A new report sheds light on the final days of Stadia’s game arm

A week before Google announced it was shutting down Stadia Games and Entertainment, a studio developing first-party games for Stadia, executives praised staff for making “great progress” and “building a diverse and talented team.”

According to a report from Kotaku, citing four sources with knowledge of the situation, Google Stadia vice president and general manager Phil Harrison was the one who sent out the seemingly optimistic email. Then came mass layoffs about a week later, shocking developers. The email, portions of which are in Kotaku’s report, doesn’t appear to indicate a closure was imminent—far from it.

In a blog post about a week later, however, Harrison announced that Google would no longer be investing in developing first-party content for its video game streaming platform. Apparently, developers at SG&E learned about the news not long before it was made public.

“The messy rollout came after an already grueling year working through the pandemic,” Kotaku wrote. “It was reminiscent of Stadia’s own launch, which appeared rushed and left out many features promoted during the service’s reveal, only to be added months later.”

Following the announcement, Stadia developers allegedly confronted Harrison about his previous email where he praised the in-house studio. Harrison reportedly expressed his regret over the misleading statements, despite already knowing the developers would be out of a job.

The anonymous developers told Kotaku they had “multi-year reassurances” they would have the support and resources to deliver AAA titles. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like the developers were provided with much transparency over what happened. Harrison previously claimed it was the “significant investment” required to make best-in-class games that doomed the studios.

When Stadia was announced, part of the service’s big pitch was the release of exclusive titles made by in-house studios. The service is still expected to launch a few titles that were already near completion, along with plenty of third-party content. But the kind of software that makes the service a “must have” may never arrive now that the studio has shut down.

“I think people really just wanted the truth of what happened,” a source told Kotaku. “They just want an explanation from leadership.”