In early February, we were shocked when Google announced the end of work on running in-house game development studios, and as it turns out, the developers were just as surprised. Just days before the announcement, Stadia General Manager Phil Harrison sent a mass e-mail to Stadia Games & Entertainment (SG&E) staff, praising them for “great progress” so far.
A report from Kotaku today highlights an internal email sent by Harrison in the week before the closure of Stadia Games & Entertainment. In the email, Harrison praised the “great progress” that SG&E Studios has made to date, saying that Google would confirm “SG&E Investment Envelope in a short time”
[Stadia Games and Entertainment] has made great strides in building a diverse and talented team and establishing a strong selection of exclusive Stadia games. We will confirm the SG&E investment envelope soon, which in turn will inform the SG&E strategy and 2021 [objectives and key results].
To make matters worse, Harrison apparently later admitted (three days after the audience revealed) that he was aware of the impending closure of the studios when he sent this email. Apparently, SG&E employees only learned that the studio was closed at almost the same time as the audience did. Looking back, it seems like a bit of an upsetting tweet from an SG&E Creative Director from the day to confirm that detail.
Perhaps the most frustrating detail in this report is the impact the closure has on the 150+ developers Google hired for SG&E. A source apparently said “we had several years of insurance and now we do not have it.” Google previously mentioned that they would find new positions for displaced employees in other parts of the company, but apparently the company is struggling to do so as the employees who are employed have specialized skill sets that other positions cannot benefit from. Google’s mismanagement of the situation does not stop there either, as sources also said that employees were faced with a “serious lack of resources”, including problems obtaining the necessary hardware and software, and that the company did not employ more despite its high goals. That employment freezing was reported back in April.
A February 4 conversation saw a question and answer between Harrison and Stadia employees that was described by a person as “an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to extract some sort of responsibility from Stadia management.” While Harrison did not give the answers any hope as to why the studio was closed so early, he specifically pointed to Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethseda as one of many factors that led to Google’s decision. Another factor was apparently COVID-19, which is a headache given how the pandemic has strengthened the gaming industry despite having some negative effects on development (delays, etc.).
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