Google shutting down Stadia, refunding all purchases
Coming as not all that much of a surprise to anyone who was honest about the state of the service in the past few years, Google today announced a total shutdown of Stadia, its game-streaming service.
Launched in November 2019, the idea behind Google Stadia was to have a gaming platform built specifically and solely off of streaming the experience versus accessing it from local hardware. Streaming video games certainly wasn’t a new idea—services like PlayStation Now had been around for years at that point—but it was interesting to see a major player focus specifically on that aspect. Of course, that gameplan did make sense for a company like Google, who is already so heavily invested in other cloud- and streaming-based services.
And now, less than three years later, Stadia is soon to be no more.
“A few years ago, we also launched a consumer gaming service, Stadia. And while Stadia’s approach to streaming games for consumers was built on a strong technology foundation, it hasn’t gained the traction with users that we expected so we’ve made the difficult decision to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service,” Stadia vice president and general manager Phil Harrison wrote in an official Google blog post today.
He goes on to state the Google Stadia will continue to function as a gaming platform through January 18, 2023, “so [players] can complete final play sessions.” Past that point, given the service was completely based around streaming games instead of playing them locally, Stadia owners will lose access to their game libraries and any method of playing those games past that point. Any Chromecast purchased will obviously still work, but I’m not quite certain on what happens to the controllers at this point, given I’ve had little reason to think about them outside of my random Stadia sessions. Hopefully there is or will be a way to make them work as a generic controller, so that they don’t just become e-waste.
The good news—and this is genuinely good, not to mention surprising, news—is that Google will be refunding not only “all game and add-on content purchases made through the Stadia store,” but even any hardware purchases made connected to Stadia. Refunding games is one thing, but the hardware too? That’s a very welcome move.
I put up a full review of my first week with Google Stadia back at the service’s launch, and it was an experience that left me feeling mixed. The technology that Google had built was undoubtably good, and that part of the project was never in question. What I did wonder about is how many people would be willing to invest in a streaming-only gaming platform, especially one where you had to pay full price in order to access games, and especially one where that access could be gone in an instant should the company behind the service pull the plug, and especially one where said company was a habitual plug-puller.
And, now, my fears over Stadia have come true. Getting refunds for game purchases is nice, but that doesn’t change the fact that people were asked to invest in a gaming ecosystem that will soon completely vanish. Wanting players to shell out full retail prices for games only accessible via streaming was always a ridiculous idea to me, even beyond my conspiracy theories over companies trying to remove our ability to ever own the media we pay for. Both Microsoft and Sony have and continue to invest heavily in streaming options, but those efforts come in addition to more traditional ways to purchase and play games, not in replacement of them. They also both offer subscription services that give instantly access to hundreds of games to play, something Stadia really should have offered but never really did.
Anyway, it’s easy to say what Google should or shouldn’t have done with Stadia here in 2022, and none of that matters anymore. It’ll be a shame if the great streaming technology that was built for the service now ends up going to waste, but this is a day that many of us saw coming for a long time now.
Mollie got her start in games media via the crazy world of gaming fanzines, and now works at EGM with the goal of covering all of the weird Japanese and niche releases that nobody else on staff cares about. She’s active in the gaming community on a personal level, and an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming, consumer rights, and good UI. Check her out on Twitter and Mastodon.