Google made the surprising announcement on February 1 that it would close its in-house Stadia game development studios. The news didn’t just come as a surprise to Stadia customers, however. It was a bolt from the blue for the Stadia development team who had been notified just a week earlier that the studios were making “great strides”. according to a report by Kotaku.
“[Stadia Games and Entertainment] has made great strides in building a diverse and talented team and building a strong lineup of exclusive Stadia games, “said Phil Harrison, Google vice president and general manager of Stadia, in an email to the staff on Jan. 27 Kotaku. The email promised further updates on the Stadia studios strategy and goals for 2021. Instead of new development goals, however, Harrison announced just days later on February 1st that the studios would be completely closed.
The biggest question – from both outside observers and Stadia team members – is what has changed. For example, Harrison’s blog post announcing the shutdowns mentions “exponentially” rising costs of creating “best-in-class games.” However, given Google’s $ 1.4 trillion market cap, this is hard to imagine as it is the only reason for the company’s game development studios to shut down entirely, especially when given so little time to prove themselves.
In a Q&A with employees on Feb.4, Harrison reportedly admitted that Google executives already knew the shutdown was imminent when he sent the email praising the team’s progress. Kotaku also reports that Harrison has cited Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda and the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic differently as factors driving the shutdown.
Whatever the case, one thing is clear: by closing the studios before they even managed to ship key first-party exclusives for Stadia, Google has shown not only its employees but the world that it is not As it once appeared, his gaming initiatives are serious. And ultimately, that’s a disappointing thing, both for Stadia’s future and for the industry as a whole.