Stadia shut down the same way everyone else did: a blog post, penned by Google vice president and Stadia general manager Phil Harrison. Much to her horror, the sunset of Google’s cloud gaming service was no longer a rumor or a joke. It was as official as you could get. Heineman's company, Olde Sküül, was set to launch a new title, Luxor Evolved, on the platform in mere weeks. She immediately fired off a succinct email with the blog post link to her point person at Stadia: “What the fuck? What is this?”
Employees on the Stadia side were just as confused. “I'm so sorry I was unable to reach out to directly share the news,” the Google employee replied to Heineman. “We found out at the same time the blog was released.”
Game developers throughout the industry all tell the same story—that up until the shutdown announcement, working with Stadia was business as usual. One developer had been emailing with Google about Stadia's SDK updates just days before the news. Another told WIRED that they were days away from launching their game when they saw Harrison’s post. Developers are now either saying goodbye to months of work headed for the bin or scrambling to salvage their games for other platforms. “We put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into a title that we believed in that was going to go on this platform,” Heineman says. “And now no one's going to see that work [on Stadia].” Stuck in limbo, developers now must rehome their games and cut their financial losses.
“Stadia was a real pillar of our release plan,” says Brandon Sheffield, director of Necrosoft Games, which was set to release its nonviolent competitive shooter Hyper Gunsport on the service. “Now we’re in a spot where we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Despite being under Google’s umbrella, Stadia never had the best reputation. Its launch earned the dreaded “rocky” label; reviewers called it more of a beta than a finished product. Furthermore, it didn’t carry the same weight as well-established platforms. Developers who grew up loving Nintendo have a lot to celebrate when they finally launch on Switch. With Stadia, Sheffield says, there wasn’t the same “prestige.” But what the platform did have was good tech and a strong pitch.
Game subscription services typically offer developers a single lump sum, up front or after launch, as compensation. Stadia, however, offered developers a 70 percent revenue share from its Pro subscription service; it also offered a 15 percent commission on the first $3 million in digital store sales (though this was a reduction from a previous price point). As one indie creator put it, that gave developers the chance to make a low six figures within their first month. Furthermore, Stadia sales didn’t seem to overlap with other platforms. Whatever a developer earned via Stadia was additive, rather than reductive to profit.