Stadia, Google’s cloud gaming service that debuted in 2019, will be phased out early next year due to weak user adoption and a larger set of cost-cutting initiatives at the firm.
Stadia, a service that partnered with AT&T and Verizon, will be shut down on January 18, 2023, with full refunds granted, according to Phil Harrison, Stadia’s VP and GM, in a blog post.
Google, which shut down its internal Stadia content production team last year, hasn’t divulged much about Stadia customers or how much the shutdown will cost the firm. However, the service was clearly insufficient to compete with major console-based gaming platforms from Sony and Microsoft or cloud gaming services like Amazon Luna.
“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 so we’ve made the difficult decision to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service,” Harrison explained.
Harrison emphasized that Google is still “fully committed to gaming.” He mentioned that some of the Stadia technology will be used on YouTube and Google Play, as well as the company’s augmented reality (AR) activities.
This dedication is reflected in a new offering from Google and its Google Cloud unit called Immersive Stream for Games, which provides underlying streaming technology, gaming porting capabilities, and data analytics to assist partners in offering games and subscription bundles or full gaming storefronts. AT&T, an early customer of Immersive Stream for Games, offered a game called Batman Arkham Knight on the technology. What’s left of Stadia is powered by Immersive Stream for Games.
Stadia’s demise follows a litany of other product flops, including Google+ and experimental products developed too early for their time, like Google Glass. However, Google Fiber, a unit that had paused market expansions and seemed destined for a similar fate, has shifted back into expansion mode amid the telecom industry’s fiber frenzy.
The move to shut down Stadia also surfaces soon after Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai warned that he aims to make the company 20% more efficient through a reprioritization of resources. That set off speculation that the plan might lead to a workforce reduction.
Current Stadia subscribers will continue to have full access to their gaming library until the shutdown date, but the company will refund all Stadia hardware purchases made through the Google Store (such as the Stadia Controller) as well as all game and add-on content purchases made through the Stadia store. According to a FAQ announcing the shutdown, memberships to Stadia Pro, which cost $9.99 per month, are not eligible for refunds.
“We aim to have finished the majority of reimbursements by mid-January 2023,” Harrison said.
One goal is to offer Stadia users enough time to finish their games. The FAQ states that success in the “majority” of Stadia games is unlikely to be transferable to other platforms. In the meanwhile, Alphabet has shut down the Stadia marketplace and blocked all commerce on the platform, including in-game transactions.