On September 29th we received a press release from Google announcing what many have been fearing for several months: the definitive closure of Stadia™ in January 2023.
It is not my intention to delve into this specific topic since it has been covered extensively by virtually all media related to the world of technology and video games. However, I think it is legitimate and normal to ask: could this also happen with Flutter? What happens if from one day to another Google decides that its support for Flutter is no longer profitable and decides to close the doors? Could the community continue with a project of such magnitude and complexity as Flutter?
In this article I will try to give my opinion about these questions, as well as to observe the reaction that the community is having about it.
The definitive death of Stadia
Stadia is a cloud-based gaming platform that was officially launched in November 2019. Its proposal has been: to provide access to its catalog of games 100% in streaming through the browser or its applications, thus avoiding the hassle of having to download and keep our games updated, in addition to being able to enjoy demanding titles on machines with low processing capacity, since these run on Google's servers.
However during the last 3 years the platform's trajectory has been rather wandering, its catalog of games has left much to be desired, much of the gaming community has done nothing but mock the service, and the product management of the company has done suspicious actions like for example closing what was its internal gaming division; whose purpose was to create exclusive games for the platform taking full advantage of the power of cloud gaming.
I personally have been able to test the service extensively, I bought its founder's edition and with it I have spent very pleasant gaming sessions playing Orcs Must Die! or Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. However, I agree with most of the criticisms that the platform has received, especially regarding its limited catalog of games. In the end, Google decided to kill the service probably by accepting that it was not going to be profitable in the long term, and unfortunately, this is a common practice for the company. If we visit killedbygoogle.com we can see the extensive list of services and products that Google has abandoned through the years.
So we are left with the big question: could this also happen with Flutter?
The (understandable) fear of some developers
Tim Sneath, who is the current Product Manager of Flutter was quick to assure us that there is no way this could happen with Flutter:
Over 600,000 apps in the Play Store alone are already written using Flutter, to say nothing of the countless apps for iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux and web. The list includes big brands like Alibaba, BMW, eBay, and SHEIN. Neither Google as a whole, nor Android in particular would be better off if Flutter didn't continue to flourish.
However, for those of us who have been following Stadia news closely, that is precisely what we were being told just a few months ago: that Stadia was very much alive and that there were many deals in the pipeline to bring a large catalog of games to the platform.
Apparently, it seems to be common practice for the company to assure us that nothing bad is going to happen, even though sometimes it does.
I honestly don't think this is the fault of Google employees. I think they are simply trying to do their job to the best of their ability and this certainly includes reassuring that efforts to support X are going to continue and doing their best to make everything run as smoothly as possible. But the problem a lot of the times in these mega-corporations is that often they themselves are not even aware of what the top-level management plans to do in the short term.
Could Google also kill Flutter?
It's difficult to answer this question without having a crystal ball, and frankly, when talking about Google everything is possible, however; in my opinion: NO, I see it unlikely that this will happen in the short-medium term, and I hope I'm not making a mistake with this prediction.
The reason I think this scenario doesn't seem likely is that the level of resources required to keep a product like Stadia alive is not the same, with all the server farms required to maintain it, ongoing dealings with game developers and publishers, support for porting games from other platforms, etc. with the level of effort required to maintain an open source software project like Flutter.
In other words, I get the impression (without having any inside information) that the resources that Google has to contribute to keeping Flutter alive in relation to the benefits that it brings are very different from the resources that Google had to contribute for Stadia in relation to the benefits it provided.
To begin with, much of the Flutter source code has been introduced thanks to Pull Requests from third-party developers. In addition, other companies such as Microsoft are contributing code to Flutter. The acceptance of the community and its use in app stores is increasing. Flutter's ranking in many comparison media websites is leaning in favor of Flutter, relegating other frameworks such as React Native to second place.
In my opinion, we are still going to have Flutter for a while.
Could the community take over Flutter?
In the event that Google finally decides to withdraw its support for Flutter and this will simply be in charge of the community of volunteers, could they continue with its development and projection as we expect the majority of us?
Honestly, once again we are faced with a question that is not easy to answer. Flutter is a complex framework, it's a multiplatform solution that aims to cover a wide range of use-cases, so we are not talking about a simple project based on a certain technology that runs in a certain environment.
The truth is that I hope that we never see such a scenario, but if it were the case that Google decides to abandon Flutter I hope and wish that we could continue with the project and keep it alive as we know it. Of course, talent in the open source community is not lacking, we would still have to see the level of organization and commitment in this regard, as well as the level of maturity of other multiplatform solutions such as Kotlin Multiplatform Mobile, who could potentially start to outperform Flutter for certain use-cases
Everything commented here is purely my personal opinion based on my experience and my beliefs, and in no way can I know for sure what is going to happen.
What do you think will happen in the short term? Leave me a comment below with your opinion about the near future of Flutter!
Thank you very much for reading this far, I'll see you in the next article!
Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with the brands mentioned in this article.
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