Google Stadia, the current face of the cloud gaming movement, has announced that Stadia Games and Entertainment is shutting down. With two studios based in Montreal and Los Angeles, SG&E has released a few exclusive titles since Stadia’s launch in late 2019.
Games that are close to release will continue development, but 2021 is certainly the last year we will see any SG&E games.
The insignificant draw of SG&E’s exclusives, while not spelling doom for the cloud gaming model, is a disappointment in that Stadia Games and Entertainment wasn’t able to develop a group of games that could be used as a strong selling point for Stadia as a platform.
Exclusives are one of the main ways that services can draw people to try out their platforms. While Sony and Microsoft squabble over the technical capabilities of their consoles in very public marketing strategies, I find that I am primarily interested in game catalogues over tech. Exclusive games offered for the PlayStation, like The Last of Us and God of War, were the reason that I chose a PlayStation as my first non-Nintendo console and avoided getting an Xbox up until recently.
With the closure of SG&E, Stadia is saying that its path to success is in third-party titles and cloud gaming services. And while cloud gaming has a significant chance to disrupt the console market and take over as the main way gamers play AAA games in the future, I doubt that it’s a good idea for Stadia to rely exclusively on its cloud tech. In my opinion, Stadia loses a lot of its initiative by dropping in-house development.
As a deal-maker, Stadia has behind it the weight of one of the biggest companies in the world, which should mean that it will be able to successfully land some third-party exclusives (or at least limited exclusives). But it will become a lot harder for Stadia to offer high-quality exclusive games now that they will be less involved in development and publishing.
In the (long) long term, shutting down SG&E was probably not Stadia’s best strategy. Instead, Stadia should have re-invested in its game development initiative.