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Google to shut down Stadia, offer refunds on games and hardware


Google is shutting down Stadia, its cloud streaming service for video games, in light of low adoption rates among users, the company announced Thursday on its news portal, The Keyword. Players will be able to access their Stadia game libraries until Jan. 18, 2023.

“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,” wrote Phil Harrison, VP and general manager at Google working on Stadia. “We’ve made the difficult decision to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service.”

Users who purchased hardware through the Google Store, as well as Stadia players who purchased games or add-on content, will be granted refunds, Harrison said. Google projects that the majority of refunds will be completed by the time the service shuts down.

When the service launched three years ago, it was critiqued for input lag issues — even as the promise of playing a AAA shooter like “Destiny” on a mobile device was genuinely enticing for many consumers. Our reviewer, Gene Park, described the tech as “unplayable at times, magical in others,” in a 2019 review.

Later in the year, Park concluded that the service had improved. Still, at the time, the product was hard to recommend to anyone but early tech adopters.

The announcement represents an abrupt reversal from Google’s assurances just a few months ago about Stadia’s future. In July, a Stadia player on Twitter asked the company if it intended to shutter Stadia soon. Responding from the service’s official Twitter account, Google said in no uncertain terms that “Stadia is not shutting down” and reiterated its commitment to supporting the service with more games. Reportedly, Google was also investing an enormous amount of resources to keep Stadia competitive. The tech giant paid “tens of millions of dollars per game” to get high-profile titles such as “Red Dead Redemption 2” onto the platform, according to Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier.

Unfortunately, Stadia will now be interred alongside the over 200 other canceled projects in Google’s graveyard such as its defunct social media venture, Google Plus, and mobile virtual reality platform, Google Cardboard.

Joost van Dreunen, a lecturer on the business of games at the New York University School Stern of Business, said that Google was “never fully committed” to Stadia and referred to its shuttering as inevitable.

“The whole effort was doomed from its first announcement, because Big Tech sucks at gaming,” van Dreunen told The Washington Post. “Despite having impressive infrastructure and deep pockets, the overall lack of personality in Stadia’s offering was never going to get the traction necessary to justify writing the big checks you need to successfully penetrate this market.”

I tried the new PlayStation VR2. It’s immersive, and a joy to wear.

Stadia’s phased expiration also comes at an ambivalent time for the future of handheld cloud gaming. On Sept. 28, Verizon unveiled the Razer Edge 5G, a handheld Android gaming device made in partnership with Razer and Qualcomm that can play games locally as well as stream them from a game console or directly from the cloud. A week earlier, Tencent and Logitech debuted the Logitech G Cloud, which allows players to stream games from Xbox Game Pass and Nvidia GeForce Now. Valve’s Steam Deck handheld gaming PC, which also supports cloud gaming, released earlier this year to mixed reviews. Still, the device has sold well enough that Valve announced plans in June to double its weekly shipments from 10,000 to 20,000 units.

While Stadia will soon be dead, Harrison said the technology behind it will continue to live on through Google’s other projects.

“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 make it available to our industry partners, which aligns with where we see the future of gaming headed,” Harrison wrote. “We remain deeply committed to gaming, and we will continue to invest in new tools, technologies and platforms that power the success of developers, industry partners, cloud customers and creators.”

The cloud gaming market may become a lucrative venture as host servers and wireless internet connections continue to improve. But van Dreunen believes that Stadia’s death could be a big blow to cloud gaming’s future.

“Stadia’s demise casts a shadow over the rest of the cloud gaming category by alienating the early adopters and calling into question what rivals like Amazon and Meta can truly offer that is better or different,” van Dreunen said.

Shannon Liao contributed to this report.