Google has announced that Stadia, its clever game streaming technology, is to die on January 18 2023, before it ever got the chance to underwhelm gamers in New Zealand or Australia.
“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,” wrote Google’s vice president and general manager of Stadia Phil Harrison in a blog post announcing the closure (and signalling his need for all-new business cards).
Bluntly, the writing had been on the wall for some time, which may have contributed to its failure to gain that much-needed “traction”. Back in February 2021, it was announced that Google would be shutting down its first-party game studios without them releasing anything.
Instead, Stadia would rely on other peoples’ games and close the door to exclusives. That raised two important questions in would-be buyers’ minds: why not any other console, and why should I show faith in this platform if Google doesn’t? That question proved impossible to answer.
Players now have just under four months to finish any games they started, as almost no saves will be transferable (aside from titles like Destiny 2 which have crossplay built-in). At least with rival streaming services like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and Nvidia GeForce Now you can play games locally if the cloud servers fail.
There is one consolation for guinea pigs who took part in Google’s doomed experiment: the company is being quite generous with refunds. Anybody who bought hardware from the Google Store will get refunded without needing to return it (which is nice, given the Stadia controller is a decent gamepad) and money will also be returned for games bought in Stadia’s digital storefront. Which is to say all of them.
Stadia Pro subscribers won’t get the cost of their subscriptions back and there’s no word on refunds for people who bought hardware from other companies, but all in all it could be worse.
Still, the lesson here is perhaps not to get too invested in Google’s next big cloud innovation — something bitter Google Reader veterans have said for years.