On February 1, a week after receiving an email from Google Stadia VP Phil Harrison, lauding the “great progress” its developers had made, the studios were informed that they were being shut down.
“[Stadia Games and Entertainment] has made great progress building a diverse and talented team and establishing a strong lineup of Stadia exclusive games,” Harrison wrote. “We will confirm the SG&E investment envelope shortly, which will, in turn, inform the SG&E strategy and 2021 [objectives and key results].”
Five days later, Harrison announced that VP and Head of Stadia Games and Entertainment Jade Raymond had departed the company, and Google would “not be investing further in bringing exclusive content from our internal development team SG&E.”
Stadia developers, who were informed via an internal email and conference call with Harrison, were shocked to hear the news after a difficult year that had been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. The news mirrored the launch of Stadia, which had been marred by disorganization and lack of content.
In his call with developers, Harrison stated that Microsoft’s planned acquisition of Bethesda influenced Google’s decision to cancel their own game development. He also placed the blame on the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a surge in gaming profits in the past year.
“I am proud of the team we built at Stadia Games and Entertainment and the ground-breaking work on exclusive games for the platform,” Raymond told Kotaku after the closures were announced. “It was a difficult decision to take on a new opportunity, and I will be forever grateful to this team for everything we learned and achieved together.”
In the conference call with developers, Harrison said he regretted misleading the team with his first email. When asked by developers what had changed since he praised their performance, Harrison reportedly said that nothing had happened, adding, “We knew.”
“I think people really just wanted the truth of what happened,” a source said. “They just want an explanation from leadership. If you started this studio and hired a hundred or so of these people, no one starts that just for it to go away in a year or so, right? You can’t make a game in that amount of time…We had multi-year reassurance, and now we don’t.”
Google is reportedly trying to relocate laid off staff within the company, however nothing has been confirmed. Meanwhile, the 150 employees affected by the change in strategy are struggling to maintain their trust in the company.
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