Earlier this year, Google announced it was shutting down its game streaming service Stadia, just three years after it launched in 2018. While most fans of the service are feeling the effects of the closure, there are a handful of developers with exclusive Stadia Products that will unfortunately lose their games when the service is finally shut down in January. One of them is Q-Games, the makers of Pixel Junk Raiders. The edge spoke to Q-Games Founder and CEO, Dylan Cuthbert, who explained the unique situation Q-Games is in trying to get its exclusive game out of Stadia’s sinking ship and into a safe place where people can play it.
Pixel Junk Raiders is a space exploration roguelike that takes advantage of Stadia’s unique “State Share” feature, which allows players to share instances of their game for other players to jump into and gain experience for themselves.
In front robber was in development, Cuthbert said that Google showed Stadia to developers, and he immediately embraced the idea of players being able to share their in-game experiences with others. “We built a game around those core ideas, and it was a fun design challenge,” said Cuthbert.
As development on robber continued Cuthbert wanted to flesh out more of his team’s ideas for the game and extend his development time. But about six months before that robber released, he began to get ideas that Stadia might be in trouble.
“Even if we wanted to develop the game further, [our Stadia representative] was like, ‘No, you really should ship it, or maybe it won’t ship,'” Cuthbert said.
Raiders launched in March 2021 to less than glowing reviews. By this time, Google had already closed the studio it opened, headed by Jade Raymond, to create first-party games for the service.
“I think the writing was on the wall,” Cuthbert said.
Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time Cuthbert has tried to salvage one of his games. In 2017 Q Games was released The morning children, an adventure game with a unique voxel-based art style. The free-to-play game couldn’t generate enough money to cover its server costs, so Sony discontinued it six months after its release.
“Even though we had a strong following and user base, we didn’t want to milk them for more money,” Cuthbert recalled. “We had problems building our basic income and stuff like that [Sony] shut it down.”
The morning childrenThe abrupt closure of has worried Cuthbert, Q-Games and the game’s strong fan base.
“We’re closing it [in 2017]but the fans just kept posting about the game and talking about the game,” Cuthbert said.
This ardent love inspired Cuthbert to attempt to revive the game, which involved a complicated legal dance with Sony’s licensing department.
“So I said, ‘Well, if you give me the intellectual property back, I’m going to rework the game so there are no ongoing costs,'” Cuthbert described his negotiations with Sony to free the intellectual property rights The morning children to Q Games. “I will be releasing the game for the fans and even improving it for the PlayStation 5.”
But before Sony could say yes, Cuthbert also had to track down the various licensors of the tools used The morning children‘s development, as well as its voice actors and music directors, to get their permission to re-release the game.
“It took about a year to get the permits. Some of the people were hard to track down because the companies went out of business.”
But after Cuthbert’s shoe-leather-style information gathering, he finally had all the pieces in place for a re-release the morning children, what Q-Games did earlier this year. And the fan base is proving to be just as enamored now as it was back in 2017. “The support has been amazingly positive. They are all crazy. I mean, in a good way,” Cuthbert chuckles.
Cuthbert hopes he can bring about a similar fate Pixel Junk Raiders. When asked how Q-Games intended to port a game that seemed to rely on a Stadia exclusive feature, Cuthbert seemed confident it would be a simple technical solution.
“So the state-share system is copyable, I think,” he said. “Obviously it wasn’t possible to jump in from videos and stuff, but it didn’t really matter that much in the end [of development]so I think that’s actually okay.”
“I think the writing was on the wall.”
“The main idea internally is that if we can find funding, we would take the game and revamp it into the more complete vision that we had and then reboot it,” he said. “We managed to add an addendum to our contract so we might be able to release it on other platforms, but the license fees for that addendum were just too high to make it viable.”
Cuthbert’s idea is to bring in a publishing partner who can help with development costs and marketing to re-release the game. But before that can happen, he needs someone anyone, at Stadia to help him renegotiate his contract. Publishers won’t want to get involved if Q-Games has to pay a hefty license fee to Google to have this game released elsewhere, though in T-minus 28 days the game’s platform is currently on there will be no more.
So for now robber is in limbo.
“There’s a guy who seems to be trying to get things done,” Cuthbert said. “He just texted me that he’s working on it. So be patient. But I don’t know how much longer we have to be patient.”
“I don’t know how much longer we have to be patient.”
Despite the fact that it looks like it robber on the verge of disappearing from the universe ala Thanos snapshot, Cuthbert is proud of what he’s accomplished with Stadia. Had Stadia reached its full potential, it might have solved the problem of preserving older games.
“You could have a system where you could just watch an 80’s game on YouTube and your mom could play. And it would just be there, like no hassle for any browser. So what really excited me about Stadia was the potential to lower the barrier to entry.”
One of the problems with video game retention is hardware degradation and the rapid leaps in technology that the industry goes through every seven to eight years. With Stadia, Cuthbert envisions an ecosystem where all gaming technologies of the past are preserved and stored in the cloud as emulators that people can play at the touch of a button.
“I think if we’re serious about preserving games from the 70’s or 80’s or, you know, way back to the beginning. That’s the kind of system we need. He said. “We can’t rely on people buying cheap plastic emulators in a box.” (Ironically, one of Cuthbert’s own games was revived in the form of a release on a “cheap plastic emulator in a box” while he was working on it star fox 2 which was scrapped for 20 years before Nintendo officially released it on the SNES Classic.)
But before Cuthbert can achieve his dream of an online emulator service to play at smuggler run, he must see a google over Pixel Junk Raiders.
“I’ll just wait and see what happens,” Cuthbert said. “I kind of trust them to come back and say, ‘Okay, there you go. You can walk with it now.’”