Another executive has left Google Stadia, and this time it’s John Justice, vice president and product head of Stadia at Google. Along with Phil Harrison, Justice was the face of the project, frequently giving interviews and talking to the press. Justice hasn’t updated his LinkedIn profile yet, but following a report from The Information, Google told 9to5Google, “We can confirm John is no longer with Google, and we wish him well on his next step.”
This latest departure is just another sign that Google’s game-streaming service is circling the drain. A Bloomberg report from February revealed that the service missed Google’s internal sales estimates by “hundreds of thousands” of users. Shortly before the release of that report, Google shut down its in-house game studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment, after less than two years of operation, citing the high cost of operating it. This move led to Stadia’s other high-profile departure, the exit of Assassin’s Creed co-creator Jade Raymond.
Justice’s last big media hit was a video interview with The Escapist in December. This interview from just six months ago shows how quickly Stadia collapsed at Google, with Justice talking up in-house projects led by Raymond and saying that “over time, we’re going to keep doing more and more in-house games.” Two months later, all those plans would be canceled.
Employees were shocked by the Stadia studio closure, since just a week prior, Phil Harrison said Stadia was making “great progress building a diverse and talented team and establishing a strong lineup of Stadia-exclusive games.” A Kotaku report said that Harrison laying off all the employees a week later was “part of an apparent pattern of Stadia leadership not being honest and upfront with the company’s developers.”
Angry employees told the site that the move was baffling, with one ex-employee telling Kotaku, “If you started this studio and hired a hundred or so of these people, no one starts that just for it to go away in a year or so, right? You can’t make a game in that amount of time… We had multi-year reassurance, and now we don’t.”
After shutting down its game studio, Google seemed to hint at a change of strategy for Stadia. Google’s blog post said the company is looking for a “path to building Stadia into a long-term, sustainable business that helps grow the industry,” which indicates that the current strategy of selling games to customers was not a “sustainable business.” The post highlighted Google’s “platform technology” that could help studios deliver games “directly” from publishers (as opposed to through the Stadia store?) and that Google saw this as “an important opportunity to work with partners seeking a gaming solution all built on Stadia’s advanced technical infrastructure and platform tools.”