Publishers looking for commitment from Google on Stadia

Despite Google saying the platform has won publishers over, there may be a bit more push-back and resistance than originally was communicated.

Google has calmed fears of any potential pushback on its upcoming cloud gaming platform Stadia, promising that the platform is winning over publishers despite skepticism on their part on whether the company is truly committed to it.

Speaking during the financial results of parent company Alphabet yesterday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has said it’s currently “having conversations across the board” with those interested in coming to the platform. But he did add that Stadia, which has had an “incredible” response from consumers in his opening response on the call, was an “opportunity” for publishers.

“I think, we see genuine excitement, because I think they see the opportunity for a shift, a point of inflection, but they realized the technical challenge of pulling something like this off,” said Pichai (via transcript from Seeking Alpha).

“I think we see genuine excitement, because I think they see the opportunity for a shift, a point of inflection, but they realized the technical challenge of pulling something like this off. And so, but once they get their hands on with the technology and then they see the experience, I think, completely wins people over."

He added: “And so we are having conversations across the Board and I think people are definitely engaging in a very committed way and they are investing in it and so it’s up to us to bring it all together and have a compelling service later this year and that’s what the team has had done working on.

“But I think, not pushback per se, but they want to see our commitment, which is what we demonstrate and they are working hard to make the investments on their side. And so it’s a big joint effort and it’s working well.”

Publishers might have good reason to ask Google for a massive long-term commitment to Stadia, and whether it’s serious about going long into the future with it considering the company has a tendency to close failing services its created by its own hand after a few years.

One massive casualty came recently in the form of Google+, the company’s take on social media against Twitter and Facebook. Having started out the gate well, its popularity soon faded, and was closed at the start of this month due to a massive data breach. And that’s on top of the shut down of other services, such as Google Inbox and Google Wave respectively to name a few.

So you can understand the skepticism on the part of some publishers, even if they are being won over by the cloud tech powering Stadia.

With that comes the question of content if publishers don’t think that Stadia could sustain itself as a result. Outside of Ubisoft and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, which was part of the company’s initial Project Stream test last year and part of the Stadia reveal at GDC, Doom Eternal from Bethesda and id Software, and Rise of the Tomb Raider by Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics, we’ve not heard a whole lot on a third-party level on what to expect for the platform.

First-party, headed up by Jade Raymond, has not really been addressed beyond a Q Games exclusive title which should use some of the social aspects of Stadia, as well as Google Assistant. All Google has said on that front since the GDC reveal - and repeated by a rep when approached by GameDaily.biz earlier today when asked if the company will hold an E3 event next month - is that “more will be revealed in the summer.”

Whether Google holds a showcase in Los Angeles or not, we should find out our next details, or at least a timeline for when we’ll find out the next details, on Stadia at Google I/O, the company’s headline showcase event for developers, next week.

If there ends up being a shortage of titles because publishers have cold feet, we could end up in a situation reminiscent of the original Xbox Live and one publisher in particular.

In 2002, Xbox had the support of all the major publishers and developers in the industry for the launch of Xbox Live. All, that is, except Electronic Arts. EA Sports and EA Games titles did not support Xbox Live at the time because EA claimed that it wouldn’t be paid for the games it would provide services for via XBL. It would take a further two years before former Xbox bosses J Allard, Robbie Bach, Peter Moore and then-EA Worldwide Studios president (and the man who’d become Moore’s successor at Microsoft) Don Mattrick would announce at Microsoft’s E3 press conference that it’d bring EA titles to the service starting that year.

There could be similarities to what happened with Microsoft and EA then, and with Google and third-party publishers now, according to DFC Intelligence analyst David Cole.

“Yes I think a shortage of big games will be a problem for Stadia,” Cole told GameDaily when asked about whether there was any resemblance to that situation fifteen years ago and now with Stadia. “Your EA analogy to the original Xbox is appropriate. It was basically EA wasn’t going to online enable games for Xbox Live back at that time. For one thing, the market for online games back then was very small, but also there was concern that Microsoft was trying to gain control of the consumer.”

He added that “publishers like EA are right to be afraid of a service like Stadia diluting the value of their games/audience base.”

On Pichai’s remarks yesterday, Cole said it represented an underlying feeling of how Stadia’s reveal was received to the publishing community.

“I think his comments reflect the general underwhelming unveil of Stadia. It seemed like as a company Google was not that committed and game publishers really want to see a major commitment. Stadia seemed more like Google was dipping its toe in the water.”

We end up with a two-fold question: can Google continue to show it’s truly committed to Stadia in a massive way to third-party publishers? And if not, what will the damage be to the platform beyond a lack of content from third-parties when it launches later this year? Much like its GDC reveal, there are too many unanswered questions before we can jump on the Stadia bandwagon.

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Johnny Cullen is a freelance writer and author from Derry, Northern Ireland who has written for Eurogamer, VG247, Official PlayStation Magazine UK, and so many more since July 2009. Come @ him about The Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid 3, Jonsi and Alex, or the Four Horsewomen of WWE on Twitter @JohnnyCullen.

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