Despite claims to the contrary as recently as July, Google is shutting down its Stadia game streaming service after just three years. The company says that players will still have access to their games and be able to play them until January 18, 2023. After that, Stadia will join the long, long list of products that have been killed by Google.
Those who have invested money in Stadia will be fully refunded. “We are refunding all Stadia hardware purchases made through the Google Store, and all game and add-on content purchases made through the Stadia Store,” Stadia vice president and general manager Phil Harrison wrote in a blog post. “We expect to have the majority of refunds completed by mid-January 2023. We have more details for players about this process in our Help Center.”
The Stadia Store is now closed, so you cannot make new purchases. In-game transactions have also been disabled. Google says it will handle most refunds automatically, and you won’t have to return most Stadia hardware (so hey, at least some people will get a free Chromecast Ultra out of this mess). Meanwhile, Google is not refunding Stadia Pro subscriptions. If you have an active membership starting today, the company won’t charge you for access to your library of games or other Pro features until Stadia shuts down.
The reasoning behind the “difficult decision” is not surprising. Google said the service “has not gained the traction with users that we expected.” It’s a shame, though, as the streaming technology at the core of Stadia works very well, and the service had a passionate, if ultimately small, community. The decision leaves Xbox Game Pass, NVIDIA GeForce Now and Amazon Luna as the vanguard of cloud gaming for now.
It seemed the writing was on the wall for Stadia when Google shut down its internal game development studios early last year. There have been other indications in recent months that Google was shifting resources away from Stadia to focus on licensing the underlying technology to other companies. We’ve seen it in action over the last year or so, with AT&T offering its subscribers the ability to play Batman: Arkham Knight and Steering at no extra cost. Capcom used Stadia technology for a streaming demo of Resident Evil Village as well.
Back in March, Google formally announced Immersive Stream for Games, a version of Stadia that third parties can license. It looks like the Stadia technology will live on there and in other Google products. “We see clear opportunities to apply this technology across other parts of Google like YouTube, Google Play and our Augmented Reality (AR) efforts – as well as making it available to our industry partners, which aligns with where we see the future of gaming on the way.” Harrison wrote. “We remain deeply committed to gaming, and we will continue to invest in new tools, technologies and platforms that drive the success of developers, industry partners, cloud customers and creators.”
Harrison noted that many members of the Stadia team will continue their work in other parts of the company. It’s not clear if there will be any layoffs as a result of the Stadia shutdown. When asked to comment on the possibility of layoffs, Google referred Engadget to Harrison’s blog post.
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