Google’s Stadia cloud gaming service appears to have lost another top video game industry veteran — kind of. Jack Buser, Stadia’s Director for Games and a former PlayStation exec, is moving to the company’s Google Cloud division to head up “Gaming Solutions,” according to a ZDNet report.
Google confirms Buser is leaving the Stadia group for Google Cloud, providing this statement to The Verge:
Gaming is an incredibly important vertical at Google and we’re seeing huge momentum across all products and services. Jack’s new role will allow us to better bring customers the best of Google across our Cloud services, Stadia, YouTube, and more. Stadia continues to be led by its GM Phil Harrison, and Stadia’s business development and partner management teams will continue to be led by Michael Abbattista, who took over the role in 2020.
While it’s easy to think Google’s just trying to spin a loss for Stadia as synergy for Google’s bigger gaming goals, it might make a lot of sense for Stadia’s future. As I wrote in February when the company axed its own game studios, the writing’s on the wall — Stadia boss Phil Harrison sent a clear message that the future of Stadia is to run it as “a technology platform for industry partners,” not a Netflix-of-games or a place to build groundbreaking games of its own.
And now, it sure sounds like Buser’s going to work on that overall technology platform for Google’s partners, which it already sells as Google Cloud.
If Google does eventually decide to add Stadia to its Google graveyard, it might be easier to swallow if the company manages to turn it into a different kind of business first. But it could also be that Google has decided to invest more, not less in gaming, by taking it a different route. ZDNet quotes a Google Cloud spokesperson that gaming “is one of the key verticals we are investing in,” and writes that the idea behind Buser’s move “is to connect with players through a holistic suite of products and services.”
“The tech giant could offer, for instance, end-to-end collaboration solutions that include YouTube as a streaming partner for live broadcasts or e-sporting events,” ZDNet adds.
Some of that brings to mind the 70-page confidential Google document we unearthed from the Epic v. Apple trial last month, which describes a plan to make Google “the world’s largest game platform” by 2025, starting by bringing roughly 100 Android games to Windows PC, and later expanding to Mac, smart displays, and TVs, all bolstered by Google’s cloud services. The document suggested cloud gaming might be part of that vision too, and that the platform would “super-premium” games as well, with Shadow of the Tomb Raider as a representative example.
Buser has plenty of experience trying to attract premium games at both Google and at Sony, where he headed up Sony’s own cloud gaming service PlayStation Now, and soon he might have a more attractive pitch to bring those games in.
While Stadia has had some serious struggles, it’s also been steadily trying to make the service more attractive, recently slashing its revenue share to hook more developers, adding a direct touchscreen control option, and finally bringing Stadia to the Chromecast with Google TV.