When, in February 1, 2021, the Vice President of Google Stadia announced the dissolution of Stadia Games and Entertainment via a blog post, the gaming community was left in an equal state of awe and shock, as they watched the drama unfold from the comfort of their living room.
Google had announced the creation of two new studios, one in Montreal and one in California, after the initial launch of its premium video game cloud-streaming platform Stadia in 2019.
So when the announcement came that the two new studios were to receive the axe, the ones at the receiving end of it, were rejoicing the praise that had been conveyed to them in an email just five days prior: “[Stadia Games and Entertainment] has made great progress building a diverse and talented team and establishing a strong lineup of Stadia exclusive games,” Harrison’s January 27 email read, according to sources. “We will confirm the SG&E investment envelope shortly, which will, in turn, inform the SG&E strategy and 2021 [objectives and key results],” reveals Kotaku in a new report.
The developers had no idea about the termination and learned the news on Kotaku. At the same time, they would be informed via internal emails and a conference call with Harrison. The aftermath of this would ultimately leave 150 developers or so jobless as Stadia leadership scrambled to find work for them elsewhere in the company.
Four sources who spoke to Kotaku revealed that the developers had to wait for three days before being allowed to contact Harrison through a conference call organised on February 4th, where during a heated Q&A session, Harrison had allegedly accepted that the email which was sent to the developers before was misleading and expressed regret for the same.
“I think people really just wanted the truth of what happened,” one source told Kotaku. “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.”
The reason is still unclear as to why Google decided to prematurely down the shutters on their new studios and prompt the exit of Jade Raymond, industry veteran and producer of Assassins Creed, who the global tech giant had just hired before the onset of the pandemic. Google, so far, has refused to issue a statement on the matter to Kotaku.
Harrison had suggested, during his Thursday Q&A session, that Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Bethesda Software was one of many factors that influenced Google’s decision to stop pursuing first-party game development. One source says, that he went on to say that the pandemic was also to blame.
Three other sources told Kotaku that the dissolution was part of a bigger problem that had been plaguing the studio since its inception, which obviously had to do with mismanagement. The situation was exacerbated by a scarcity of resources, difficulty in procuring certain hardware and software as well as a hiring freeze imposed during the pandemic.