Google kills Stadia, but drops a hint about its future gaming plans

The service never stood a chance.

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 15: The new Google Stadia gaming system controller is displayed during a Goog...
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Google is terminating its Stadia service, a video game streaming platform that never quite found an audience. On January 18, 2023, the service will shut down completely, and games will no longer be accessible going forward. While most gamers are unphased by this news, a small handful of Stadia players are naturally disappointed. But in an unexpected move from Google, the company will refund most Staida hardware and software purchases in an attempt to retain goodwill. While this doesn’t smooth things over with all Stadia players, it’s certainly a way to soften the blow.

Dead on arrival

Google Stadia launched in 2019 and will shut down for good in 2023.

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Cloud gaming is still in its infancy, and it’s clear Google Stadia came at the wrong time. The technology is impressive, sure, but most players simply aren’t ready for video game streaming, especially with inconsistent internet speeds in many areas around the world. Even when the service was announced, players were skeptical about its potential.

Why migrate from contemporary platforms such as PlayStation, Xbox, Steam, or Nintendo Switch to a service that has fewer choices with games that run worse?

Despite featuring impressive technology that allowed players to enjoy many AAA games without the need for expensive hardware, the service itself was lacking. A limited game selection, expensive monthly fees, and a slow trickle of features made Stadia a tough pill to swallow.

Even a company as powerful as Google couldn’t find success in the gaming space — even more so because it never quite understood its audience and — more importantly, the industry at large.

Earlier this year, Google Stadia reportedly had around 750,000 monthly active users, which was noticeably lower than the company’s target goal of 1 million. To put this into perspective, the PlayStation Network has over 102 million monthly active users, while Xbox Live is home to over 100 million.

Fond farewell

In an unprecedented move, Google will refund most Stadia-related purchases to do right by its customers.

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Still, it’s heartening to see Google attempt to do right by its customers. Despite reportedly spending over $10 million just to get the rights to a single game, the company will refund most Stadia-related purchases made through its storefront — presumably at a massive cost.

Vice President and General Manager of Google Stadia Phil Harrison said:

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.

Eligible refunds for purchases include the Stadia Controller, Founders Edition, Premiere Edition, and Play and Watch with Google TV packages bought through the Google Store. Google says you won’t even need to refund “most” pieces of hardware to be eligible for a refund. The company will not refund Stadia Pro subscriptions.

Google explains that it intends to process most refunds by January 18, 2023.

It’s unclear why Google decided to offer refunds. Perhaps the company is working on a new gaming initiative and wants to try and salvage some semblance of goodwill — or maybe Google genuinely wanted to do the “right” thing. In any case, this sets a new precedent for what companies should do after failed endeavors — which the video game industry is no stranger to.

Google Stadia will shut down on January 18, 2023.

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