Google's ambitious push into gaming is floundering, and it's due largely to too few games on its Stadia platform — here's why developers have held back (GOOGL)

Google Stadia

  • Last November, Google finally launched a major gaming
    platform that was in development for years: Google
    Stadia
    .
  • Instead of having to buy games on a disc or download
    them from a digital store, Stadia users stream games over the
    internet — for customers willing to pay $130 for the “premiere
    edition.”
  • But the platform’s launch was rocky at best,
    with missing features and a paltry game library
    . Months later,
    Stadia’s game library still remains sparse.
  • We spoke with game developers and publishers who said there are
    two main reasons their games aren’t on Stadia: Google didn’t offer
    them enough money, and they don’t trust the mercurial company to
    stick with gaming in the long term.
  • Visit
    Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

After years of development and hype, Google’s long-rumored push
into video games arrived last November, with the launch of Google
Stadia
.

Google Stadia isn’t a game console, nor is it a game platform,
really — it’s a digital storefront run by Google where you can
buy individual games. It’s a hugely ambitious new platform, and it
aimed to be the Netflix of gaming. 

What makes Stadia so ambitious? Rather than downloading games or
playing them off a Blu-ray disc, Stadia streams games to you
wherever you are, like Netflix streams movies and TV shows.

It’s such a big deal, in fact, that Google CEO Sundar Pichai
himself introduced Stadia back in March 2019 at the annual Game
Developers Conference in San Francisco. However, four months after
Stadia’s launch, the service is still extremely light on games:
Just 28 titles are available as of this week.

Google Stadia

Google says another 120 games are scheduled to hit Stadia this
year, including some big upcoming blockbusters like “DOOM Eternal”
and “Cyberpunk 2077.”

But where are the dozens of indie hits that helped bolster the
libraries of Sony’s PlayStation 4, Microsoft’s Xbox One, and
Nintendo’s Switch? Where are the games like “Bloodstained,” “Shovel
Knight,” “Dead Cells,” and “Untitled Goose Game” — the
blockbuster indie games that sell millions of copies and inspire
sequels?

These games have become critical to the success of any new game
platform, yet, of the 28 games currently available on Stadia, just
four fall into the indie category.

“We were approached by the Stadia team,” one prominent indie
developer told me. “Usually with that kind of thing, they lead with
some kind of offer that would give you an incentive to go with
them.” But the incentive “was kind of non-existent,” they said.
“That’s the short of it.”

It’s a statement we heard echoed by several prominent indie
developers and two publishing executives we spoke with for this
piece.

“It’s that there isn’t enough money there,” one of the
publishing executives we spoke with said. The offer was apparently
“so low that it wasn’t even part of the conversation.”

Untitled Goose Game

The “incentive” isn’t solely financial, but it’s the main part
of the equation.

“When we’re looking at these types of deals,” another prominent
indie developer said, “We’re looking at ‘Is this enough money where
we have the resources to make what we want, or is this an
exclusivity deal that gives us security?'” they said. 

Each of the people we spoke with, who asked to be granted
anonymity due to ongoing employment in the video game industry,
echoed this sentiment — and said Google simply wasn’t offering
enough money, in addition to several other concerns.

“There are platforms you want to be on because they have an
audience and you want to reach that audience,” one developer said.
“That’s what Steam is, or that’s what [Nintendo] Switch is. They
have big groups on their platforms, and you want to be with those
groups so they can play your games.”

But Stadia doesn’t have a large audience to reach — at least
not yet — so Google must create that incentive for developers.
And the people we spoke with said, outside of money, there wasn’t
much reason to put their games on Stadia.

“If you could see yourself getting into a long term relationship
with Google?” one developer said. “But with Google’s history, I
don’t even know if they’re working on Stadia in a year. That
wouldn’t be something crazy that Google does. It’s within their
track record.”

This concern — that Google might just give up on Stadia at
some point and kill the service, as it has done with so many other
services over the years — was repeatedly brought up, unprompted,
by every person we spoke with for this piece.

Google Plus

“With Google, it’s easy to look at them as, well — it’s
Google!” one publishing exec said. “If anyone’s gonna make it work,
it’s them. But they’ve failed a ton in the past and walked away
from major services.”

When reached for comment, Stadia representative Patrick Seybold
said, “The publishers and developers we speak with regularly are
very supportive, and want Stadia to succeed. It is also worth
pointing out that not every publisher has announced their games for
Stadia so far, and more games will continue to be announced in due
course.”

He also sent over a list of all the major publishers that Google
is working with, including major companies like EA, Bethesda,
Ubisoft, 2K Games, and Rockstar Games.  

But the vast majority of indie hits aren’t published by these
massive publishers. EA makes and publishes “Madden” and “FIFA.”
Bethesda makes and publishes “DOOM” and “Elder Scrolls.” Ubisoft
makes and publishes “Assassin’s Creed” and “Ghost Recon.” 

All of these are so-called “triple-A” blockbusters — the video
game equivalent of major film blockbuster series like
“Transformers” or “Fast & Furious.” Several indies show up on
the list of upcoming games, including “Superhot” and several
“Steamworld” games, but many others are still missing.

The absence of these games at the launch of Stadia last
November, and their continued absence in the ensuing months, speaks
to Google’s inability to attract developers ahead of launch.

“It wasn’t just a financial thing,” one developer told me who
decided not to publish on Stadia. “At the end of the day, I’m
asking the question, ‘Why would I do this?’ And there was no
positive reason to move forward. There wasn’t really anything to
want us to get in the door other than to be the first on the
platform.”

SEE ALSO: Some
of the people who made an early bet on Google’s ambitious attempt
to revolutionize video games are losing patience


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Google's ambitious push into gaming is floundering, and it's due largely to too few games on its Stadia platform — here's why developers have held back (GOOGL)