Google announces termination of Stadia

In a blog post, Vice President and General Manager of Google Stadia Phil Harrison announced that on Jan. 18, 2023, Google Stadia will be shutting down. As part of the shutdown, all Stadia hardware, game, and add-on content purchases will be refunded if they were made through the Google or Stadia store. These refunds are anticipated to be completed by mid-January 2023.

Stadia is Google’s recent addition to the consumer gaming industry. It’s “Google’s gaming platform that lets you instantly play video games on screens you already own.” Essentially, using cloud streaming technology, users can use whatever device they have with an internet connection to play the games they own through Stadia.

Unfortunately for Google, Stadia did not gain the popularity they were hoping for, and they have decided to terminate the project. The blog post noted that while the project will be shutting down, the groundwork of Stadia will be applied to other Google projects like YouTube, Google Play, and Google’s Augmented Reality efforts. Many members of the Stadia team will continue the work they were doing, but for other parts of the company.

The sudden announcement of Stadia’s demise caught many game developers planning Stadia releases off guard. Tom Vian, who is half of SFB Games (“Snipperclips”), tweeted on Sept. 19 that he first heard of Stadia’s service discontinuing from an article. SFB Games launched “Tangled Tower” two days later on the Stadia store; the launch had been set ahead of the announcement.

No More Robots, a video game publishing company, was put in a similar position. According to Mike Rose, the founder of No More Robots, the company was planning on publishing “Soccer Story” on Stadia in November. In a tweet, Rose wrote, “Who wants to guess that Google will refuse to pay us the money they owe us for it.” In a later tweet, he stated, “Hours later and I still have no email from Stadia, and no clarity on what’s happening with our games, deals, anything.”

Apparently, team members who worked on Stadia weren’t even aware the project was going to be terminated. In a Reddit thread on the Stadia subreddit, an alleged (former) Stadia engineer was notified the same morning of the blog post that the project was canceled with the line, “APOLOGIES FOR THE SHORT NOTICE.”

One of the problems with Stadia’s shutdown is that it could lead to a large amount of e-waste. The Stadia controller — which cost $70 but is no longer available for purchase — is not currently compatible with non-Stadia uses. According to the shop page, “The Stadia Controller connects directly to Google’s custom gaming data centers to deliver precise control.” As of writing, the controller offers no direct way to connect to a normal Bluetooth device besides for Google Stadia purposes. While the controller page advertises Bluetooth functionality, a disclaimer at the bottom states, “Product contains Bluetooth Classic radio. No Bluetooth Classic functionality is enabled at this time. Bluetooth Classic functionality may be implemented at a later date.”

The controller will still be usable without a firmware update that unlocks the Bluetooth functionality, however. There is still the option to use the controller by plugging it into a USB port on a Smart TV, computer, or gaming console. There has also been a “Stadia Wireless” hack released on GitHub that makes the Stadia controller function like an Xbox controller through the use of a phone.