Bloomberg reported that, despite all the hype built up by Google for Stadia’s reveal, gamers around the world were disappointed. This led to a lackluster launch and Stadia is said to have “missed its targets for sales of controllers and monthly active users by hundreds of thousands.”
Not even games from some of the best publishers like Ubisoft and Take-Two Interactive Software could help turn the tide for Stadia. Those games didn’t come cheap either, as sources from Bloomberg say it cost “tens of millions” of dollars to bring games like Red Dead Redemption 2 to the platform.
Wired also share some of the struggles at Stadia that ultimately led to the closure of Google Stadia’s internal studios. Many of these issues stemmed from Google creating roadblocks for these employees who were trying to staff up to build AAA games.
Google is known for its long and involved hiring process that can take anywhere from six to nine months. On top of that, Google had to change its hiring standards as it was looking to bring in game developers and hadn’t traditionally hired for those positions.
While there were around 150 employees impacted by the closure of Stadia’s internal studios, two sources had said the goal was to bring in over 2,000 over five years.
Above and beyond hiring concerns, sources discuss that “Stadia’s game development process felt stapled on.” Many of the developers felt that “Google wasn’t funding games to sell games; it was funding games to sell Stadia.”
Instead of giving the devs the freedom to truly create what they wished, they were told to “design prototypes that showcased Stadia technology like Google’s cloud computing capacity or State Share.”
These issues were undoubtedly frustrating, but many felt secure in their positions at Google, with high paychecks and what felt like little fear of being laid off, which can be a rampant problem at other studios. Then the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Following the start of the pandemic, Google implemented a hiring freeze for all departments except a “small number of strategic areas where users and businesses rely on Google for ongoing support, and where our growth is critical to their success.” Gaming was not one of these areas.
“If the company was OK putting us on a hiring freeze, they were also OK with damaging our ability to build content,” says one source. “The studio was not yet fully formed and ready to produce games. That put on the brakes, and was a statement. We interpreted it as a lack of commitment from Google to make content.”
In late January, Google’s vice president of Stadia and GM Phil Harrison e-mailed employees and praised the platform’s technology, and said that “Stadia Games and Entertainment had made ‘great progress building a diverse and talented team and establishing a strong line up of Stadia exclusive games.'”
Five days later, Harrison gathered the employees and let them know the internal studios were shutting down.
VGC reported on a few of Stadia’s possible cancelled projects and proposals, and one of them was allegedly an episodic horror game from Kojima Productions. That particular proposal was said to have been “blocked by Stadia GM Phil Harrison last year.” Another was said to be from Shenmue’s Yu Suzuki.
A sequel to Journey to the Savage Planet was also said to be in the works by the team formerly known as Typhoon, and a multiplayer action game codenamed Frontier was being developed and was led by former Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate producer Francois Pelland.
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A Google Stadia spokesperson responded to VGC’s story, saying that it does not “have anything, nor have announced anything, with Kojima or Yu Suzuki.”
“We talk to partners all the time in situations that don’t result in a project or even a proposal,” The spokesperson said of the alleged Kojima project.” This is very common. Speculating that two parties that speak regularly in this industry leads to proposals or otherwise, is inaccurate.”
Even though Stadia’s internal studios have been closed, Google has reassured those that own Stadia that the platform will get “more than 100 games” in 2021.
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Adam Bankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and on Twitch.