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.

Image courtesy Google

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.

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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.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Lania

    >Story telling VR crap

    And nothing of value was lost.

    • Lucidfeuer

      Good thing mediocre persons like you are minorities of nobodies.

  • 3872Orcs

    That’s unfortunate. Pearl and Age of Sail was very good! Animation like this works so well in VR! Sometimes I’ts just nice to sit down and experience a story taking place in VR without having to interact with stuff. And I think we need more of them!

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    • Rosko

      Yes agree animation stories work really well in vr and is great to show family and friends, it’s too bad Oculus go hasn’t help push these films along as it’s ideal for the product.

  • JesuSaveSouls

    Some really good vr stories.Jesus is our only hope for salvation.

    • 3872Orcs

      Stop spamming. The Atheist Experience

    • Bob Smith

      The god so great he needs a spammer like you to proselytize in the comments section of a VR forum …

      You know what I think? I think you’re actually working for the other side. The guys with horns and pitchforks. Those guys. Your secret mission is to make Christianity look (more) foolish, by proselytizing in the comments section of a VR forum.

      And you know what? You are succeeding in your mission. I think I’ll join you. Come on. Let’s say it together.


      • Snekertechie

        If he is working for the other side, that would be damn genius :D

        Effective as hell

  • FireAndTheVoid

    “the shutdown was due to the lack of any clear avenue for monetization”. Pearl and Age of Sail were available on Steam for free (possibly others as well?). They could have sold these experiences for a small amount of money and kept the studio running.

    • Darshan

      Exactly..even little flow of money keeps thing positive..Who knows Oculus Story Studio too die of same reason. its unfair with powerful medium.

  • sfmike

    VR just isn’t living up to those rosy projections all the financial “experts” predicted two three years ago. Investors were supposed to have made billions by now. Now they have moved on to 4K TVs. We are lucky there is still development at all.

    • Tesla

      How could it live with shit hardware and lack of AAA titles. This is cooked by Microsoft, Google and hardware makers. They failed big time. VR is amazing, but no clever people drive it forward. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are shit since 2 years at least. Outdated hardware, screen-door effect, heavy, uncomfortable. They only release worhless smarthones every year, while they should release new VR hardware every year.

    • Froot

      You cant make money if you dont invest money. There isnt investors in VR, thats why its not moving forward fast. They might invest in HW, but SW is lacking a lot even if there is very good stuff

  • Pizzy

    Google shutting something down is no suprises to anyone that knows how Google works. All of this stuff seemed like an experiment anyway. Not like they were gonna serve ads to is in VR yet.

    • Froot

      Exactly. That’s why most people dont care about their “console”(streaming service), cause we know in 2 years they will just close it down and forget about it.

  • Tesla

    Retarded company and retarded management. They have billions of dollars and can’t keep a few cartoonists and programmers, do something for society. All about MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. Terrible simple people at Google. Really, retarded company without vision. They fail at almost everything new they try to do. Autonomous driving, Google Glass, VR.

    • david vincent

      But their AI has good results at Starcraft ^^’

  • NooYawker

    It would be nice to see google put all that talent to work and go 100% into some more projects. Too many interesting projects are half hearted and abandoned.

  • Lucidfeuer

    Google being Google. Of course there was no monetization scheme for Spotlight, yet it was one of the best Google VR advertisement and app there was out there. Instead of slowly or eventually capitalising on it by making it the first curated digital and virtual story/movie platform, they’re going to vaporware it like many projects because these dumb degenerates have no vision and are led by even more degenerate financial and marketing blue collars…

    I really hope that when the tech bubble crash happens, we’ll have the surprise of these corporations being swayed off by the more hungry newcomer with 100x better strategy and rationale, which is really not that complicated given how hands tied the GAFAM are.

  • Gnoll

    Google has a vision problem. They tackle every endeavor like an excited engineer yet never establish leadership and long term roadmaps with a clear vision and pragmatic steps to accomplish. It’s not always a bad thing as the weight of Google moving into an industry causes that industry to receive a flurry of outside investment. Google has the kind of cash where they should be making massive long term investments and not jumping in and out of industries (social networking, robotics, AR hardware, etc) like a cash-strapped startup.

  • What a said news for the whole VR ecosystem. Spotlight Stories was able to craft incredibly high-quality original experiences…

  • PJ

    Shame I loved these.

    When VR really kicks off and goes mainstream these will be held in very high esteem

  • HybridEnergy

    Darn, Age of Sail was really cool

  • Froot

    Very sad. The whole series is one of my best VR experiences.

    Hope that team can work by themselves and keep making stuff like this.