassin’s Creed maker with multiple games on Stadia, tells Axios that the company is “currently working to bring the games you own on Stadia to PC through Ubisoft Connect.”

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