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Stadia, Google’s foray into cloud gaming, will shut down in January

Has anything in video gaming launched hotter, and returned to Earth harder, than Google Stadia?

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Aizaz khan
Aizaz khan
Aizaz was the first person to get a byline on his blog on technology from his home in Bannu in 2017. Then, he went on to a career in breaking things professionally at my electric sparks which is where he eventually took over the kit as a hardware editor. Today, as the senior editor of hardware for my electric sparks, he spends time reporting about the most recent developments in the hardware industry and technology. If he's not reporting on hardware or electronics, you'll see him trying to be as remote from the world of technology as possible through camping in the wild.

Google’s latest gaming project has ended in failure. The company announced yesterday that its Stadia cloud gaming platform, which lets you stream games like you would a Netflix TV show to various screens and devices, will shut down in January 2023, and the company will refund every hardware and software purchase on the platform. For many industry watchers, it was the inevitable and unfortunate conclusion to arguably Google’s riskiest gaming gamble.

Stadia arrived too early and too half-baked. Although companies have been trying to crack game streaming for years, no company arrived on the scene with as much ambition as Google back in 2019.

  • The company talked a big game and promised scores of impressive features, but the service eventually launched later that year in what felt like a half-finished state.
  • While other cloud gaming platforms used a variety of business models that allowed consumers to either play games they already owned or those made available via monthly subscription, Stadia’s model asked users to pay full cost for software that worked only on its platform.
  • To make matters worse, Stadia didn’t launch with many of the most attractive elements, including a promised free tier (which launched later) and exclusive first-party games that took advantage of the cloud (those never launched).

Google Stadia’s legacy: The only console to offer refunds

Thursday’s announcement wasn’t shocking for the fact Google was pulling the plug on its vegetative streaming games platform; it was remarkable because Google was offering refunds to anyone who spent money (other than the monthly subscription fee) on the service.

In the end, perhaps the only innovation Google will offer to video gaming is the idea that, when a platform well and truly dies, folks who put skin into their games can expect some money back. Google will shut down Stadia for good on Jan. 18, 2023; anything other than Stadia Pro subscriptions will be refunded, though whether that’s automatic or needs to be claimed is unknown right now. Still, those who bought Google Stadia’s full-price games, expansions, or downloadable content will be compensated, Google said on Thursday.

But it’s doubtful Google’s gaming industry partners will be as grateful as Stadia’s customers. When OnLive went clank in 2015, anyone who bought one of their set-top boxes before February of that year found themselves with an expensive dining table trivet. When Ouya’s vision of bringing Android mobile games to home theater setups imploded in the same year, none that crowdfunded console’s backers got anything back.

The true bottom line here is that if games development is hard, platform development is many multiples harder, and requires as much force of will from its creators as it does vision and capital. Marketing, which includes spiffy GDC keynotes, accounts for zero.

You think back to the earliest days of another tech stock’s ill-advised console venture, how much they paid for exclusives, how much money it lost, how investors and rivals piled on that bad news — it seems like a miracle, 20 years later, that Xbox is even viable, much less the leader in video games streaming and subscriptions. At Google, Stadia was just another expensive experiment.

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