Google is working with major game publishers and will play a supporting role in upcoming cloud gaming projects. This news comes less than two months after Stadia's shutdown, representing a change in direction for the company's investment into cloud gaming technology.
Google launched Stadia in 2019 as a competitor to cloud gaming services from Sony, Microsoft, Amazon, and Nvidia. Operating on similar principles to YouTube video streaming, the cloud gaming platform was compatible with PC, Android, Chromecast Ultra, and Android TV. However, Stadia saw mixed reviews at launch, facing criticism for its small library, performance issues, and lack of features. Ultimately, Google shut Stadia down on January 18, 2023, offering customers a full refund.
However, Google's decision to shut Stadia down doesn't mean it's given up on cloud gaming as a concept. According to a report by Axios contributor Stephen Totilo, the company's Google Cloud division is shifting to provide support for game publishers working on live-service games. This takes the form of Google's new Google Cloud bundle, which includes a mix of new and existing services. These include offering cloud storage data management, a game-focused server platform, and searchable game and player analytics. Google claims its new bundle will help game publishers and developers manage the risk of live service projects, which can be highly profitable but suffer from unique technical challenges.
Google is actively courting new clients for these services but has already found customers in the form of several major players within the game industry. These include but are not limited to publishers such as Square Enix, 2K, Sega, Ubisoft, Nintendo, Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Embracer Group, and Niantic. In addition, Google Cloud is also partnering with companies such as Nvidia, Unity, and Unreal Engine developer Epic Games.
Jack Buser, Google Cloud's director of Game Industry solutions, told Axios that the new direction resulted from the team's analysis of Stadia's failure. He explained how the team works better when it is in a supporting role rather than taking the lead on cloud gaming services as Google tried to do with Stadia. Said Buser, "…we are at our best when we're helping other people build this stuff, not necessarily building it ourselves." Buser shifted to Google Cloud's gaming team near the end of 2021, and the company's cloud gaming operations are now focused primarily on supporting third-party console, PC, and Android games.
However, Buser specified that gaming remains a component of Google Cloud's focus going forward. Google is also not finished sparring with Amazon and Microsoft for a place in cloud gaming, presenting its Google Cloud services as a direct competitor to the other company's cloud service infrastructure. With the 2023 Game Developers Conference starting in just over a week, now seems like an excellent opportunity for Google to put its best foot forward into the cloud gaming space.
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