As we know, at the beginning of February 2021 Google announced the total shutdown of Stadia’s first party development studios. Many folks employed under those studios were subject to a big round of layoffs afterward, and the future of Stadia as a viable platform has been more in question than ever.
A recent report from Kotaku noted a particularly odd line from Vice President Phil Harrison, pointing to one reason for the move being Microsoft’s Bethesda acquisition. Merely a week after Stadia leadership reportedly praised its studios for making good progress, the plug was pulled.
What followed was a series of conference calls, in which the folks affected were able to ask questions. Perhaps the heaviest being Harrison admitting “we knew” when that earlier memo of praise was sent out. But one of the more bizarre lines was about Microsoft.
According to this report, Harrison “pointed specifically to Microsoft’s buying spree and planned acquisition of Bethesda Software later this year as one of the factors that had made Google decide to close the book on original game development.” Naturally, the pandemic was also part of the discussion, which makes a lot more sense.
Stadia’s Phil Harrison Reportedly Points to Microsoft as One Reason for Studio Shutdowns
The Microsoft comment was definitely a head-scratcher. What impact does Bethesda’s purchase have on first-party dev at Stadia? It is true that Bethesda had a Stadia partnership on day one, with its DOOM ports being a big proof of concept for the streaming technology.
That said, DOOM Eternal not making launch was seen as a big blow to those festivities. Perhaps it was an allusion to competition, with Microsoft’s aggressive acquisition strategy being looked at as a big threat. This is all conjecture on my part, so don't read too much into it.
Stadia is continuing for now as a service housing games from other publishers, and Google has already announced plans for 100 more games debuting on the platform in the coming months. But between these strange communications internally and the soft impact Stadia made since it launched, many naysayers in the gaming community are having a big “told you so” moment.
Google has a reputation for dropping projects the moment they don’t seem to be taking off, and the worry (especially for those who have purchased Stadia content) is that the writing is now officially on the wall.