Stadia leadership praised the development studios for “big progress” just one week before its full launch

Stadia leadership praised the development studios for "big progress" just one week before its full launch

Google Vice President and General Manager Phil Harrison announced Stadia on stage at the 2019 Game Developers Conference.

Google Vice President and General Manager Phil Harrison announced Stadia on stage at the 2019 Game Developers Conference.
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Developers at game studios recently built by Google were shocked February 1 when they were notified of the studios’ shutdown, according to four sources with knowledge of what happened. Just a week ago, Google Stadia Vice President and General Manager Phil Harrison sent an email to employees praising the “significant progress” their studios have made so far.

Mass layoffs were announced a few days later, part of a clear leadership pattern for Stadia who was not being honest and forthright with the company’s developers, many of whom turned their lives and careers into joining the team.

“[Stadia Games and Entertainment] He has made great progress in building a diverse and talented team and creating a strong lineup of exclusive Stadia games, ”according to online sources sent by Harrison on Jan 27.“ We will confirm the investment envelope in SG&E soon, which in turn will inform SG&E strategy and 2021 [objectives and key results]. “

Google declined to comment.

Five days later, Harrison seemed to be completely reversed. Advertise in a public blog post That the president of Stadia Games and Entertainment, Jade Raymond, has left the company, and that Google is “not going to invest more in bringing in exclusive content from the SG&E in-house development team.”

Stadia developers informed the news, I mentioned it first before Kotaku, Around the same time as everyone else over an internal email and conference call with Harrison. The chaotic spread came after an already stressful year through the pandemic. It reminds us Launch your StadiaThat seemed urgent and excluded many of the features that were promoted during the disclosure of the service, to be added months later. However, in this case, it was the Stadia developers who were affected by the failed layout.

Stadia was released in November 2019, and it struggled at first due to the monetization model And the lack of games. The technology was intact, but as a content platform, it was lacking. Perhaps strong first-party games could change that. In 2019 Google announced the formation of game studios in Montreal and Los Angeles, as well as the appointment of celebrities Doctrine killer Ultimate Producer and General Manager EA Motive Studios Jade Raymond to oversee its development. It looked like Google had been in it for the long haul, even not.

Raymond said, “I am proud of the team we created at Stadia Games and Entertainment and the pioneering work in exclusive games for the platform.” Kotaku In a statement shortly after the closure was announced. “It was a difficult decision to seize a new opportunity, and I will be forever grateful to this team for all that we learned and achieved together.”

The developers had to wait three days after receiving the news to share their confusion and frustration live with Harrison on a second conference call on February 4. This call was followed by a controversial Q&A as the Stadia boss was confronted about his email from the previous week only suggesting anything but a wholesale studio shutdown. Harrison expressed regret over the misleading remarks in his previous email, according to four sources familiar with the call. When asked what changed the week before, Harrison admitted that nothing had happened and told those on the call, “We know.”

One source described the Q&A as an eventual failed attempt to extract some form of accountability from Stadia’s management.

“I think people really wanted what happened,” the source said. They just want an explanation from the leadership. If you start this studio and hire a hundred or so of these people, nobody starts that just because it disappears in a year or so, right? You cannot play a match at this point in time … We had reassurance for several years, and now we don’t. “

The source added that the questions and answers “were not pretty.”

It remains unclear why Google decided to abandon the first-party studios it started building less than two years ago. In his blog, Harrison cited the high costs of developing the game as a factor.

“It takes many years and a lot of investment to build best-in-class games from the ground up, and the cost is skyrocketing,” he wrote.

In a Thursday Q&A with employees, he specifically cited Microsoft’s buying spree and the planned acquisition of Bethesda Software later this year as one of the factors that made Google decide to close the original game development book. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is a nearly $ 1 trillion company that is roughly equivalent to Microsoft when it comes to revenue and profits. According to the 2020 survey by Forbes.

Elsewhere during the Q&A, Harrison seemed to indicate that the ongoing pandemic was partly to blame, according to one source. The effects of Covid-19 have been devastating, Including nearly half a million deaths in the United States alone. But it has also led many to feel comfortable in games due to their social distances and It boosted the net profits of several major gaming companies as a result of.

For some, the studio shutdown and how employees were informed of it were symbolic of the ways in which game development at Stadia was poorly managed, three sources said. Kotaku. This included an acute shortage of resources, difficulty in securing the necessary hardware and software, and a staff freeze throughout 2020 after the start of the pandemic, despite the goal of eventually shipping many of the original exclusive offers in the coming years.

So far, the sources said, Google is looking to find work for displaced employees elsewhere in the company. However, it has trouble doing so as Google usually hires GPs, and game development requires a very specialized set of skills.

The developers had hoped that the Stadia game studios would survive their problems, if not for some other reason than that Google, in theory at least, could burn hundreds of millions of people trying to launch a new gaming platform with exclusive content. Instead, it ended up burning with the confidence of some of the roughly 150 developers affected by the sudden change of direction. Now, the remaining Stadia employees have to pick up the details while wondering how they can trust the leadership and how anyone can trust Stadia.

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