Moreover, the Stadia team was enthusiastic about each project, and they took a shine to indies in particular. Even when developers sensed it wasn’t the healthiest of places—Google’s decision to shut down its in-house studios in February 2021 was worrisome, to say the least—it was hard not to be lured by the promise of good money and the promotional opportunities Google could offer.
Some gamemakers may be able to recoup at least part of their costs. Google has reached out to a few, but not all, of the developers WIRED spoke to. Heineman says that company representatives asked about the budget they’d used to develop the Stadia version of their game and were considering paying out that work. “If Google does not pay us or reimburse us, it will hurt us financially, but it won’t kill us,” she says. “But I’m certain that if other devs out there don’t get reimbursed or they don’t get their money back, they’re dead.”
Google did not respond to multiple requests for comment about how it plans to compensate developers or handle obsolete releases. The company instead directed WIRED to blog posts released at the time of the announcement addressing customer concerns. Many developers are still in the dark as they wait to hear from the company directly. Developers behind titles that were once Stadia exclusives, like PixelJunk Raiders, are now searching for new publishers to keep their games from total extinction. Tequila Works, another developer with a once exclusive title, announced just this week it would bring its game Gylt to other platforms.
Google’s efforts with Stadia now mirror those of Amazon: a big tech company tumbling wallet-first into gaming without patience for the years it takes to produce original, successful games. “There’s only room for one Fortnite and one World of Warcraft,” Sheffield says. The video game industry is worth billions, but it’s also not a get-rich-quick scheme.
On January 18, 2023, Stadia will join the graveyard of gaming ephemera, a field rapidly filling with obsolete old tech and online games gone dark. But Heineman says she hopes to talk Google into preserving the service’s offerings for historical purposes. If developers can modify test kits, she adds, they could create contained servers Google wouldn’t have to maintain, essentially making a digital museum. So far, Google’s been “receptive to the idea,” Heineman says. Fans have already gotten creative with other ways to use the Stadia controller.
“Most companies, when they fail, they take everything with them,” Heineman says, pointing to defunct cloud gaming service OnLive, which shut down in 2015 or the short-lived Sega Dreamcast. “We’d like to make it so at least Stadia exists beyond people’s memories.”