Google’s decision to pull the plug on its in-house game development amounts to the belated realisation that big tech companies build better platforms and hardware than they do games.
In a blog post on Monday, Phil Harrison, the video game industry veteran who heads up Google’s Stadia project, reasoned that “creating best-in-class games from the ground up takes many years and significant investment, and the cost is going up exponentially”.
Stadia is cutting off funding for its in-house effort after less than two years and will instead focus on strengthening its platform for playing games online and “deepening our business partnerships”, he said. Games chief Jade Raymond, who joined from Ubisoft where she had led development of the Assassin’s Creed hit franchise, has quit and her studios in Montreal and Los Angeles will close. They had yet to release any games.
This puts Google at the mercy of third-party developers and publishers if it wants to provide a full offering and compete with Microsoft’s xCloud streaming service and other cloud gaming companies. 9to5 Google speculates that it could instead become a white-label platform provider for other services.
Kotaku says the technology has been praised, but the games initiative has suffered the fate of being under-appreciated and under-resourced in an organisation with other priorities.
Parallels are being drawn with Amazon’s failure to produce successful games, as covered by Wired last year and in a damning analysis by Bloomberg last week. The inference is that the companies’ cultures are not suited to creative game development. In Amazon’s case, games reported to its web services division and the executive that has led Amazon Games Studios was a lifer from the books business who applied the company’s business philosophy to a very different sector. “It tried to make games the Amazon way,” says Bloomberg, “Instead of simply making games people would want to play.”
1. Alibaba sales growth slowsThe ecommerce giant’s underlying sales growth slowed in the December quarter, although net profits grew 56 per cent. Lex says its days of unchecked growth are likely over.
2. Amazon to pay back tips, Uber buys DrizlyThe US Federal Trade Commission has forced Amazon to pay out $61.7m to some of its delivery drivers to settle allegations that the ecommerce giant had pocketed tips left by their customers. Meanwhile, Uber has agreed to acquire the largest US alcohol-delivery app Drizly for about $1.1bn.
3. Spac space blast-offAstra, a space start-up backed by Marc Benioff of Salesforce and former Google chief Eric Schmidt, plans to go public next quarter through the special purpose acquisition company (Spac) Holicity. The four-year-old Californian company will raise up to $500m and be valued at approximately $2.1bn.
4. Germany to beef up scrutiny post-WirecardGermany is to create a special financial task force capable of carrying out forensic audits of companies suspected of fraud, part of a wide-ranging reform of financial regulator BaFin triggered by the Wirecard scandal.
5. How Europe can take on NetflixThe successful streaming services in Europe are overwhelmingly American, but Alex Barker reports that Norway’s Nent is proof that what was an unexceptional, middling European media conglomerate — spanning radio, pay-TV and free-to-air channels — can reinvent itself as a streaming-first company with aspirations to take on Netflix.
The BBC has been looking at face mask trends, from using old T-shirts to double mask protection. I would favour this ultra-safe looking option, which reminds me of Daft Punk’s look and might be better described as a privacy helmet. Featured on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the Blanc mask, from £72 ($99), has magnetic customisable front panels to allow you to mix and match different patterns, colours, and textures as well as featuring all-important replaceable and reusable HEPA filters. The mask is due to ship in March.