Google is shutting down Spotlight Stories, the group tasked not only with pushing forward virtual reality as a storytelling medium, but creating a number of highly polished and thoughtful VR pieces in the process.
A copy of an email written by executive producer Karen Dufilho was obtained by Variety.
“Google Spotlight Stories is shutting its doors after over six years of making stories and putting them on phones, on screens, in VR, and anywhere else we could get away with it,” Dufilho said.
Variety also managed to get confirmation of the studio’s shutdown from a Google spokesperson:
“Since its inception, Spotlight Stories strove to re-imagine VR storytelling. From ambitious shorts like Son of Jaguar, Sonaria and Back to The Moon to critical acclaim for Pearl (Emmy winner and first-ever VR film nominated for an Oscar) the Spotlight Stories team left a lasting impact on immersive storytelling. We are proud of the work the team has done over the years.”
Spotlight Stories created a total of 13 short animated experiences over the course of its six-year existence. First starting out as an internal studio within Motorola, Spotlight Stories then joined Google’s ATAP division, going on to produce several immersive experiences, the most successful of which was arguably Pearl (2016), an Emmy Award-winner for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Storytelling and Oscar nominee for Best Animated Short Film.
Most recently, Spotlight Stories released Age of Sail (2018), a powerful and emotional tale of a hardened sea captain in the early 1900s who rescues a young girl after she falls overboard a luxury ocean liner. As a real-time rendered experience, it was plain to see just how much time, effort, and expertise was put into producing it. Its hand-drawn quality and heartfelt acting made it not only one of the most sincere VR stories out there, but arguably the group’s greatest work to date.
Variety contends the shutdown was due to the lack of any clear avenue for monetization in the face of a less than brilliant launch of Google’s Daydream VR headsets.
Variety further reports that an anonymous source with knowledge of the situation maintains that Spotlight Story members were given the opportunity to look for new positions within Google.