Google retreats in the battle for the video game industry
Google dispenses with its two video game development studios. A step back from his idea of revolutionizing an industry that he arrived at again two years ago, when he announced the launch of Stadia. This cloud gaming platform, which allows users to start titles without having to buy them or have a console – just pay the monthly subscription and connect to the Internet – was the first to offer a different service, but its future was it seems less ambitious. Not only because of the closure of the studios, but also because of the departure of its most emblematic face: Jade Raumond, one of those responsible for the saga Assassin’s Creed, who left EA in 2019 to become Stadia’s creative director.
Players will not notice any changes. Stadia will keep its features intact, such as accessing from any corner to Cyberpunk 2077. A different story is what it implies in the business and in the message that Google launches. No more keeping the project indoors. Phil Harrison, vice president and head of Google Stadia, assures that the time has come to collaborate with other allies. “Our goal remains focused on creating the best possible platform for users and the technology for our partners. We are expanding our efforts to help game developers and publishers take advantage of the innovation of our platform, “he says.
Own titles represent added value for companies. Countless players bet on one or the other depending on the catalog they offer. Google has decided to destroy such differentiation. It has turned Stadia into just another cloud gaming platform. It is true that, despite being a pioneer, the competition has not stopped growing since I took this first step —Microsoft with xCloud, Amazon with Luna, Nvidia with GeForce Now or Sony with PlayStation Now. “Google wanted to enter the gaming as a platform beyond Google Play, but it is not a simple process. As Amazon has discovered with its recent investment in game development, there are many complex factors beyond investing the money necessary to be successful, ”says Jamie Woodcock, professor at The Open University.
Faced with such an atomized sector, Google’s change of course only reflects the difficulty of trying to lead a new paradigm. Gameplay in the cloud is on the rise, although it is not the majority option by far. Woodcock confesses that no one in the industry thought Stadia would achieve undeniable success. The decision to cut part of the project only strengthens the position of traditional companies and developers. It even removes the possibility that other competitors, with a technical and economic capacity similar to those of Mountain View, try similar services. “This decision will clearly have a negative impact on those who started working with Stadia, who have now been pushed aside,” he adds.
Harrison recognizes that creating quality video games of your own involves both many years and a significant investment, which grows exponentially. And more so for a company like yours, far from the sector and that opted to hire reputable figures like Raumond to alleviate so much ignorance. To some extent, it is a return to the origins. To continue with a product, the cloud, that they dominate like few others. “We believe this is the best way to turn Stadia into a long-term, sustainable company that helps grow the industry,” says Harrison.
End to differentiation
One of the biggest competitive advantages of Stadia was its exclusivity. The technology offered the rest of the developers all the power of its servers in the cloud, improving the graphic performance of the games, especially for those users who only use a single system, such as a console or a computer. In launching into strategic collaboration with third parties, studios the size of Blizzard, Ubisoft or EA are unlikely to produce video games that require so many servers at the same time. Even more so when they can ally themselves with Google, without having to resort to a service that at the time was differential.
Indirectly, Microsoft is watching its latest moves cement its position in cloud gaming. In November, it put on the market the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S, its next-generation consoles called to compete with the PlayStation 5; But, regardless of the expectation that the beginning of a new era in the gaming, the most relevant ad was related to their xCloud platform. Improved the ease with which you can play the same title between Xbox and computers. “While the Stadia offering has failed, Microsoft is making a greater effort. Your business depends less and less on hardware”, concluye Woodcock.
Nobody is aware that video games handle figures never seen before. According to the consulting firm Newzoo, this last year they generated more than 135,000 million euros, well above the film or music sector. The pandemic has catapulted the sector, although without the consent of the players, as Google has lived in the first person, the business is less profitable. It matters little that he introduced the concept of gameplay in the cloud. The market has become fierce in just two years and it remains to be seen what place each occupies in this power game.