Despite claims to the contrary as recently as July, Google is shutting down its Stadia games streaming service after just three years. The company says 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 into Stadia will be fully reimbursed. "We will be 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 on this process on our Help Center."
The Stadia store is now closed, so you can't make any new purchases. In-game transactions have been disabled too. 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 won't reimburse Stadia Pro subscriptions. If you have an active membership as of today, the company won't charge for access to your library of games or other Pro features until Stadia shuts down.
The reasoning behind the "difficult decision" isn't surprising. Google said the service "hasn't gained the traction with users that we expected." It's a shame, though, since the streaming tech 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 vanguards of cloud gaming for now.
It seemed like the writing was on the wall for Stadia when Google closed 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 tech to other companies. We've seen that in practice over the last year or so, with AT&T offering its subscribers the chance to play Batman: Arkham Knight and Control at no extra cost. Capcom used Stadia tech 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 seems the Stadia tech 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 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."
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 closure. When asked to comment on the possibility of layoffs, Google directed Engadget to Harrison's blog post.