Stadia users weren’t the only people shocked to learn that Google would be shutting down the cloud gaming service; developers making games for the platform were surprised, too.
“I woke up getting ready for my workday, and I see on our Discord private chat for the company that one of my employees sent a message saying ‘is this true?,’ with a link,” Rebecca Ann Heineman, CEO of Olde Skuul, said in an interview with The Verge. “I follow the link and it’s like ‘oh, okay.’” Olde Skuul had planned to launch Luxor Evolved on Stadia Pro on November 1st and was even planning to meet with Google on Friday to discuss the release plan. That obviously isn’t happening now.
It’s unfortunate all around
Heineman was just one of many that were surprised. “We were having marketing discussions [with Stadia] just last week,” Brandon Sheffield, creative director at Necrosoft Games, said in an email to The Verge. Necrosoft was working on Hyper Gunsport for Stadia Pro. “They released a new [software development kit] update two days ago. So it’s unfortunate all around, as I think the platform was gaining some good traction.”
Others shared their frustrations on Twitter. “Oh my god,” Mike Rose of No More Robots said in a tweet. “We have a game coming to Stadia in November. Who wants to guess that Google will refuse to pay us the money they owe us for it.”
“After weeks of paperwork and preparations to bring Donut Dodo, Sir Lovelot, and Sigi to Stadia, we successfully finalized the onboarding process with Google yesterday,” developer Pixel Games tweeted. “Two hours later, the news hit that Stadia is shutting down. Sad.”
Stadia’s sudden shutdown could have a big impact on developers. The platform never reached critical mass, so developers probably didn’t earn too much by offering their games there. But they likely counted on it as one of many places where people could play their titles. And because Google has already shut off commerce in the Stadia store, developers can’t make money from selling their games during the last months of the service’s life.
Google is planning to refund all Stadia hardware and software purchases (though not Stadia Pro subscriptions), so consumers will be getting some money back. Developers may be getting some form of reimbursement as well, though it’s less clear what they can expect.
Developers may be getting some form of reimbursement
On Friday, Olde Skuul’s Twitter account said that Google is working to “make it right.” Heineman says that a Stadia representative approached her about reimbursing the studio for development costs spent on porting the Stadia version of Luxor Evolved. Olde Skuul also had Stadia-exclusive features planned for the game but is now allowed to implement them on other platforms. For Necrosoft, according to Sheffield, “all I know is [Google] said they’re going to try to do something for us,” but he doesn’t have any details. Google didn’t reply to a request for comment.
Both Heineman and Sheffield were looking forward to launching on Stadia Pro, in part because Google shared revenue from subscriptions with developers. While Sheffield says Hyper Gunsport will be available on many platforms, “Stadia was a pillar for us, because we knew by launching into Pro we’d get a significant chunk of revenue, enough to pay our dev costs back all by itself.” For Olde Skuul, not being able to launch on Stadia won’t sink the studio. “I was only expecting to break even on Stadia,” Heineman said. “We were realistic in that we might have made $10,000 profit tops on the Stadia version.”
Another aspect of Stadia’s shutdown is that the few exclusives on the platform will be unplayable, like Q-Games’ PixelJunk Raiders. “As an exclusive Stadia title, once the service closes, [PixelJunk Raiders] will no longer be available to play,” Hollie Hughes, head of marketing and PR for Q-Games, said in a statement to The Verge.
The company hopes to bring the game to other platforms in the future and is open to working with publishing partners to make that happen, Hughes said. (Q-Games has brought back older games before, so maybe it will be able to give PixelJunk Raiders a second life.) Necrosoft’s original Gunsport remains a Stadia exclusive, and it “might go down with the ship,” Sheffield said.
Some companies are exploring ways to let their Stadia customers keep playing in some way. Hitman developer IO Interactive tweeted Friday that “we are looking into ways for you to continue your Hitman experience on other platforms.” Ubisoft is going to let you transfer your Stadia purchases to PC. But smaller developers and publishers may not be able to offer the same sorts of perks to their Stadia players.
The actual Stadia players were almost like… apologetically nice
And at least for Sheffield, losing Stadia means losing a positive community. “For whatever reason, because Stadia was so maligned by the players who didn’t play it, the actual Stadia players were almost like… apologetically nice,” he said. “They gave any new game that came out a try, they were really supportive of devs and of each other, and in general somehow the platform cultivated one of the nicest, least toxic player groups I’ve seen on any platform. So we really wanted to release the game on Stadia out of appreciation for them supporting the original game as much as they did.”